Thursday, December 30, 2010

Ask and You Shall Receive - Photos of 2222 4th St N

Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.  Warning:  I get a little worked up in this post, and (gasp!) resort to a few Bad Words.

In the last post about Judge Hallbrooks' ruling on this property, an anonymous commenter asked for photos to show whether this property was adequately rehabbed.  In my opinion, the answer is no it has not.  I also hope that its current condition will still eventually allow the structure to be demolished.  Based on what the city staff report said about the poor quality of the interior, and the photos below, I would hope that we have higher standards for what is acceptable housing stock in the city of Minneapolis.  The prospect of widespread condemned housing being brought back to use is far from appealing if they look like 2222 4th St N by the time the owner is done.

Let's take a look, first at the windows...

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Khan's Property Lives to Blight Another Day

Post and photo by the Hawthorne Hawkman, photo originally appeared on a Johnny Northside blog post about phone books.

Mahmood Khan's property at 2222 4th St N has, for the time being, taken a step back from demolition.  John Hoff and I have covered the house's course quite extensively, from when Annshalike Hamilton was found murdered there, to its path towards possible demolition. (more links found here, here, here, and here)

The ruling that pulls 2222 4th back from the brink only gives it a temporary reprieve.  The document can be found here, and from a policy wonk standpoint, it is quite fascinating.  I'm reminded of a vignette in the book "The Year of Living Biblically." Two people are having a very polarizing argument, and go to their rabbi to help resolve their conflict.  After listening carefully to each side, the rabbi turns to the respective parties, saying, "You are right AND you are right."  Another friend witnessing the discussion said, "Wait a minute, they can't BOTH be right," to which the rabbi responds, "And you are also right."

The court ruling is like that, except each side tends to get at least a little bit wrong.  We'll start with Khan, who of course...

Monday, December 27, 2010

Snow Emergency Slip-Up

Jimmy Howard of the Red Wings makes an amazing save.

Red Wings leaving the ice. These two pictures were taken after 8 p.m. on 12/26/10.  That will be important later.
Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman

Yes, yes, I'm tracking my NoMi purchases, but I also hail from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  Like Minnesotans, us Yoopers take our hockey pretty seriously.  So when the Red Wings were in town last night for one of their two yearly visits to my current home state, I gave myself a Christmas present and went to the game.  And although Detroit was missing their leading scorer, they put on the kind of precision-passing clinic that they are famous for.  The game was so lopsided that the home crowd was booing their team halfway through the match.  It was a good night to be wearing a Red Wings jersey.

But enough basking in the glow of my hockey team, this post is about what happened with my car and a towing citation after I went home.  I checked the parking rules before I even left, planning on putting my vehicle on the correct side of the street for the final day of the snow emergency.

But when I woke up, I found...

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Urbanophile is the Blog that Keeps on Giving

Post by the Hawthorne Hawkman, photo and image from the Urbanophile blog.

Since deciding to look at ways to expand the scope of this blog, I was sent several links to various revitalization/redevelopment blogs from across the country.  The one that I'm most currently enamored with is called the Urbanophile.  It is (almost) everything I had hoped this blog would become, except, if you can imagine it, perhaps even too dry for my tastes.

The Urbanophile is a treasure trove of information from across the country, with over 600 posts since its 2006 inception and countless links to other blogs and redevelopment efforts from across the country.  There's so much valuable history here that it's hard to figure out how to take it all in - chronological order, by topic, or by geographic region.  The writing is balanced, thoughtful, and based on actual evidence.  I could spend days looking at the content it provides, and probably will.

Currently, what has captured my attention is...

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Proposal for BJ's Site Get an Upgrade

Post by the Hawthorne Hawkman, photos by Pat Carney.
Editorial note:  This post is appearing on NXNS instead of Hawthorne Voices because there has not yet been time for the Hawthorne Neighborhood Council to review Land Ho's proposals or take an official position on them.  It's clearer, then, that any opinions expressed here are mine only, and not necessarily formal positions of HNC.

The developers for Land Ho, which is moving forward with a plan to acquire and develop the current site of BJ's, came before the Hawthorne business committee last week.  One of the first things I noted when they gave their proposal was that the name on the bottom of their design plans had changed from "North Loop Gateway" to the far more bland "W Broadway & Washington Mixed Use Development."  I consider this to be at least a small sign that they are paying more attention to our community.  Some of my neighbors had agreed with my expressed concern that naming the project after a neighborhood where the development wouldn't even take place was, at best, insensitive to the Hawthorne and Near North communities.

