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...

Monday, November 29, 2010

Dream Homes Remade!

Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman

I've been pretty hard on the Dream Homes on this blog and elsewhere, going so far as to say I wouldn't mind one bit if they were torn down all at once.  That being said, demolition of existing housing stock is quite wasteful from an environmental standard.  (If any readers know of studies like this that have been done since the housing bust led to an increase in demolitions, I'd be happy to see those.)  So if we can find a way to transform some of these houses into positive contributions to our neighborhood - and without demolishing them - then I'm all for it.

That's where Alissa Luepke Pier, an (award-winning!) architect who lives in Hawthorne comes into play.  She called me up and said she's been working with Urban Homeworks on some redesigns of Dream Homes and other Koenig vinyl boxes.  The house shown above is at 2515 Irving Ave N, and other homes will hopefully be similarly redone.  Note the porch that extends across the front, and the detailing of the windows and the woodwork, as well as the bump out given to the bay window.  There's not much to be done for the side windows, and the house won't appeal to everyone, but what house does?

I was also shown redrawn floor plans, and space has been made for laundry, tools, and other home maintenance items.  Property owners of these places won't be dependent on a property manager to be able to come along and mow the lawn or do other basic upkeep.

On top of wanting to avoid waste as much as possible, I'm also a big fan of transformative symbols.  And how great would it be if we transformed these homes into recognizable signs of progress?  I'd love to bring people into NoMi, point to houses that look like this, and be able to say, "This house was built by one of the worst predatory investors our neighborhood has seen, but look at it now!"  Urban Homeworks and Alissa Luepke Pier accomplished something I didn't think was possible; they've got me excited about Dream Homes.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Taking a Peek at Assessment Statutes

Post by the Hawthorne Hawkman, image from the Miscellany 101 blog.

As the Minneapolis property tax lawsuit moves forward, people have wondered what our state statute has to say about assessed values.  The question has been raised here and on the Minneapolis Issues Forum, although no definitive answer has been given.  Well, here is what our state law has to say:

Minnesota Statute 273.11 (sub 1) begins:  "Except as provided in this section or section 273.17, subdivision 1, all property shall be valued at its market value."

Okay, so what is "market value?"

"Subd. 8.  Market value.  'Market value' means the usual selling price at the place where the property to which the term is applied shall be at the time of assessment; being the price which could be obtained at a private sale or an auction sale, if it is determined by the assessor that the price from the auction sale represents an arm's-length transaction.  The price obtained at a forced sale shall not be considered."  (emphasis mine)

What isn't yet clear from statute or other cases, is what exactly constitutes a "forced sale."  I would contend that a forced sale is a sheriff's sale or other court- or lender-ordered sale in which the entity selling may not have sold at the time, price, or other terms unless compelled to do so.  Post-foreclosure, a bank may be highly motivated to sell, just as an owner who has to relocate due to a new job might be, but the transaction is an arm's-length transaction at that time, and I do not see it as "forced."

We'll see if either the assessment policy, state law, or any ruling from this lawsuit interprets "forced sales" in the same way.  If so, it would seem that the lawsuit has merit.  And if it does, then it could seriously change the financial landscape for Minneapolis.  Even for someone who just wants to see fairness applied in tax policies, that's a daunting proposition.  That's because the map in a previous post encompasses 7,767 single-family parcels, and the total amount of over-assessed values is...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Not Thankful for Sign Spammers

Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

We don't take too kindly to sign spammers here in NoMi, and today was no exception.  Somebody thought they'd get at least a long weekend of free advertising by putting their signs up at Farview Park.  Not when I'm around, they don't.  But be thankful, illegal sign spammer, your signs are still on park property.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Weighing the Merits of the Minneapolis Property Tax Lawsuit

Post by the Hawthorne Hawkman, image from Texas Property Tax Consultants.

