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Approval could open door to Cummins-Grill Homestead reuse

Approval could open door to Cummins-Grill Homestead reuse
Wednesday, July 26, 2006, EDEN PRAIRIE NEWS

We asked Eden Prairie Parks and Recreation Director Bob Lambert to answer a few questions about the proposed LAWCON Conversion involving the Cummins-Grill Homestead. The conversion, for the property at 13600 Pioneer Trail (across from Flying Cloud Airport), would mean that the city could acquire 4.4 acres adjacent to the Birch Island Woods (the Picha property). It would also open the door to future private development of the Cummins-Grill house, possibly similar to the Dunn Bros. use of the Smith-Douglas-More House. The city recently received approval of the plan from the National Park Service.

Q What does the Park Service's LAWCON conversion approval mean for the Cummins-Grill and Picha properties?

It means that the National Park Service has approved the Picha property for a conversion of the Cummins-Grill site, provided the appraisal for the Picha property exceeds the value of the Cummins-Grill site appraisal.

Q Who had to approve it and why?

The National Park Service is required to approve any conversion of land acquired with Federal grants including LAWCON (Land and Water Conservation funds). As the Cummins-Grill site is also on the National Historic Register, the State Historical Preservation Office must also approve any revision to the boundaries of that historic site. The city is still waiting for comments from Dennis Gimmestad of the State Historical Preservation Office.

Q When will the item come before the City Council?

The city cannot complete an appraisal of the Cummins-Grill site until the State Historic Preservation Office has approved the proposed changes to the boundary and the changes to the use of the property. Once they have approved the proposed changes, the city will than obtain an appraisal of the site within the approved boundaries and at that point will submit it to the City Council for approval.

Q What is the status of the purchase of four acres adjacent to the Birch Island Woods?

The city is still interested in the acquisition of the 4.4 acres owned by the Picha family. The city intends to acquire that property as soon as the conversion is approved by all of the appropriate agencies and the appraisals are complete.

Q What caused the delay?

The delay has been obtaining the approvals from the appropriate agencies, the National Park Service, and the State Historic Preservation Office. The city has still not heard a response from the State Historic Preservation Office.

Q How did the LAWCON grant process work with the Cummins-Grill House?

The city obtained LAWCON grant matching funds for the purchase of the Cummins-Grill property in 1972 for expansion of Staring Lake Park. The grant agreement did not anticipate the preservation of the Cummins-Grill House, but included removing the house and developing a picnic area in that portion of the park. The City Council agreed to preserve the building as a historic site in 1980.

Q How could the use of the house be changed if the proposed land swap were approved?

The city would accept proposals from individuals or businesses that would agree to enter into a long-term lease agreement for the property, provided that they preserved the grounds and the exterior of the house and to a great extent the interior of the house. The city would prefer the private leasors to develop a site for a business that would allow public access to the site similar to the Dunn Brothers use of the historic More house.

Q What will be the next steps in the process?

As soon as the city receives an approval from the State Historic Preservation Office, the city will obtain an appraisal based on those boundaries. Once that appraisal has been completed, both the appraisal of the Cummins-Grill site and the Picha property will be submitted to the National Park Service for final approval and the city staff will request final approval of acquisition of the Picha property for the conversion of the LAWCON requirements from the Cummins-Grill property to the Picha property. At that time the staff would recommend initiating the process to seek a long-term lease agreement for private use and development of the Cummins-Grill site.

- Compiled by Karla Wennerstrom

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