Sunday, December 4, 2011

Proposed Redevelopment Along Penn Ave N

 Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman, map from the city of Minneapolis.

In my previous post, I pointed readers to proposed changes along West Broadway.  The city is also planning to designate a redevelopment area along Penn Avenue and several intersecting cross streets.  The plan's language seems somewhat innocuous in this initial stage, although it's unclear yet how it could affect the various D2 light rail designs.  What has me worried though, is the language on the final page of the document, which states:
Minnesota Statutes Section 469.002, Subdivision 14 includes in its definition of a redevelopment project “any work or undertaking to acquire blighted areas and other real property for the purpose of removing, preventing, or reducing blight, blighting factors, or the causes of blight.”

A “blighted area” is defined in Minnesota Statutes Section 469.002, Subdivision 11 as “any area with buildings or improvements which, by reason of dilapidation, obsolescence, overcrowding, faulty arrangement or design, lack of ventilation, light, and sanitary facilities, excessive land coverage, deleterious land use, or obsolete layout, or any combination of these or other factors, are detrimental to the safety, health, morals, or welfare of the community.”

The proposed Penn Avenue North Redevelopment Project area is determined to be a blighted area, based on the characteristics described above. Indicators of blight observed in the project area include deteriorated or damaged building elements, underused or vacant land, poorly maintained premises, unoccupied residential properties, evidence of tornado damage, buildings in need of major repair, physically and/or functionally obsolete buildings, and lack of adequate parking for commercial operations.

Redevelopment activities in the project area will remove blight and facilitate the implementation of City land use policies and redevelopment objectives.
What's so scary about that, you may ask?  Well... least several homes targeted for acquisition under the supposed guise of addressing blight are owner-occupied properties in the midst of doing repair work after the tornado.  The city has identified forty-two properties that they might acquire and/or demolish as part of the plan.  I will post a picture of every single house or parcel designated as a possible acquisition.  Many are in fact in need of either significant rehab or demolition.  We should also look at who owns adjacent properties to the ones proposed, as that could tell us more about the motivations (both good and bad) for acquisition.

For now, here is that list of forty-two, with links to the city's website for ownership info, with noteworthy items expanded upon:

3229 Penn Avenue North
3215 Penn Avenue North - Vacant land adjacent to Union Liquors, owned by Hennepin County
3205 Penn Avenue North - Vacant land owned by Hennepin County
2904 Queen Avenue North - Vacant land owned by Hennepin County
2934 Queen Avenue North - Vacant property owned by Hennepin County
2958 Queen Avenue North
2954 Queen Avenue North
2607 Penn Avenue North - owner-occupied property
3201 Oliver Avenue North - Vacant land owned by Hennepin County
3222 Penn Avenue North
2718 Penn Avenue North - Vacant land owned by Hennepin County
2720 Penn Avenue North - Vacant land owned by "Landmark REO Club Inc" from Detroit, MI.
2639 Oliver Avenue North - House owned by Mahmood Khan, demolition ordered as of 11/18/2011.
2635 Oliver Avenue North - Vacant building
2634 Penn Avenue North - Property appears to be in late stages of foreclosure.
2640 Penn Avenue North
2627 Oliver Avenue North - Vacant property owned by Hennepin County, order to demolish.
2615 Oliver Avenue North - foreclosure, owned by US Federal Credit Union.
2624 Penn Avenue North - demolition order issued 11/18/2011.
2522 Penn Avenue North - Vacant property owned by Keith Reitman.
2520 Penn Avenue North - Another vacant "Reitman blue" property.
2306 Penn Avenue North - Vacant property owned by Hennepin County.
2110 Penn Avenue North - Vacant property owned by Hennepin County.
2202 Penn Avenue North - Vacant property, apparent foreclosure.
2214 Penn Avenue North - Vacant land owned by Hennepin County.
1900 Penn Avenue North - Vacant building.
2020 Penn Avenue North - Vacant land, privately owned.
2511 Penn Avenue North - Vacant apartment building, believed to be pictured in recent City Pages article.
2341 Penn Avenue North - rental property owned by Keith Reitman.
2335 Penn Avenue North - property owned by Keith Reitman.
2327 Penn Avenue North - property owned by Keith Reitman, demolition ordered on 11/18/2011.
2315 Penn Avenue North

