Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Sheltering Arms House Rehab is Complete

Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

There are photos of the interior at the end of this post, for those of you who may want to skip my ramblings and get to the best part.

The Sheltering Arms House, at 2648 Emerson Ave N, had a pre-open house on Saturday.  For those looking to read up on the recent history of this house, most of that was covered first on Johnny Northside, and later on this blog - each hyperlink will take you to that blog's "Sheltering Arms" search results.

In short, however, the home was built in 1891 as an orphanage for the Sheltering Arms Orphanage.  It is believed to be the first or among the first orphanages away from the main campus on the Mississippi riverfront.  The orphanage was the precursor to what is now the Sheltering Arms Foundation.

It's worth repeating that the Sheltering Arms was run by a group of twenty-five Episcopalian nuns, dedicated to serving needy children "without regard to race, color, or creed."  A women-run organization with that mission in eighteen ninety-one is a part of this city's history that most definitely needed to be preserved.

In a smaller sense, this house had its own place in north Minneapolis history as well.  That's because...

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Cultural Comfort Food Fusion

A recent Facebook conversation with my favorite former Minnesotan, Bryan Thao Worra, centered around cultural comfort foods and culinary fusion.  As more and more Southeast Asians (and other immigrants) locate in Minnesota, they will bring their comfort foods with them--laab meat, papaya salad, sticky rice, etc.  Here in the midwest, we've already got plenty of our own comfort foods, such as shepherd's pie, the infamous hot dish, and various jello and fruit conglomerations.

So we began to ask ourselves, what would happen if some of these Scandinavian and Southeast Asian foods were to be combined in some unholy culinary syncretism?  What would some of our choices even be?

I ruled out chicken noodle pho right off the bat.  But laab meat had some potential...

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Aldermanic Privilege, When it Works and When It Doesn't

Post by the Hawhtorne Hawkman, photo from the Healy Project blog.

The term "aldermanic privilege" has its origins in Chicago, but the principle is often applied here in Minneapolis as well.  The phrase refers to circumstances where the council as a whole defers to the wishes of the council member whose ward is most impacted by a particular issue or vote.  This privilege has its benefits - and not just to the individual council member, but also to his or her constituents.  And then there's the drawbacks, especially in a "weak mayor/strong council" city like Minneapolis, where a liberal application of aldermanic privilege bestows too much power on each council member.

First up, when and where it works:

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Two Housing Buzzwords Minneapolis Staff Should Stop Using

And one word that should be more than a buzzword.

Does the above photo make your head hurt?  Good, we both feel the same way.  But for me, the words of the day are "functionally obsolete" and "demands of the current housing market."  If you hear the words of the day, scream real loud.

These two phrases are bandied about by Minneapolis city staffers when they erroneously believe that housing in our community needs to be demolished instead of rehabbed.  And they should be stricken from any future use on the grounds that they are employed neither objectively nor by people with professional experience in the sale of real estate.  I'd go so far as to say they are redundant as well.

First, what "functional obsolescence" means...

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Vote Yes Twice on Charter Amendments

Pictured above:  A recent tab that would really throw a restaurant's food/drink ratios off.

Most election years, I like to take a look at some of the more obscure votes at the bottom of the ballot.  It seems like the farther down on the ballot we go, the more direct influence those votes have on our lives.  And yet we tend to be the least informed on these issues, and we give them the least regard.

This year there are two questions at the bottom of the ballot, updating the Minneapolis City Charter.  The second question relates to required ratios for food and liquor sales, and is largely uncontested.  The first updates filing fees for those running for Minneapolis elected office.  That one is more contentious, but I believe it to be among the most important items on the ballot.  I strongly encourage people to vote yes on both.

First up, the food and drink ratios...

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Arson and a Complicated Web of Property Transfers with Known Slumlords at 2519 3rd St N

(A number of hyperlinks will be added in the near future, as well as an addiitonal comment or two.  Until this headline is removed, this is a POST IN PROGRESS.)

A little backstory on "Mr. Slummy," aka Mohamed Amro.  Mr. Slummy purchased two adjacent properties several years ago at 2515 and 2519 3rd Street North.  He began to excavate the entire back yard of 2515, even though he had never pulled the proper permits to do so.  The ensuing confrontation between Amro and myself, and its accounts on Johnny Northside, led to the first time I was called "The Hawthorne Hawkman," a moniker I use to this day even after moving on from that neighborhood.

Anyhow, Mr. Slummy had apparent plans to build a vast, multi-unit structure on one parcel, even though the area was zoned for nothing more than 2-unit buildings.  His construction site was notoriously unsafe and shut down by the city multiple times.  Eventually he walked away from 2515 3rd Street North and focused his energies on 2519.  So much so, in fact that his laser-like intensity must have caused an initial fire there.  Given how little work had actually happened, many northsiders speculated that the fire may have been intentional and that were it not for intrepid neighbors calling 911, the house would have burned down and Amro could collect insurance money.

2519 was saved by a quick emergency call and the brave men and women of the Minneapolis Fire Department, and was still very much a salvageable property.  So much so that...

Monday, October 13, 2014

How I Would Save the DEED House (2019 Aldrich Ave N)

First things first, I wouldn't actually save this house.  Although I certainly would support anyone who might step up, there are other homes in need of my attention and this one doesn't have enough going for it to be worth taking away from other preservation efforts.  What follows is more of an exercise in fleshing out ways that such properties could be saved in the future.

By now it's no seret that the Workforce Center currently on Plymouth Avenue is heading north to be the anchor tenant as 800 West Broadway gets brought back to life.  Part of that development means that this house can't be on the lot anymore.  The space will be needed for parking.  In recent years, major developments like this have had the opportunity to save homes by moving them, and failed to do the right thing.  Most notably, I think of the Davis Center (the new Minneapolis Public Schools headquarters).  There were quite a few very stately homes on the 2100 block of Fremont Avenue North, and I was only a budding preservationist at the time.  Even though I go to church across the street, I didn't realize that the homes would be demolished until it was far too late to muster any effort to save them.  To this day I still chafe over that loss.

I want to create an environment over north that basically states to prospective developers:  If you do any kind of big project in our community and there are historic or salvageable properties that aren't going to be there after you're done, the expectation is that you will move instead of demolish these structures. The hypothetical scenario of how to save 2019 Aldrich can help us get there.

The first thing I would do if I were to save this house is...