UPDATE: This building is slated for demolition on May 20, 2024

Yet another abandoned apartment building went up in flames.

According to the Minneapolis Fire Department, crews responded to a blaze at a vacant apartment building just before midnight on April 3 at 1829 5th Avenue S, a stone’s throw away from Stevens Square and Elliot Park. 

Eyewitnesses reported seeing 15 to 20 people flee the building as it became engulfed. The fire was later upgraded to two alarms (a classification system that fire departments use to classify the size and strength of a fire, with “one” being the smallest), and the responders had to evacuate the building after flames started burning through the floors.

As firefighters aimed water cannons to douse flames coming from the third floor windows of the building, called the Dundry House, the building’s roof partially collapsed. 

The Star Tribune reported in November that the building, which was previously used to house the formerly unhoused, was vacated this past summer after someone took piping from the building. Hope Community said its investment, which they say totaled in the hundreds of thousands of dollars in securing the building, proved futile. The city says it received 90 emergency calls in the 15 months preceding the fire: 30 for fire, 50 for police, 10 for emergency medical services. 

“We have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in security at the Dundry building, but providing broad public safety services is unsustainable for a community organization. Last summer we worked with the residents to find other housing after a series of escalating vandalism incidents,” Hope Community Director of Development And Impact Betsy Sohn said in a statement. 

Firefighters make an effort to save the building on April 3rd. Photo by Jiahong Pan

The building’s fire follows a string of apartment fires and break-ins elsewhere in the city. At least three buildings in the Southwest Voices coverage area, owned by C. David George, were repeatedly broken into, two of which were set on fire, one of which had to be demolished. We previously profiled C. David George and his properties in the fall of 2022.

“This fire and other similar incidents across the metro are evidence that our housing system is not meeting the needs of all of our neighbors – especially as the Dundry itself, prior to last summer, provided the exact type of housing and services to meet the needs of the people who sought shelter there,” said Sohn.

The building was boarded up, but only on the first floor and with wood panels. Sohn said the building was re-boarded Tuesday afternoon.

The building was not boarded with metal mesh as had been done with C. David George’s properties at 200 Oak Grove and 2621 Pillsbury, in part because the city issued an order to demolish the building on January 5. “Metal mesh is used only as a last resort due to the costs associated with its application. With the property already slated for and being prepped for demolition, there was no valid reason for the use of metal mesh,” said Regulatory Services spokesperson Blair Loose. 

Sohn says they planned to demolish the brownstone because a fire in November had rendered the building uninhabitable. The brownstone was built in 1919 by architect George W. Burton and Louis Fleisher Construction Company, both of which built other apartment buildings elsewhere in the city.

Finance and Commerce magazine reported Hope Community planned to sell the building to another affordable housing provider who wanted to continue to run the building. However, the City’s regulatory services department condemned it on January 5. “The cost to rehab outweighed the property value, so demolition was recommended,” said Loose.