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...

...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.


  1. One of the reasons why I don't mind paying my fair share of taxes is that I enjoy services from competent governments, and I'd like to trust what they do. None of us have the time, nor requisite knowledge to constantly be in "watchdog mode". However, I realize that the government needs public oversight, especially in a relatively "voiceless community"; hence, thank you for your work.

    I hope the class-action succeeds. I know that it may put more of a burden on south Mpls. and I feel for them, but it is not North's fault. I blame the lack of wherewithal by the city to investigate and mitigate this phenomenon.

    This is a changing Northside, and the rest of the city is going to have to get used to the fact that there are many upwardly mobile and influential people moving up here. I think this class-action is a great wake-up call in that regard.

  2. I'm not sure how I feel about this lawsuit situation... Though, if the rest of the metro area is going to insist upon using NOMI as their dumping ground for sex offenders and an oversized percentage of people in need of public assistance (section 8, etc), we should at least get something to show for it. The status quo leaves us with a shortage of people who can afford to financially support the amenities that this community really needs to develop in order to improve our local economy.
    I have no problem with having low-income housing in the area, but North has too much of it clustered together. You simply can't put so much need in one area. It has to be spread out more evenly to benefit both those in need and the communities that service those needs. The sex offender thing is different, and plain and simple, it's not right. I believe our neighborhood's residents are vulnerable enough without swamping the place with criminals. Still, we see no action on those fronts. Nobody else wants to have poor people as their neighbors, and certainly, nobody else wants to have sex offenders in their midst, so they shove them into Northside because they know we can't stop them from doing so. In light of this, it seems only reasonable that our community should be properly compensated for having to deal with those matters.

  3. That's a very good point anony. 7:22. Good luck getting that across to city officials though. I'm from Kenwood, and when something needed to get done someone who drew a lot of water would pick up the phone. We don't have that in North. I feel that even our civic leaders here either don't care, or feel too hamstrung to do anything differently as well. This is a very politically isolated area with virtually no influence. However, it can only change when your above mentioned issued are addressed and fixed first. I'd like to view this lawsuit as perhaps a "shock and awe" moment for the city of Minneapolis followed be many more.

  4. Read the law - properties are to be assessed at their "fair market value" 90% of the homes in NoMi are worth between 20K and 40K. This is really simple. The class action case will be tossed based on a 2007 Supreme Court case as being untimely - I guarantee it! What a bunch of Morons!

  5. Average listing price per neighborhood: week ending Dec. 1, 2010.

    -Shingle Creek
    Avg. listing: $100,672

    Avg. listing: $141,320

    Avg. listing: $91,242

    Avg. listing: $77,356

    Avg. listing: $104,968

    Avg. listing: $69,421

    Avg. listing: $78,027

    Avg. listing: $67,202

    Avg. listing: $84,355

    Avg. listing: $101,914

    -Near North
    Avg. listing: $92,535

    Understanding that these are average list prices, many homes will indeed be within 20K-40K, and of course the final sale price may differ. However, I still do not see how you're getting your figures anony. 10:01, unless you are basing those numbers solely on your personal sales stats., or just the price range that is really moving in this market right now.


  6. Furthermore, anony. 10:01 your figures are a better argument for the lawsuit in comparison to the above listing prices than mine. After all, doesn't the assessed value play an important role in the list price?

  7. Assessed value has absolutly no influence on the selling price we use to list and sell homes - only the market!

  8. Well, what I should have said is that the assessed value has to conform to some sense of reality, perhaps not the list price. However, assessed value and fair market value can't be two widely divergent amounts. I don't know what specific formula the city uses to assess property value, but I assume that it's largely based on fair market value. Now, if you say that all homes in North are worth between 20K-40K then there is clearly merit in the lawsuit based on the contrast to current list prices because I doubt very much that 90% of those listed homes were assessed between 20K-40K. That was my initial point. Or would you say that 90% of those list prices are just out of line with current fair market value?

  9. Self-correction: Not "all homes", but 90% of homes in North are worth between..., i.e., the 90% figure given by anony.


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