Station 19 to stay, renovate

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Surrounded by a sea of massive cranes and bulldozers, the 114-year-old Station 19 has its own construction plans.

The historic fire station at 2001 University Ave. S.E., across from Williams Arena, is planning for two small additions, one each on the northeast and northwest sides. The additions will provide entrances off the newly reconfigured Oak Street.

The building’s occupants, the Station 19 Architects, applied for and received a certificate of appropriateness from the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission July 24. The documentation is required for any construction on a historic site.

The City Planning Commission will review plans before construction can begin.

Darrel LeBarron, president of Station 19 Architects, owns the building. He said the additions would resemble an addition made in 1979 and would not affect the integrity of the building.

“(We’re) trying to do it as sensitive and eloquent as we can,” he said.

The building has long had easy public access, but can now only be accessed from a small part of University Avenue due to construction, LeBarron said.

Oak Street used to run by the building’s west side, where public entrances were located. But construction has rerouted the road to the east side of the building. That side of the building does not currently have any entrances.

LeBarron said the south and west sides of Station 19 have always been more attractive than the north and east sides, which used to be blocked from view by adjacent buildings that have since been demolished.

The additions will stand aside from the original building, LeBarron said, meaning future owners would be able to fully restore the historic station if they want.

LeBarron said he has worked with various groups, including historical societies, neighborhood groups and state and city representatives, and feedback has been positive. He said all federal guidelines for construction on a historic site are being met.

Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, worked with LeBarron on adding a provision to the stadium bill that prevents the University from exercising eminent domain over Station 19. She said it’s important to preserve links to our past.

“I’m strongly for (the additions),” she said.

Molly McCartney, a Minneapolis Committee for Planning and Economic Development staff member assigned to the Station 19 proposal, said HPC commissioners unanimously certified the project.

She said a 10-day appeal period is allotted after a certificate is awarded. Appeals typically come from concerned local residents or those who made the proposal and don’t like certain conditions, McCartney said. As of Friday, no appeals had been made.

McCartney said LeBarron received what he was looking for in the certificate and the proposal went smoothly.

“It sounded like ownership would remain (at that location) and that the neighborhood is in support,” she said.

Joe Ring, former president of the Prospect Park East River Road Improvement Association, said he supported the additions.

“From what I saw, I think it would be a great thing,” he said.

Ring was less supportive of the surrounding construction and plans the University has for building parking space for the stadium.

“Is it a wise use of land? The University keeps gobbling up land at the detriment of the city,” he said.

As reported in the April 3, 2006 edition of The Minnesota Daily, the University did consider acquiring 15 parking spaces near the station. However, the University abandoned those plans, said budget officer Brian Swanson.

“The University is not doing anything with Station 19,” he said.

Swanson said the University was interested in buying Station 19 in the past, but LeBarron was uninterested in selling. Swanson added the stadium will have a minimal effect on the station.

Ring said the rerouting of Oak Street could have unforeseen negative consequences and might hurt local businesses.

“If I had any business in that area, I would be very disturbed,” he said.

Ring said the proposed additions would help Station 19 remain in the neighborhood, but added he felt the University would love to acquire the building and put it to a new use.

“If it goes to the University, I’m almost sure they’d move (Station 19),” he said.

Dan Abrahamson, the vice president of the University chapter of the American Institute of Architecture Students, said he did a report on Station 19 for an architecture class last fall.

“(LeBarron) appeared quite positive in his relationship with the University,” Abrahamson said. “I think it’s wonderful what he’s done.”

Abrahamson added that construction on a historic site can be complicated.

“(You have to) respect the integrity and character of the original,” he said. “It’s a fine line between complimenting and distracting.”

No matter what happens around the station, LeBarron said he plans on keeping the business in the family for years to come. LeBarron has been a fixture in the area since he was a University student in the 1960s.

“(My wife and I) are both alumni association people,” he said. “We absolutely love being on campus.”