Wednesday, March 16, 2011

619 26th Ave N Prepped for Demolition

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.


  1. I think this was a decent house. I think it could still be saved if anybody cared enough to save it and had the resources.

    Jeff. Name the landlord, please. Thanks.

  2. I didn't name the landlord in the post itself because he doesn't own the place anymore and I couldn't remember his name with enough certainty. But his name was something like Eduardo Perro. I don't think he had other properties in Minneapolis. If I can confirm from folks on the block then I'll post that for sure.

  3. First, all the property along 26th has been silently earmarked for demo to make way for the proposed bike-way. (If I owned a home there, I wouldn't get too comfortable).It has to be done this way because Minnesota has gutted the Emanate Domain laws due to previous abuses.

    This will make the main arterial route to those Northside Neighborhoods look like crap until they can pull together funding and disclose this agenda. Of course, as soon as they do disclose this intent, the poverty pimps who own these properties will start taking more interest so they can sell them back to the city at a huge profit - which makes the plan financially impossible. (Want an example- Look at Penn and Keith Rietmann)

    Second, There isn't a politician out there who wants to take on the combined juggernaut of white suburban greed (Slumlords) and "cultural diversity" zealots (like Don Allen) who want to keep the ghettos status quo. (Big fish in a muddy little pond syndrome.)This has to change.

    Also, the progressive homesteaders in NoMi who are trying to persevere are up against the combined will of stable outlying communities who know that enforcing tighter standards in North Minneapolis will drive the lumpenproletariat outward, destabilizing their neighborhoods.(Slumlords, drug dealers, con-men and the like never reform - they just take the path of lease resistance to a new locations that are willing or less able to cope with those lifestyles.) That's why the County and the Met Council doesn't get more involved in solutions.

    We are using children and the poor to cloak a social agenda that tries to geographically contain these anti-social behaviors and the longer we let this action exist, the the more ingrained it becomes in our combined psyche.

    Children inundated with these behaviors feel it is their destiny, Outside communities are able to document NoMi as a problematic source, and we feed into the notion that it's our obligation to endure antisocial behaviors and look the other way as bureaucrats and poverty pimps are subsidized to provide substandard housing while our community falls apart around our ears.

  4. If we ever could embrace the truth and get our leaders to stand up for real community improvement, there are lots of tools out there.

    -Start with higher community behavioral standards. Make EVERYONE who owns property in NoMi accountable for behaviors at that site by enforcing Minnesota's Nuisance Property Laws. It's not enough to wait until the property has been totally trashed and the good neighbors move away to take action.

    -Raise the tax rates for non-homestead residential properties to make them equitable with rental subsidies. Non-homestead revenues are currently 17% lower than homestead taxes yet account for a vastly disproportionate amount of city service expenditures.

    -Create Community Design Standards that prevent developers from gutting the character of residential streetscapes by using inappropriate materials and unorthodox usages. Change the building codes so that contractors are not allowed to take out 60% of a historic buildings elements before they are subject to design review.

    -Establish Rehabilitation Codes that do not try and hold older structures to the same standards as new construction. Make this code appropriate for homesteaders who need more time to finance these projects.

    -Establish financing options that utilize federal tax dollars to strengthen our community and encourage investment rather than tear it down. Create training and Back-to-work programs focused on residential maintenance and repair to strengthen inner-city economies and make skills available to local homeowners.

    -Do away with the additional licensure requirements for Mpls. tradesmen and open up the city to all State licensed trades people to reduce the cost of rehab. (Like every other city in the State!)

    -Change tax incentives to promote residential reinvestment. Create Residential Tax Investment Financing (TIF) Districts that use local tax dollars brought into a community from rehabs and improved lots to finance loans and grants for other residential initiatives within the community.

    -Market vacant homes and lots by Proposal and open up bidding to homesteaders under more relaxed regulation and assistance programs.

    -Create Home Ownership Omnibudsman in CPED that actually try and help homesteaders find solutions that will allow them to purchase and rehab properties safely and economically.

    Sure, many of these suggestions are geared from preservation concepts, but we have to come to terms with the fact that we live in an older community and these solutions are the ones that will work for us.

  5. I wonder what will happen to the remaining interior architectural elements...

  6. If a community can not see potential in a row of large intact Victorian houses with uniform scale and massing and double decker porches all facing towards a park, then that is a neighborhood either that does not believe in itself or does not simply does not have vision. It doesn't take much imagination to picture these porches opened up with turned posts and hanging plants. Has anyone ever seen the bright yellow double decker porches on 13th Street in NE? These would be even more amazing than those and even face a park. But yet, we decide to tear them down. For what? A vacant lot? Some craker jack infill?

    PLEASE don't tell me that the numbers don't work to rehab. We are spending money on demolition; garbage removal, sidewalk clearing, and lawn maintenance on vacant lots, loosing possible tax revenue, and then in the end spending HUGE amounts of money in gap financing for the cracker jack boxes we are building in place of our historic buildings. Not to mention that the historic buildings are built with high quality old growth lumber that simply will never exist again. If you want to talk about numbers that don't work, the numbers for creating vacant lots and infill housing do not work either . You basically get what you incentivize.

    Right now we are incentivizing demolition and infill. But it is not as if this is gravity - some unstoppable force that just naturally happens. We have created these incentives. We choose what we incentivize. If we wanted gorgeous Victorians with highly aesthetic double decker porches facing the park, and that are a piece of our neighborhood's history and memory, we could have that too. We would just need to incentivize it. And unfortunately we are not doing that.


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