Post and photo by the Hawthorne Hawkman.
With a name like "Upper Drug-o-topia," new NoMi blog readers might think that the city's demolition of this property is a good thing. However, the house was solid and its needless destruction was nothing short of a colossal mistake. Now, I'll be fair to CPED and explain that in attempts to use federal money to get out ahead of slumlords and other unscrupulous investors, the city and other non-profit partners have been buying up quite a bit to rehab or demolish in Hawthorne - and doing a fair amount of rehab too. Also, their purchase of this house, in spite of the fact that the Hawthorne Neighborhood Council opposed its demolition, did lead to changes in how we work together to agree on the acquisition and disposition of future houses.
Because things have gone rather well since then, I'd be generally inclined to let this unwarranted demo go to the wayside. But after the City Council voted to strip Hawthorne of $730,000 in NRP funds, and north Minneapolis of roughly $3 million, I'm of the opinion that neighborhoods ought not be so charitable towards city shortcomings.
I lived at 2218 Lyndale for a while, and the history behind the name "Upper Drug-o-topia" began shortly after I moved in, when...
...I woke up to Hennepin County sheriffs raiding my downstairs landlord. At the time, I wasn't sure the reason. But since I had to go downtown and speak in the city council chambers, I stayed true to habit and donned a suit and tie before leaving my apartment. This also served a secondary purpose of visually distancing myself from the guy the sheriffs were questioning. I asked one officer to tell me whatever he could, understanding that might not be much. And I also explained that I worked on crime and safety issues in the neighborhood, and would not want to be renting from a drug dealer.
"I can't tell you much, other than that we wouldn't be executing this search warrant if we weren't already sure of what we'd find. So you should find a new place to live."
I moved out quickly, and later confirmed it was marijuana being grown there. Without his drug or rent money, the owner went into foreclosure almost immediately. The owner was nice enough to steal most of the copper as he left, and the house wasn't in livable condition.
So after it had been on the market for 39 days, the city made an offer. Their estimate for repair of the place was about $300-350,000, which is often their favorite number to use when looking to justify a tear-down. While I'm not a contractor, I did speak with one other person who was relatively knowledgeable and had access to the interior, and he claimed it would be fixable for fifty, sixty thousand, tops.
It was only after the neighborhood learned that the city had acquired the property that Hawthorne took the official neighborhood stance of opposing its demolition. This was largely symbolic, as the city was unlikely to change course. However, it was a viable structure, and it should have never been purchased by anyone seeking demolition in the first place.
Where things become even more agonizing is when one looks at the assessed value vs. the sales price. Remember how there's that pesky lawsuit that southwest Minneapolitans have been reassured won't mess with their precious property tax reductions? After looking at information at this place, I wouldn't be so sure of that.
The house was listed originally around January 2010 for $44,900. In March, it sold for a whopping $19,800 after sitting on the market for 39 days. The assessed value of the land--just the LAND, mind you, was $29,700 for a typical 48' x 151' residential city lot in Hawthorne. WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME A VACANT LOT SOLD FOR ALMOST $30,000 IN HAWTHORNE??? If the demolition cost came in at $10,000, maybe the city could sell the vacant land to one of their assessors and they'd almost break even.
Oh, and the total 2010 assessed value, including the now-nonexistent structure is a whopping $139,000. I know one assessor said the other day that they couldn't get in to many of these $20,000 sales to know what the true value was. But maybe the city could have gotten permission from themselves to go inside, poke around, and then assessed the value at something more realistic.
If you or I had bought this place for $19,800, we'd still be on tap for taxes of over $3,400 for 2010. No wonder Minneapolis needs to take $730,000 from their poorest neighborhood to balance their budget.