Yesterday we wondered if the price was right for assessed values in north Minneapolis and Phillips.  For anyone who hadn't already guessed, in each example listed in that post, the properties in the affected areas had the lower sales price but the higher assessed value and higher taxes as a result.

This blog was fortunate enough to be able to post the lawsuit documents before anyone else did, and today we get to break down what they contain.  These are only my impressions after reading through, so others are encouraged to offer their thoughts on this matter as well.  But mark my words, this could be huge.  We're talking potentially in the tens of billions of dollars in assessed values for single-family homes citywide.  Out of those tens of billions, it's not yet clear how much assessed values are incorrect (assuming the suit is found to have some degree of merit, obviously).  But then you start to think about multifamily, commercial, and industrial on top of THAT, and the financial implications are staggering.

The lawsuit that could rock the foundations of those finances starts with...

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Price is Right? North Minneapolis Assessed Values

Post by the Hawthorne Hawkman.  Contributed image.

Unless you've been living under a rock (assessed value:  $75,900) in north Minneapolis you're at least familiar in passing with the lawsuit alleging unfair assessment and taxation practices in the Camden community and the Phillips neighborhood.  This blog posted the court documents online, and I've had a chance to review them.  In this post, we'll break down the map above.

What's hard to see without clicking on the map to enlarge it is exactly how some of the nicest parts of the city are getting a more than fair ride.  While it's true that Jimmy Carter called Hawthorne the nicest neighborhood [he's] ever worked in, that unfortunately doesn't retroactively raise house values across north Minneapolis.  So the blue dots represent households paying taxes at about 60-90% of their recent selling price.  Green dots are at 90-110%, the range allowable by law.  Yellow is 111-150%, orange is 151-200%, red is 201-300%, and maroon dots signify those who are paying taxes based on a valuation over 300% of a recent sale.

In a delicious bit of irony, one of the assessors named in the lawsuit has even contested the valuation of one of his own properties.  But let's take a look at a few other comparisons, such as...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Christopher James Hayes and Michael James Funches Arrested in Connection with Murder of Christopher de Ronde

Christopher James Hayes, photo from the City Pages.

Michael James Funches, photo from the City Pages.
Post by the Hawthorne Hawkman.  Photos from the City Pages blog.

The two prime suspects in the murder of Christopher de Ronde, Christopher Hayes and Michael Funches, are now in custody.  The City Pages blog has perhaps the best account of what transpired that day, along with some interesting allegations in the comment section.  A commenter by the name of Kristine claimed that Hayes and Funches, although Hayes was found not guilty and it's not clear if Funches was charged or tried, murdered her fiance Avery Cannady.

(This shooting occurred in 2006, and although both the Pioneer Press and Star Tribune reported on it, the links to those stories are no longer live links.  Any readers with more information on Cannady and Hayes' and Funches' connection to that murder are encouraged to share in the comment section.)

Both Hayes and Funches have their own list of convictions as well.  While not as long of a list as someone like Amecio Enge, bear in mind these kids are only 22 and 23 years old.  Their histories are posted after the jump...

NXNS Exclusive! North Minneapolis Property Tax Lawsuit Docs!

Post by the Hawthorne Hawkman, image from the Redfin blog.

EDITORIAL NOTE:  The copy originally posted was missing several pages, most notably the end of Defendant Llangari's claims and the beginning of Defendant Kral's claims.  This was likely due to a scanner pulling two pages through at a time.  The link has been corrected, and the full document is now available.

Ask and you shall receive.  In a previous post, I said I hoped to post the lawsuit documents that claim north Minneapolis properties are being assessed unfairly and therefore taxed at a higher rate than they should be.  Within several hours, I was sent the document I was looking for, along with some other goodies.  The other items and a summary of the complaint are coming soon.  But for anyone who wants to review the lawsuit document...

