Residents living in places like Minneapolis' Linden Hills or Morningside in Edina--along with countless others who live in charming, and walkable neighborhoods--are confronting the issue of "tear downs." Smaller bungalows or cape cods in a desirable neighborhood are torn down and replaced with a larger (usually much larger) home with more modern amenities and interiors spaces. Even when the design and exterior materials of the house are meant to blend into the neighborhood, the shear size usually dwarfs the homes around it. No surprise, there seems to be a lot of schizophrenia around the issue. In the past week, the Star Tribune featured a new home built in Edina that was once the site of a cottage and is now home to a 3,300 sq. foot modern residence with details that are meant to make it fit into the neighborhood. Then today's Metro section reported on the Edina City Council's proposed moratorium on teardowns.
The issue is a tough one, pitting neighbors against neighbors, preservationists against property rights advocates. On the one hand, it seems that if artfully and tastefully done (as long as the property doesn't have historic value), a newer home in an older neighborhood shouldn't be a problem. But who legislates the aesthetics? What is tasteful, what is artful? How big is too big? When is a house too good just to tear down? Who is allowed to tear a house down--a homeowner wanting to expand for his/her family or a speculative developer? I certainly don't have the answers, but through this fog one thing is clear to me, people want the charm and convenience of neighborhoods like Linden Hills and Morningside. They also want homes that are larger than those built in the 1905 - 1930 range, have less maintenance issues, and more contemporary floor plans. The emergence of this issue says to me that smart developers and builders will find ways to marry these two demands and create newer versions of Linden Hills and Morningside that will age gracefully over time.
Image: Jim Lindberg