Lilligren: Landlord of the sixth ward

MPLS city council member brings business in front of council

While the Minneapolis City Council spent the better part of the morning debating the merits of extending a contract for garbage collection during its regular meeting today (well over an hour), one agenda item garnered scant notice. But there it was, under Zoning and Planning: a rezoning request for Joe Olson and Robert Lilligren.

Lilligren, of course, is the city council rep for the Sixth Ward. The agenda item was for a project he's bringing to his neighborhood: Preserving and moving a house that's scheduled for demolition.

"I already put on file with the city clerk's office that I am recusing myself from voting," Lilligren said before the meeting. "I've also talked with the city attorney and the city's ethics officer."

Still, it's not every day that a sitting council member has business before the body, but Lilligren has been here before.

For years, before he arrived on the council in 2001, Lilligren has owned several parcels on his street--the 2900 block of 3rd Avenue South. This time out, Lilligren and his partner Joe Olson are proposing to move a duplex from 25th and Chicago to their block, and turning it into a four-plex.

"I'm a committed preservationist," Lilligren noted.

The move requires a rezoning of the parcel, something the city's planning staff recommended for approval earlier this year. On February 2, the Zoning and Planning Committee approved the matter, and sent it to the full council. The council passed it unanimously--Lilligren abstained--without discussion.

The house is the fourth building moved to the block, according to Lilligren: Honeywell moved two in the early 1980s, and Lilligren moved one there last year.

It's an odd part of town--a dead-end street that sits under the looming I-35W overpass--and not necessarily a prime piece of real estate. Still, Lilligren is apprently there to stay; he's owned property there for 20 years. With approval, the building will bring Lilligren's ownership grand total to eight buildings on the street--offering some 20 units of rental housing.

While admitting no conflict of interest, Lilligren admitted his situation is "kinda interesting." "I did not talk to staff on this," he insisted. "And I refused to talk to the committee."