Historical Preservation Commission doesn’t vote on Immaculate Conception building demolition – developer was absent

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Developer Chad Hartle didn’t show up at the Maplewood Historic Preservation Commission meeting Thursday evening to present his senior housing project on Anna Avenue that would require demolishing the Immaculate Conception school building. As a result, the commission didn’t vote on the demolition.

The meeting was held in the Maplewood Fire Department’s training room, full of residents. After determining that Hartle wasn’t there, O’Gorman was met with silence when he asked if anyone in the room was there to speak in favor of the project. He said there couldn’t be a vote without first having a discussion about the project.

“They can’t demolish the building until they come before us, explain what they’re going to do with it, get approval with it, and then, it has been the policy of this board, to not issue those permits until the designs have been approved, unless the building is falling down,” O’Gorman said.

Hartle had presented his plan for a 42-unit senior housing development at 7240 Anna Avenue to the City Council in February at the invitation of then mayor Nikylan Knapper. He said in his demolition application that the financing was contingent on the demolition, but he needed to be at the meeting to present it, commission member Sean O’Gorman said. As of Friday morning Hartle hasn’t responded to messages left at his office.

See Hartle’s demolition request and plan for the development in the meeting agenda.

Following the meeting O’Gorman said, “In order to tear something down you have to have a reason to. They didn’t present a reason. The process is pretty straightforward. Figure out what you want to do. [The reason] has to outweigh the historical part of that. Right now, history has one and it’s four-story building zero,” he said. “If everyone here says, here’s what the historical significance is, then they won’t be able to put anything on it. But there is also an ability to treat that properly and treat it appropriately, with care, and you can come up with something.”

Maplewood resident Margaret Keller said the biggest problem for her is that the Maplewood government had been developing this plan for three years and the public didn’t find found out about it until it was a finalized concept.

“So basically there was no involvement from the public, then they said it involved demolishing the school, which is totally unnecessary. I think no one could argue that affordable senior housing is a good thing, but it doesn’t have to be on that spot and involve demolishing a brick church building that’s well used right now. It’s wrong,” Keller said.

Another resident, Anne Arias, said she was encouraged by the fact that the developer didn’t appear. “It could be mean two things,” she said. “It could mean, one, that he got scared off, or it could mean that he was just kind of hoping all the enthusiasm would wain and he could come back and just get it passed through. I would love to see an adaptive reuse, or if it has to be torn down, something way more exciting than he presented.”

Mayor Barry Greenberg said that with a price point at around $1,100 a month for the proposed apartments, it doesn’t make sense to call them affordable because the average rent in Maplewood is $869, and eighty-nine percent of Maplewood’s apartments are below $1,000 a month.

“It’s an invalid proposition from my point of view. You have to have a really good use to justify tearing that building down, and that is not it,” he said. “There’s problems with the design aesthetically and functionally, and it needs to be rezoned. The city of Maplewood urged them to come here to present because eventually they’ll need a demolition permit in order to do anything, and so it doesn’t make sense for them to spend a lot of money, then not get their demolition permit.”

The members of the Historic Preservation Commission are Lisa Griffin, Sean O’Gorman, Dana Valenti, Lauren Savel and Mary Killian. Killian posted on Facebook two days before the meeting that she wouldn’t be at the meeting, but wanted it to be known that she was opposed to the demolition.

See also:

Residents wait for the meeting to begin. In the front row, left to right, are Mayor Barry Greenberg, Ray Crader, an architect, and Doug Houser.
Historic Preservation Commission members Lisa Griffin, Lauren Savel, Sean O’Gorman and Dana Valenti discuss the demolition of the Immaculate Conception school building.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Okay, Time for a math class folks:

    When taxes go up, rent goes up.

    I just calculated my escrow(taxes and insurance) 54% of my payment goes to escrow. Many factors can go into the percents, down payment, mortgage loan amount, interest rate, etc. I’d be interested in knowing if I’m just special, maybe others pay less as a percent.. escrow payment/monthly payment will give you percent going to escrow..(yes, minus out insurance about 5%, puts me at about 49% of payment go to taxes, with the MRH school district getting most of it.)

    Now let’s go back to the last school prop, where the school said if you vote ‘YES’, your taxes will not go up. Anyone care to answer the question, if it wouldn’t of passed what would’ve happened to our taxes….any guesses???? hint: They would not have stayed the same.

    As you continue to look for solutions maybe you should look at how we got here.

    The MRH community continues to vote for higher taxes…that is what we want. Why are you fighting for what the community has voted for?

  2. I think no one could argue that affordable senior housing is a not a good thing. In other words, it’s a good thing. But in the appropriate location and not involving demolition of this particular building. And any new senior housing should exhibit a good design and truly affordable rent.

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