Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Hawkman Exclusive! Wafana's Goes Back On The Market And The Neighborhood Is Watching!
Guest post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman, on a mission.
Moments ago, I received a facebook message from a good NoMi resident who was wondering about buying a building to start up a new restaurant. These kinds of emails are always exciting, but this one was especially so, because...
The property in question was none other than the infamous Wafana's. This (in)convenience store was the source of 1,376 police responses to this address, 129 police reports filed, and 160 arrests for criminal activity (including citations). Of those calls, 99.7 percent occurred during the business hours of 8 am to 10 pm. Fifty-four percent were 911 calls, which means the other 46 percent were proactive stops; 84 percent were narcotics calls; two calls reported a shooting, three calls reported robbery, two calls reported a stabbing, and 15 calls reported fighting and assault.
Did I mention that all these calls happened between January 1, 2005, and February 19, 2006? Police had to respond to very serious criminal activity at this site an average of three times PER DAY. This place was a NIGHTMARE, and it made the lives of our good neighbors a living hell. We are so grateful to everyone in the city who worked with us to shut it down.
Two years ago, it was purchased by some businessmen who wanted to open a meat market, "but no deli or convenience store." We told them to come before various committees in Hawthorne, and warned them that the neighbors would be extraordinarily skeptical. At each subsequent meeting, their proposed plan got worse - from a stand-alone meat market to a meat market/deli, but no convenience store, then a deli/convenience store but no tobacco products would be sold, and finally a run-of-the-mill convenience store, and the owners claimed they would not be able to afford a security guard.
Needless to say, their proposal was, well, shot down by the neighborhood, and here's why: If the buyer of our dreams miraculously shows up one day and promises to utterly transform the property, we COULD grant the variance. But then if the business fails--or if he simply decides to sell because it makes sense--then we could very easily see history repeat itself. There would be nothing in the zoning that would keep another problem property from opening up.
So here is a stern warning to any prospective buyer: This property is zoned R2-B. The only thing you can do with it is to use it as a residential one- or two-unit property. Its commercial zoning variance has expired and the neighborhood has no intention of granting an exception.
There is good news, however. I called the number listed above and talked to someone at MFIA properties. He is fully aware of the zoning variance issue, and made it clear that they are disclosing that up front to any prospective buyer. I told him a bit about the history of Wafana's and that the neighborhood likely will not approve of a zoning variance here.
I asked some very pointed questions, and they were all answered to my satisfaction. It appears that we have listing agents who really know their stuff, and that's a relief. The way he was talking, if any prospective buyer comes forward saying, "Woe is me! I didn't KNOW about the zoning variance!" the neighborhood should not believe it for a second. We were in agreement that it would be best if the city or a neighborhood development partner could acquire this site.
Hopefully, that is exactly what will happen, and in this particular case, I don't think any residents would shed a tear at its demolition. But in case another buyer comes along, remember: YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.