In the unrest that followed the death of George Floyd while in police custody, more than a thousand buildings were damaged with estimates of damages in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Minnesota law requires a full year of commercial property taxes to be paid before a building can be demolished. Before issuing a demolition permit, city staff would routinely check with Hennepin County to see if those property taxes had been paid.

Lowering hurdles, costs

However, Mayor Jacob Frey is lowering some of those tax hurdles for business owners who want clear rubble from their damaged properties. He ordered city officials to grant demolition permits whether a full year of commercial property taxes have been or not. Minneapolis will also waive demolition permit fees.

In a released statement, Frey said the city “will issue wrecking permits” for “any properties damaged during the civil unrest irrespective of whether taxes have been paid.” He added that the city will lobby the state to change laws and “provide relief for property owners as well.”

Memories of the fires

Bookstore owner Don Blyly said his two 35-year-old Chicago Avenue stores were destroyed by fires set during riots in late May. He said that when he arrived on the scene, “fire was shooting out of the front of the store, and the flames were just too hot for me to deal with.”

He said that before he can decide whether to rebuild or not, the rubble must be cleared so that the condition of the foundation and floor slabs can be determined. Blyly said his demolition contractor was told by city staff that a demo permit couldn’t be issued until commercial property taxes had been paid in full.

Another problem: the commercial property tax bill is based on what his property was worth before the fires.

Another look at the damage

KARE 11 reports that Minneapolis staffers are trying to do property assessments on more than 800 damaged or destroyed properties.

Blyly said, “a burned down building isn’t worth anything,” adding that he estimates it will cost about “$100,000 just to have the debris hauled away.”