1915 Penn Avenue North - Vacant property owned by Hennepin County.
1911 Penn Avenue North - Vacant property owned by a Joshua Clemons.
2200 Golden Valley Road - Vacant land owned by Hennepin County
2221 Penn Avenue North
2131 Penn Avenue North - Vacant land owned by Alan Kwong.
2101 Penn Avenue North - Vacant land owned by Hennepin County, link states "Conv Pending to City CPED Hcwt Hold for Bottineau"
1906 Queen Avenue North
1819 Penn Avenue North - homesteaded property.
1237 Penn Avenue North

Obviously there are some infamous names on the list and the more we can take properties off some of these slumlords' hands, the better off we'll be.  I can't help but wonder though, if the likes of Reitman, Khan, Kwong, and Johnson will continue to neglect their properties right up until the point where it's time to squeeze every cent they can out of the city.  And of course I'm worried for the owner-occupants on the list.  A photo tour to see each parcel is forthcoming.

Public comments to the city are due to Tiffany Glasper by January 16, 2012.

ADDENDUM:  A commenter pointed out that I had erroneously put 1819 Queen Avenue North on this list.  That has been corrected to 1819 Penn, and the hyperlink has been appropriately changed as well.  1819 Queen is not even in the redevelopment area.  Since no other properties have been identified as owned by Gregge Johnson, his name has been removed from the tags/labels section of this post as well.


  1. You have one goof on your property list and links - it's 1819 Penn, not Queen. It's a recent infill house that is actually pretty nice - and homesteaded.

  2. I think this "blight removal project" is actually a recipe for blight. Sure, I think there are properties and areas of Penn Avenue that could be spruced up. But if you aggressively begin to remove properties all over on Penn Avenue, potential buyers will have little confidence to invest in those properties. Or at least owner occupant buyers. What was once a tight knit urban street scape of historic properties will be come an unsightly gap toothed street scape where the level of disinvestment is ever increasing. Sure escalating blight could tactically be one way to clear an area for redevelopment, but look at the massive scale of this proposal. We do not have the resources to redevelop that amount of area. And less people living on Penn Avenue of course means less eyes on the street. Of course it makes complete sense to take away all of the people and eyes on the street in a high crime corridor.

    I have a novel idea. How about we focus redevelopment initiatives on all of the already cleared sites on West Broadway, Lowry, or on all of the vacant lots that are pock marking our neighborhoods. We can remove the worst of the worst tornado damaged and blighted houses on Penn. We can do some high density development along Penn between 26th and Broadway. Then the rest of the plan is regeneration of the existing high quality historic housing stock that has served Penn Avenue and its residents for over a hundred years. This is a plan that is sustainable, logical, remediates blight (without increasing blight), is more in line with crime and safety considerations, respects our past, embraces our future, does not displace current residents, strengthens what is existing rather than trying to wipe it all away and "do over." This makes sense on so many levels. How much do you want to bet the plan pursued by the city however is not the plan that clearly makes sense?

    *If* all of West Broadway, Lowry, and all of the vacant lots in North Minneapolis were filled and we were scratching our heads trying to come up with areas we could develop, THEN maybe something like targeting redevelopment of Penn would make sense to me. But further removing existing housing (some occupied and homesteaded) when we live in a part of town that is already a waste land of undeveloped and vacant lots makes no sense to me whatsoever. Want to remove blight? Then fix the damn houses.

    This is Don's ward. I sure hope Don has the common sense to see to it this plan does not gain traction.

  3. Community Planning often has to make hard choices regarding land use issues. This post points out how flawed the makeup of this corridor has become (Thanks to opportunist like Reitman, Khan, Kwong, and Johnson).

    While it would be ideal to think that every homesteader along that route who has persevered to maintain their homes and become good community members be spared any upheaval, in it's current state and in this economic environment many of those homeowners may appreciate the opportunity to sell their homes to the City.

    The State of Minnesota has been shy from using eminent domain ever since the the Bloomington debacle where homes and businesses were condemned and uprooted to provide land for the Best Buy headquarters. The language (while still vague) has been tightened up quite a bit since then. Regardless of the language, I don't think that an argument could be made that this area as a whole is not "blighted".

    While I understand and appreciate the concern regarding the use of wholesale condemnation as a basis for public planning, I am encouraged that the City has the guts to propose SOMETHING since it does not seem to have the gonads to enforce any other type of community policies that would prevent slumlord investors from wreaking havoc on our neighborhoods. Clearly, Don Samuels and other council members need to start recognizing that the social conditions we face in this community are a direct result of lack of enforcement of personnel responsibility not the misgivings of the ignorant poor.