As it happens, the name won't be prominently displayed on the constructed building; it's just a tagline for the proposal as it moves forward.

The other area of concern that I had was in regards to how well the current proposal fits in with the West Broadway Alive Plan.  The initial site drawings for the development really did not take enough of that Plan  into account.  As Land Ho has gone to various community groups and committees at the city council, it appears that their plans have come more and more into conformity with West Broadway Alive.  Are they close enough for approval?  That remains to be seen, although I have to admit to being pretty impressed with what was presented to the HNC business committee.

Where things really get interesting is in a dispute between...

Friday, December 17, 2010

Changes Coming to NXNS

Post by the Hawthorne Hawkman

In one of my many discussions with friends where we solve the world's problems (or at least the neighborhood's) but then can't seem to remember all of our brilliant ideas the next day, one solution stuck with me. One neighbor was saying how he could find out where a lot of the cutting-edge revitalization was occurring in cities around the country by looking at (wait for it) those cities' blogs. We talked about how there really isn't a central location for people to come together and find out what's been working in other cities that we could try here - or what advantages Minneapolis has over other areas in terms of how we are moving forward.

This reminded me of another project done earlier this year by an organization called Policy Link, called "When Investors Buy Up the Neighborhood."  While that study had some useful information, it was rather top-heavy and aimed at institutions.  I want to get more granular and find out what residents and activists on the ground level are doing to change their neighborhoods and influence those institutions.  So over the weekend, I'll be looking at quite a few blogs from across the country, and tinkering with the layout of this site somewhat.  The plan is to have a "NoMi blog roll" and some kind of "Revitalizer blog roll."

Here's a sampling of some candidates:
Victorian Antiquities and Design
And a blog that I've read before - The Urbanophile

I'm open to suggestions if readers know of others as well.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"Upper Drug-o-topia" - Gone!

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...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

City Assessors Dodge a Question

Post by the Hawthorne Hawkman, image from the Boston Real Estate Blog.

At yesterday's City Council hearing, in which neighborhood funding was stripped away, CM President Barb Johnson announced that city assessors would be available in an adjoining room to answer questions about property tax values.  The pressing item on my mind as soon as I heard this was "What exactly constitutes a forced sale?  What kinds of sales are and are not taken into consideration when determining a value?"  For new NXNS readers, that line of questioning has to do with a lawsuit in which it is alleged that north Minneapolis residents are paying taxes based on values at 300% of market value.

(On an interesting side note, one of the southwest Minneapolis residents who testified at the hearing mentioned the lawsuit and said his city councilperson told him it was nothing to worry about.)

Shortly after my testimony, I slipped out to ask an assessor a few questions, such as...

Saturday, December 11, 2010

What Goes Around Comes Around in the Snowmageddon

Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman, final image from

Earlier in the day, I wound up helping several folks get their cars out of the snowbank, and even though I think "Pay it Forward" is a terrible, terrible movie (nice IDEA, poorly executed), those karmic points came in handy later on.  My car was parked on the even side of the street, meaning at 8 a.m. tomorrow it would be tagged or towed.  But merely hopping in and driving it around the block wasn't really an option.  So...
Step 1:  shovel out enough room to drive off.
Step 2:  shovel away enough room across the street from step 1 so I could do a 3-point turn.
Step 3:  shovel enough of a space on the odd side of the street where I could park.
But even that wasn't enough, because after all that work, it turns out my car wouldn't start.  I called the roadside assistance on my cell phone, as they offer free towing, jumpstarts, and tire changing.  But they told me that due to the weather and the high demand for such services, there was a 12-hour delay for anyone who was not actually stranded out in the cold.  If I couldn't find someone to help me out, my only other option would be to wake up at 8 a.m. and plead my case with the tow truck drivers as they hauled my car off to the impound lot.  And tow truck drivers and traffic control officers aren't generally noted for their sympathy.

So, I went to my neighbors and asked if they could try giving my car a jump.  So much snow had gotten under the hood of my car, it looked more or less like this:

Except it was harder to tell there was an engine under there somewhere.
So we had to repeat steps 1 through 3 for HIS vehicle so that he could get out and close enough to jumpstart my car.  Thankfully, it worked out and I'll avoid the $300+ towing/impound fee.  Now everyone else, go and do what you can to help your neighbors too.

Stay Inside and Avoid the Horsemen of the Snowpocalypse

Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman

"I watched as the Hawkman opened the first of the seven storm doors.  Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, 'Brrrr!'  I looked and there before me was a white Chevrolet Suburban!  Its rider held a plow, and was given a shovel.  And he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest."

