U threatens property owners with eminent domain


You can’t always get what you want, unless you’re the University of Minnesota.

As the University continues its recent expansion, properties on Block 11, a block in Stadium Village, might be taken by force.

The University has already acquired about half of the properties on the block, but a church, a dental fraternity, a campus ministry and several other houses have yet to sell.

If the University can demonstrate a public use for the land, it can take properties by force using eminent domain.

In November, representatives from the University attended a public meeting at the Stadium Village Church — one of the properties in question — and told a group of 40 that the University has no current plans for the block.

However, this did not stop the University from sending letters to the owners of the remaining privately owned properties, stating that if a voluntary transaction cannot be completed, the Board of Regents may be asked to approve the use of eminent domain to acquire the properties.

At the meeting in November, Orlyn Miller, director of University Capital Planning and Project Management, said the original purchases were made on the open market, but instead of owning scattered properties, they would prefer to control the whole block.

Miller said that for an eminent domain ruling, the University’s vice presidents would make a recommendation to the president, who would then make a recommendation to the Board of Regents.

Miller speculated that the land might be used for biomedical research centers in the future.

Randy Mikkelson sold two properties on the block on the open market before the University made its formal threat of eminent domain. He said the University does not make fair market offers when they try to negotiate a purchase.

He was able to sell the properties for more than $200,000 in excess of the University’s best offer.

The University’s Director of Real Estate Susan Weinberg said they hired two professional appraisers who appraised his property on Ontario Street at $280,000.

Mikkelson said, given the low offer, he “knew the University was not serious” about purchasing the property, so he sold it for $403,000. He said the lending institutions that offered the mortgage appraised the house at more than the selling price.

Mikkelson said Block 11 will suffer over time if the situation continues.

“In ten years the whole block will be run down because no one’s going to maintain their buildings, anticipating that they’re going to be torn down,” Mikkelson said. “I think what’s totally unethical is to have an open-ended threat of eminent domain.”

Mikkelson said once the threat of eminent domain was made, the damage to the property owners is irreversible until it is removed.

Paul Poteat owns two houses on Essex Street that are used by the Campus Outreach Ministry, and has received several letters from the University concerning his properties.

“I feel like they’ve been out of line with the way that they’ve communicated, to not have plans and talk about eminent domain,” Poteat said. “It seems like a strong-armed tactic.”

Peder Arneson , president of the dental fraternity Delta Sigma Delta, which is located on Essex Street, said losing the location so close to the dental school would be a major blow to the fraternity.

“Location is extremely important to us,” Arneson said. “There’s a lot at stake…if we were to lose it.”

The pastor at Stadium Village Church, Kathleen Macosko, said the University sent a letter to the church asking it to sell, and they declined. Macosko said the University assured her that it would not use eminent domain to take the church.

However, Mikkelson said he thinks the properties on Block 11 are “doomed,” but hopes the University will make fair offers for the remaining owner-occupied homes. He also said he hopes it will remove its claim to the properties, saying that organizations may cease to exist if they lose their current location.