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Minneapolis neighborhood seeks special designation to block possible high-rise homes

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Residents of a small Minneapolis neighborhood near Bde Maka Ska, also known as Lake Calhoun, want their community designated as a conservation district. They hope that status would block the possible construction of high-rise apartments in their midst.

Neighbors fear buildings of up to 10 stories could replace homes, under zoning changes allowed by the city's long-range, or 2040, development plan.

On Tuesday, the Heritage Preservation Commission voted 5 to 3 to approve an in-depth study of a conservation district designation for approximately two dozen homes near the intersection of Zenith Avenue South and 32nd Street West.

Neighborhood resident Tom Shiah welcomed the action. “It's our attempt to utilize a procedure that's on the books so things can remain the status quo,” he said. “This is our attempt to just save our neighborhood.”

There already are some high-rise apartments between the homes and the lake.

Commission member Jesse Kling said he doesn’t believe the homes warrant special protection.

“It's really important for us to not set a precedent that conservation districts can be used to prevent development in areas that could bring more equitable housing to our city, especially an area like the Chain of Lakes,” he said.

The purpose of a conservation district is to maintain, enhance and protect the visual character, land use, or activity evident in an area's architecture, building type or development pattern.

It's unclear how conflicts between a district designation and zoning changes might be resolved.