    The truth of the matter is that the "high quality housing stock" that once lined Penn Ave. has been compromised so badly that what remains can not realistically sustain the type of recovery that M. Clinton refers to. The historic neighborhoods we need to protect are the intact ones adjacent to Penn that are being compromised by adverse criminal behavior along this corridor.

    In conjunction with Penn Ave development I would propose several terms and conditions;

    1. Any property secured by the City that is vacant or as had assessment in the last year to be valued only at Land value (less back taxes).( Lets get rid of the incentives to invest in and maintain blighted property)

    2. Any current owner-occupied property secured by the City be eligible for a 50% discount towards a Redeveloped home(by Urban Homeworks or other non-profit developer)in the community at City expense plus the full appraised value of their current property. (Lets keep our good neighbors)

    3. Architecturally enhanced containment walls and appropriate (low maintenance) foliage along alleys adjacent to new development that enhances the residential environment of those neighborhoods.

    4. Zoning to restrict non-homestead development in those communities. (Create a buffer zone to help homesteaded residential development prosper)

    5. ENFORCE standards of personal responsibility through enforcement of nuisance property laws and community policing.

  4. @Brian Reichow, thanks for catching that. I have made a correction and explained it in an addendum to the post.

  5. @M.Clinton, I agree with much of what you say. However, I do want to finish my photo tour of the area and publish pictures of each identified property on the list. I've photographed some of the northernmost ones already and a fair amount of them are either vacant lots or houses in dire need of significant rehab that may be beyond a reasonable scope of what can be done. And you know that you and I have a higher bar for that than the city might.

    Acquisition and demolition of at least some properties on this list is probably entirely appropriate. But certainly not all of them. And if there is a major redevelopment plan beyond just tearing down, that plan needs to be made clear BEFORE owner-occupied and fixable properties are cleared out.

  6. @Anon 10:13 - I agree with some of what you're saying, but want to specifically address item #2 on your list.

    Oh, barf.

    There's a damn good chance that the owners are already underwater on their mortgage. Offering full appraised value on their home might not even get them out of their debt to the bank. And a short sale is often viewed as negatively on a credit report as a foreclosure.

    Furthermore, the price a non-profit developer pays for rehab work is often much higher than the rehab someone can do on their own. If anything, we need to spur more private investment so that such competition will force the non-profit costs down if they are going to continue their work.

    And some non-profit developers like Urban Homeworks or GMHC use financing models (land trust, contract for deed) that can be beneficial to the right person but might not be appealing to someone forced out of their home.

    Now if someone really does want out of NoMi and this project gives them that opportunity, fine. But that part of your proposal could wind up doing more harm than good. And if they want to stay, I am of the opinion that you build your community development projects AROUND the people who have stuck it out through the bad times. Reward them for their commitment to our community by raising the quality of the neighborhood around them, not by forcing them out so that the next person benefits from a shiny new development.

  7. Well, You can't have it both ways-

    If it is determined that in order to progress with quality development of the area acquisition of property must be done (which I believe); and we want to keep these people in the community I have no qualms regarding packaging a sweet deal for those that deserve it.

    The current appraised value of most of those homes most probably is far below what they originally payed for the properties and this may help offset those underwater mortgages. Transplanting good neighbors who are in shaky economic shape does little to stabilize the community.

    Much of the reason for depreciated values along Penn has to do with the Cities failure to take appropriate action sooner.

    I understand that the non-profit developers investments into single family homes is higher than could be done privately if potential buyers have the assets to conduct such a project. However, few have chosen to pursue this avenue because of fears regarding the stability of our community. Others don't have the skills.

    The values of those single family homes rehabed by non-profit developers have left many vacant unsold single family properties and the developers are now turning to multifamily housing projects that can be lucratively owned and managed internally. This means that subsidized development has turned towards short term rental rather than encouraging homesteaders who take a long term interest in the community - Like those on Penn. Not what the community needs!

    By using this fiscal stimulus we can ensure that good homesteaders can remain financially solvent in the community and that the non-profit is able to move properties that might have otherwise been demoed.

    The cost of this effort is minimal in the scope of what this redevelopment project will cost and perhaps be applicable to a handful of property owners. It will be offset by recommendation #1 which limits the reimbursement to poverty pimps who have held the area hostage while waiting for a cash out on the homes they destroyed.

    By the way, those that will benefit from a shiny new development are the other 99.99% of property owners whose property values will stabilize as the market realizes that this community is serious about change rather than another band-aid handout.


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