Click here for a copy.  More will follow.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Next Steps for North High

Post and videos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

There will be a meeting this Saturday to plan the next steps for North High School.  The video above leads off this post because in it Director Davis reads her amendment (a version of which was passed), and at the 2:00 mark she says we can no longer afford to disinvest in north Minneapolis.  That statement drew raucously enthusiastic applause, and we need that kind of energy tomorrow.

Here is what the Save North Coalition announced in an email regarding Saturday's meeting:

Community Meeting to Discuss Our Next Steps
Saturday, November 21st
2:00pm - 4:00pm
Zion Baptist Church
"Last Tuesday the community campaign to stop the closure of North High School won a partial victory when the Minneapolis Board of Education voted 4 to 3 to keep North High open another year if the community could recruit 125 9th graders to the school by March. While this is a far cry from what the community was demanding, it shows that when we organize, we have real power. It also provides a new window of opportunity to continue to organize to save our school!
"This Saturday lets come together as parents, students, teachers, alumni, and concerned community members from across the Twin Cities to map out our next steps to keep this school open and revitalize public education on the North Side and beyond. We need all hands on deck and all voices at the table this Saturday to collectively create a student recruitment plan, a political strategy, and to take the lead in creating a community-led vision for revitalizing North High School."
For those of you who haven't seen the rest of the footage from the most recent School Board meeting, it can be found, along with some commentary, after the jump...

Property Taxes in NoMi Reach Boiling Point

Post by the Hawthorne Hawkman, photo from Wikimedia Commons.

There has been buzz over the past several months in NoMi that we are paying more than our fair share in property taxes (Ed Kohler of The Deets brought the issue up in late September, an email made its way around some neighborhood listservs, which led to a post on JNS about a potential lawsuit).  As property tax assessments have been arriving in the mail, the Minneapolis Issues Forum has had many postings on what this means, and even the Irving Inquisition dedicated a jerk du jour designation to this.  Well today Steve Brandt at the Strib broke the story of a lawsuit being filed that specifically makes that allegation.  (I hope to post as much of the lawsuit documents as possible here for NXNS readers.)

If these claims are found to have merit, they have the potential to shake the very foundations of not just city and neighborhood finances (that's obvious), but also perceptions of north Minneapolis.  How often to fellow NoMi residents hear the refrain that the rest of the city pays for all the services that north uses up?  Well, what if it's actually the opposite?  Could it be possible that the poorest of all parts of the city are paying our way, or even propping up other parts of town?  Allegedly, many in NoMi are paying a rate based on a value estimate as high as 300% of the most recent purchase price.

In some ways, I do feel bad for the city.  After all, it's not like they're swimming in money.  And with the threat of even more LGA cuts looming, things won't be getting better anytime soon.  The money's got to come from somewhere.

But even before I can rationalize a counter-argument that's not sympathetic at all, various city and state employees do a fine job of getting rid of my sympathy on their own.  I'm especially incensed at the state assessors, who refute the notion that the recent sales are accurate indicators of market value.  Essentially, their argument as described in the Strib, is this:  Since a lot of banks sold houses for perhaps less than they could have, that means that assessors can use a dollar amount other than sales prices as a way to determine market value.  Like what?  Really, what else besides recent sales is used to determine value?

Perhaps the state assessors John Hagen and Lloyd McCormick could explain to me why my Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds baseball cards aren't selling for squat on eBay.  True, the steroids scandals have made it clear that their statistical achievements were fraudulently inflated.  But I keep on thinking there's got to be a good way to calculate the market value of those know, some way OTHER than how much somebody might be willing to pay me for them.  Because that doesn't get me much money AT ALL.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I Have Been to Bauer Brothers. My Life is Now Complete.

Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman

I admit it.  I've fallen short on my duties in promoting cool housing items and amazing businesses right in my own backyard.  Quite a few of those in my close social circle have often spoke about going to Bauer Brothers for items that compliment the homes they have been rehabbing and restoring.  But I also heard so many of my south Minneapolis friends gush about how amazing this place is that I just assumed it was somewhere OTHER than right here in NoMi.  Certainly it couldn't be in Hawthorne, I thought.

