Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman
619 26th Avenue North, a property that has long been a focal point of illicit activity is now in preparation for demolition. Many Hawthorne residents along 26th couldn't be happier. The former owner of this property allowed his tenants to close off the front porch "for privacy reasons," which, when put through the Babel fish translator from bullshit to English equates, "So Keith Richards, Charlie Sheen, and the Colombian revolutionary army could do constant drug deals and no one would notice." This place was bad news, one of the last open-air drug dealing spots in the neighborhood, and there was much rejoicing when it was finally shut down.
The Hawthorne Neighborhood Council has supported the city's acquisition and demolition of 619 and 621 26th. What to the naked eye looks like a small yard off to the side of 619 is actually a third parcel, 617 26th Ave N. Hawthorne then recommends that the three parcels be combined and split in half to make two buildable lots.
I support the neighborhood's decision, but how 619 arrived at the point of demolition is a frustrating and all-too-common tale...
Neighbors along 26th were quite literally terrorized by the occupants at 619. At one point, a resident walked out her front door to see a thug sticking a knife in the tires of a rival's car, and then he turned to her, brandished the knife, and threatened her over whether she'd call the police. Decent folks around the house were often so afraid that they weren't sleeping well at night. When we finally (thanks, MPD!) got the place shut down, it was like night and day.
Not surprisingly, with his drug and prostitution tenants evicted, the landlord simply let the house go. Shortly thereafter, I was walking past and saw the front door was open to trespass. I walked on to the porch, and a window inside was also broken open. Without crossing the threshold, I could tell the previous tenants had left the place an utter disaster. I called 311, but obviously someone wasn't about to cede this ground to squatters or other ne'er-do-wells, because a mismatched board was nailed over the front door before the city showed up.
When the city came by, they posted a notice that the property would be condemned if the board wasn't removed in time. 619 was listed on the MLS then, so I called the listing agent and informed him that if he didn't address the boarded status, it would become condemned and MUCH harder to sell. Neither the agent nor the owner made a single attempt to remove the board or otherwise keep the property off of the VBR list. The lender took an inordinate amount of time in the foreclosure proceedings, and then listed the property again.
The house spent several months on the MLS. It was never really available for showing. Once every few weeks, it would appear for maybe a day or a few hours as a current listing that one could possibly look at and put down an offer. It was never open for more than a day. I made several attempts to put an interested buyer in touch with the agent (this was before the neighborhood had taken a position, for the record). No phone call was returned and the property went back to "Temporarily Not Available for Showing" almost immediately. It was eventually purchased by the city and is now slated for demolition.
So just like a few properties over on Hillside Ave N, this house was a haven for illicit activity, was ridden into the ground by the previous tenants, and further neglected by the owner. Neither the owner, the lender, nor the Realtor made any serious attempts to sell the place at its current value (which, admittedly would have been quite small) and the home was therefore railroaded towards demolition as the only real option.
Over the coming days and weeks, this blog will explore what other options might help preserve homes when appropriate. Potential solutions will be items that are already part of city or state law but are not utilized, old programs within Minneapolis that should be revived, and strategies that other cities have employed to combat blight. Stay tuned, readers.