A group of preservationists is suing the city of St. Paul and the St. Paul Public Library to block demolition of the historic Hamline Midway Library before an environmental review of the 1930 building is complete.
Renovate 1558, the group fighting to convince the city to either renovate the library or sell it for reuse, filed suit in Ramsey County Court late Thursday afternoon. The court accepted the filing Friday morning.
Tom Goldstein, a spokesman for the group and one of its co-founders, said preservationists fear the city is planning to tear down the building while a required Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) is pending. That would be a violation of state law, Goldstein said. Renovate 1558 is seeking a temporary restraining order and injunction, blocking the city from razing the building.
"We are asking for declaratory judgment so the city can't do something surreptitiously," Goldstein said Friday, noting officials on May 28 closed the library and announced its decommissioning.
"We have no idea what decommissioning means" for the library's fate, Goldstein said. "But they are talking about demolition and moving things [out] before an EAW has been done. We think they are flouting the requirements of an EAW."
A spokeswoman for Mayor Melvin Carter said Friday he is aware of the lawsuit and is reviewing it with the City Attorney's office.
"Our community has been vocal in its support for a new Hamline Midway library," Carter said in a statement. "We remain committed to transforming this space into a dynamic and inclusive facility that will serve our residents for generations to come."
Despite the library winning designation to the National Register of Historic Places, city officials are planning an $8.1 million project that would involve demolishing the 93-year-old building and replacing it on the same site with a more accessible, one-level facility they say will also make it easier to keep staff and patrons safe.
In a newsletter announcing the lawsuit Friday, backers of the current building say the city is forging ahead with plans to knock down the building despite renovation being "the clear preference of the Midway neighborhood."
The city does intend to renovate two other library buildings: the Riverview branch and the Hayden Heights branch. Like Hamline Midway, Riverview is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Funding for those projects has not yet been secured.
Officials have said remodeling Hamline Midway is neither feasible nor cost-effective. In October, St. Paul officials released final building designs and floor plans for Hamline Midway and the other libraries.
The Riverview branch also has two levels, but the redesigned version will contain all public functions to a main level. That's not possible at the existing Hamline Midway Library building, officials said.