Look, people, it really is that bad out there.  Don't drive, except to move your car to the correct side of the street for our snow emergency so that you don't get towed.  I woke up this morning and the snow at my front door was already up to my knees.  Instead of being so foolish as to think my car was going anywhere, I walked over to the Holiday gas station a few blocks away to pick up the day's Strib.

On my way back, I saw a car stuck in the snow at 26th and 4th, went to get my shovel, and helped shovel and push them out.  Then, as I was walking back to my place, I saw another vehicle stuck at 26th and Washington, across the freeway.  And THEN, once those folks got a Hawkman push, there was a THIRD car stuck at the alley entrance on 26th between 3rd and 4th.  Seriously folks, who even TRIES to drive in an unplowed alley in this weather?

An hour and a half later, my neighborly venture was complete, and my eyebrows were gathering icicles.  If you must go outside today, spend that time walking around and looking for people who need help getting out of a snowbank.  Otherwise, weather like this is perfect for at least one thing:  spending time with your loved ones, watching The Empire Strikes Back.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Former Pamiko Property Open to Trespass

Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.  Second-to-last image from the Johnny Northside blog.  Final image from

One of the nice parts about fresh snow is that when we have vacant properties on a block, it's far easier to tell when somebody's been snooping around.  On my way home for lunch today, I happened to drive past 621 26th Ave N, a property I know well.  Tracks in the snow clearly indicated somebody had been scoping the property out, so I followed suit.  I went around to the back and I found...

Buying Into NoMi - One Month In

Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.  Editorial note:  the purchases in this post were made between 10/22/10 and 11/22/10.

I'd been meaning to give more frequent updates on my experiment of intentionally spending money within or related to north Minneapolis.  But some rather detailed posts, such as saving North High and the property tax lawsuit got on the front burner.  Plus, I've found it surprisingly difficult to write about two of the most personal ways that I relate to my community - financially and spiritually.  (Interestingly enough, the spiritual aspect seems harder to articulate and I'm not satisfied at all with that post.  I expect it to become easier as time goes on.)

So how am I doing in my quest to spend as much of my discretionary income as possible in NoMi?  Well, I broke down the first month's expenses and found that...

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Northside Arts Collective to Close

Post by the Hawthorne Hawkman, image from the NAC homepage.

The most recent newsletter for the Northside Arts Collective announces that it will begin the process of legally dissolving the organization.  The full letter from the board chair can be found here.  It's a sad day for the arts in NoMi.

New NXNS Twitter Capabilities!

Post and photo by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

I've been quite pleased with my new phone as of late.  Admittedly, I didn't buy it in NoMi, but we'll get to why that was okay in an upcoming post.  One of the things my old phone just didn't do well was upload photos onto Twitter - twitpics is what I think the kids are calling that.  So at a meeting earlier in the evening, I tried that function on this phone and it worked quite well.  Just click on the "twitpic" link in the Twitter feed and you'll see the image I uploaded  (although not rotated the way it needed to be; still working out all the kinks).  But if there is a demolition or something similarly noteworthy, I plan on using this function to get images distributed as quickly as possible. 

A NoMi Church Conversation

Post by the Hawthorne Hawkman, photo from the Salem ELCA website.

Back in college, I read a book by Dr. John Perkins called "Rebuilding Communities, Doing it Together and Doing it Right," which made me want to get into community organizing work.  Dr. Perkins wrote about transforming communities not just as an organizer from the outside, but by relocating into that community.  Even before graduation, I had a chance to put his ideas to the test as a founding member of the Project Neighborhood program, which has expanded and is still going strong in Grand Rapids, MI today.

Since beginning my work in Hawthorne, I have moved here and sought out a place of worship at River of Life Lutheran Church on 22nd and Fremont.  And while I was excited to see what ROL has had to offer the community (the Loaves and Fishes program, a new rainwater garden, and a small gym are some examples), I often felt like "the church" as a larger body was not sufficiently engaged with north Minneapolis.  Or if the church was so engaged, then at least I wasn't plugged into that in the way I wanted.

So when my pastor sent out an email inviting me to a "NoMi Churches Conversation" with several other denominations, I knew I had to go.  Plus, she used "NoMi" without me even having to prompt her.  I'm not going to lie; that scored points with me BIG TIME.  This was certainly not the first time that multiple denominations came together to talk about our collective place in the community, and what God wants us to do about it, but it was my first such engagement in NoMi.   We met at Salem Lutheran and Pastor Dave Wangaard facilitated.  The notes that Pastor Lee Ann Pomrenke took are after the jump...