Sunday, July 1, 2012

Buying the Penn House

Post by the Hawthorne Hawkman, photo from Mama Askofu.

On Friday June 29th, I became the newest north Minneapolis homeowner when I closed on my house at 26th and Penn.  For a long time, I'd been eying up this house, much like a shy kid in the corner of a high school gym, mustering up the courage to ask someone to dance.  But I was rebuilding my credit and there were many such homes I longed after and couldn't buy.  Almost two years ago, however, the comment thread of a blog post at The Irving Inquisition vaulted 2601 Penn to the top of my list of homes I fantasized about owning.

Part of the desire to have this specific house probably comes from my Quixotic nature.  I'm most intrigued about opportunities especially after someone tells me they are impossible.  Two years ago, saving this house from demolition certainly seemed so.  Because of my preservationist bend, I also wanted to find a house that, were it not for my acquisition, would have likely ended up in a landfill.  Anybody can go out, look at a perfectly refurbished home (or one that never needed refurbishment in the first place), fall in love with it, and buy it.  Not everyone can look at a dilapidated structure in a state of disrepair, envision what it would look like if restored, and take the steps needed to bring the house back to a livable condition.

Since I can see what house would look like when restored, I felt something approaching an obligation to pick out just such a structure when finding my own home.  With the work I've been a part of in turning around crime in the EcoVillage, I also felt less intimidated than others might be about living in an area that still needs crime reduction work to happen.  Furthermore, I thought if I could help turn around a house that many thought was past the point of no return, and that was in an area beset by other problems, then I could show others that it's possible and even desirable to take on such challenges in our community.

I met with a GMHC representative and my Realtor, Constance Nompelis, to look at this house back in the fall of 2011.  The house was boarded, vacant, dusty, cold, in need of significant work, and smelled like several animals had crawled in here to die (which was unfortunately the case).  I walked in, looked at the south-facing picture window, imagined how the sunlight would stream into the home and fall upon the built-in woodwork, and essentially said, "This is PERFECT.  I'll take it.  Don't even replace the windows."

The rehab and closing process took over six months to complete, and brings with it a series of blog-worthy stories I have been unable to publish until now.  Those will come over the next few days and weeks, as well as new home ownership adventures that are sure to present themselves.  My first day in my new home was marked with a small and heartwarming surprise party put on by friends and neighbors.  Others were stopping at the intersection, waving, and shouting their congratulations.  Strangers at the bus stop kept telling me how they've been watching the rehab work with great anticipation, and how they love what's been done.  Even my mother happened to be passing through town and had the chance to welcome me into my new home.  The day couldn't have been better.

Thank you to everyone who helped make this dream happen.


  1. Will you be joining the JACC board immediately, or will this take place even sooner?

  2. A little bit of both, John. I have been living in Jordan for a few months already, while rehab work was completed on my home. As soon as I was a resident, I joined the housing committee over here.

    I'm not sure if I want to be a board member just yet. Between my job, blogging about public events, and church council, I have enough meetings to go to. I will be active in Jordan and with JACC though, I can promise that much.


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