But here it is, 2432 2nd St N, right behind the Holiday gas station where I buy my paper every day.  (That Holiday is the best gas station in this part of NoMi, I might add.  The clerks are always friendly, plenty of cops patronize the place, and they don't sell white tees or other obvious items that enable gang/thug activity.)

At a birthday party this week for Mr. Irving Inquisition, I spoke to several of my neighbors who expressed surprise that I'd never been to Bauer Brothers before.  To my credit though, most of the items for sale are geared towards owners of older/historic homes or antique collectors, not renters or tenants - items such as stained glass windows.

Wherever and whatever the Blue Fox was, it must have been a heck of a place.
Bauer Brothers is four stories of gloriously random odds and ends, ranging from the aforementioned stained glass to doors (front doors, closets, automatic sliding glass doors, antique elevator doors from the Fitz in St. Paul, and even old jail and safe doors) to furniture to movie seats and bar stools to hutches and light fixtures and appliances and just about everything you could imagine.  If you've ever gone to the Humane Society and felt an overwhelming urge to just take home every single adorable puppy in the place, then you've got some idea of what I was feeling here.

As excited as I was about virtually everything here, I took photos only of the oddest items.  There's just too much to take in otherwise.  Let's start with...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Some Signs of Improvement on Lowry Avenue

Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman

Some time ago, these signs popped up along Lowry Avenue as part of its redesign.  I never got an explanation as to why, but when they initially appeared, they went only from Theo Wirth on to about Girard or so.  Well, today a colleague at Hennepin County informed me that the signs have been posted all the way down Lowry to the bridge.  Huzzah!

Down on Broadway we've got these funny-looking signs hanging from the light posts depicting abstract faces and, at best, abstract emotions.  While I appreciate the youth involvement in the community that went into the creation of those signs, I don't think they accomplish much.  Granted, this is just my own personal opinion, but I really like some of the signs I've seen like this along Central Avenue.  One part of the sign on the light post says Central Avenue, and another sign designates which neighborhood you are in.  That combination, to me, really gives you a sense of place, as if you're somewhere with a strong and proud identity.  I'd love to see something similar along Lowry, with all of the bordering neighborhoods identified and represented.

Now, borrowing from the Irving Inquisition, which manages to be ticked off at one ore more people in every blog post, I've got my own jerks du jour...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Lowry Bridge Will be Built the Right Way!

Photo found here.

Photo found here.

Image from the Lowry Bridge homepage.
Post by the Hawthorne Hawkman.  Photo sources included in hyperlinks in photo captions.

Not too long ago, the Irving Inquisition blog and I had ourselves a disagreement over whether it would be best to build the Lowry Avenue Bridge quickly, or if we should wait until enough funding was allocated so that a NoMi bike/walk path underneath could be built in accordance with the Above the Falls master plan.  We'd heard rumblings that our side of the bridge would not extend far enough for that path to be put in place.  The Irving Inquisition position was to build it sooner, regardless of whether it met any comprehensive plans.  My stance was to wait however long it took so that we get it done right.  If the plan is a 50-year plan, and the bridge will last for 100 years or more, then there's only one shot at getting this amenity or NoMi.

Well, it turns out we were both right.   (but I was more right)  According to Tom Leighton at the most recent Hawthorne board meeting, Hennepin County and Mark Stenglein were diligent in pursuing enough funding so that the bridge can be built with the space for a bike/walk path underneath, and this won't cause any significant delays in construction.  Connecting the North Mississippi Regional Park and the rest of the Grand Rounds (admittedly, the full connection will take many, many years to complete due to property acquisition) will do wonders for biking in and through NoMi.

On a somewhat random note, as I was searching for images to use for this post, I came across another Lowry Bridge, this one in Manchester, England.  Notice any similarities?

Photo found here.

Photo found here.