Monday, December 28, 2009

JNS BLOG EXCLUSIVE: While T.J. Waconia Real Estate Fraudster Jon Helgason Does Prison Time, His Family Enjoys This Spectacular Lake Home...

Photos By John Hoff



T.J. Waconia has almost fallen off the radar since its principals went to prison for investor fraud, an event this blog reported with exclusive pictures, click here. But recent digging into the Pamiko Properties scandal can't help but remind me--and other citizens of North Minneapolis (NoMi)--about the real estate fraud perpetrated by T.J. Waconia. There is considerable overlap: many houses in North Minneapolis gone vacant, and an affluent exurban lifestyle supported on the bleeding back of our neighborhood.

Hopefully, the overlap will extend to Paul and Michelle Koenig going to prison, just like Thomas Balko and Jon Helgason.

For this blog, there are a few pieces of unfinished business involving T.J. Waconia. First, I wanted to publish photos of the spectacular lake home where the family of Jon Helgason still resides. The lake home was mentioned a few times on the "T.J. Waconia victims blog" but, as far as I can tell, no photos or further details were ever published about the lake home. At the time Jon Helgason went to prison, the house was owned by "KCH Holdings," which appears to be an LLC created by Jon Helgason or somebody closely associated with Jon Helgason.

Second, I would like...


...mug shots of Helgason and Balko in their new Duluth prison digs. This has proven harder than I anticipated. Recently, I located online mug shots of two other real estate fraudsters--Donald Walthall and Marlon Pratt--but Helgason and Balko are sitting in a FEDERAL prison, and the "inmate locator" doesn't include a mug shot.

Third...

Well, third is a suprise.

So, yesterday I had an errand to run and I realized I would be near Chisago Lake. It was a great time to take care of T.J. Waconia Blogger Goal Number One.

Finding the lake home was not difficult, but PHOTOGRAPHING the house was a much more complicated matter. Suffice to say, I was forced to cross not-completely-frozen lake ice to get a good quality photo without trespassing. More on that in a moment.

The Helgason residence, located at 30686 Wallmark Lake Drive, Chisago Lakes, has a long driveway that goes in the direction of the lake, and disappears out of sight. The spectacular lake home is, however, visible from the other side of the lake.

From an excursion all around this lake (which is relatively small by Minnesota standards) it is clear the Helgason family occupies the nicest, possibly the biggest and most exclusive piece of property on this lake. The massive, kingly house is visible from the other side of the lake.

In fact, a storage shed appears to be part of the same Helgason land holdings and that shed, alone, is the size of three regular-sized North Minneapolis houses.

What would you KEEP in a shed that size, I wonder? A recreational vehicle like the "rock star RV" owned by the Koenigs? Snowmobiles, motorcycles, three wheelers and other toys? A workshop to putz around with fun hobbies like, I don't know, maybe classic cars? In any case, the unearned affluence and in-your-face-God gluttony is stomach-turning. While our neighborhood struggles to throw off the cruel yoke of slumlords and their destructive influence, ill-gotten Northside gains appear to flow to exurbia, where a man might be in prison until 2016 but his family still lives like royalty. Not such a hard bargain, really, when you consider how badly many people in the world live, how long some folks have to be away from their family to make a living.

Why didn't the authorities go after the Helgason lake home as part of the legal action against Jon Helgason? (Click here for a "consent order" where Helgason admits to being a no-good scammer and gives up his license) The value of this property could do much to compensate the victims of the T.J. Waconia fraud. I'm just saying.



Here, above, is the mailbox for the Helgason family. There are some messed up metal numbers hanging off the box, but the box bears no name. A neighbor going by on a snowmobile was unaware that a jailbird was associated with this property. Now he's aware.



From speaking to the snowmobiler, I found out there is no public access to get to the lake--a situation I find unconscionable in Minnesota, where lakes are supposed to be a public resource and often the DNR finds a way to create at least ONE public access to a lake, so the lake itself doesn't become, in effect, the private holdings of only the individuals who live on the shore.

In any case, I realized I couldn't enter the Helgason turf without trespassing (and let's call the property what it is--the HELGASON property--despite this thin and cynical corporate charade of "KCH Holdings, LLC") but if I could get access to the lake, I could walk on the frozen lake and remain on public property--the lake itself--even if I was mere FEET from their dock. (I couldn't see their dock at that point, but I assume every spectacular lake home has some kind of dock)

But walking on the frozen lake was another matter. I figured sticking near the shore would be the safest and easiest tactic, since even if the ice was thin and mushy I could smash through without much risk, except hypothermia. (And, really, as a native Minnesotan I find mild hypothermia somewhat pleasurable, like being numb with alcohol) The problem was whether the lake shore was CONTINOUS, or did the lake go into some other lake, some inlet, something which would force me to cross ice which concealed deeper water?

Well, I figured I'd find out when I got to that point.

So--over the protests and warnings of my driving companion, Megan Goodmundson, who is NOT FROM MINNESOTA--I found a "fair and square" access point to the lake and walked just a few feet from the shoreline, all along the edge of the lake, toward the spectacular Helgason home in the distance.


One small step for Johnny Northside, I thought...one giant leap for blog-based journalism.

Only feet from the shore, my boot prints would fill with water. I could feel the ice giving way under my feet but, unlike in the movies, you don't really get an auditory warning of lake ice cracking. The ice just gives way. So, all along the shoreline, I went crunching along. In some places, the ice seemed quite solid, but in other places, I was breaking through and sloshing all the way where the lake was only a few inches deep.



And then I got to this area, above. A swampy inlet, where water flowed out of the lake into the marsh or (more likely, I suspect) out of the marsh into the lake. But the ice here was, for some reason, surprisingly solid.

Obviously, when you see reeds growing, you have an indication of how deep the water may be at that point. Reeds don't have stems 30 feet high, but grow in areas of water just a few feet deep, or even INCHES of water, or--often--right in sloppy lake mud. (And, I've heard it said, "reeds create land." The reed matter keeps dying and turning into soil and, after a while, under the right conditions, a small swamp may dry up or a lake shore may advance farther into the lake. Forgive my enthusiasm for reeds, dear reader, I grew up in backwoods Minnesota swamp land with hundreds of Bohunks who were all my cousins)

But, in the meantime, there I stood on the Helgason's lake, looking at that wide space between the reeds, tracking it with my eye, imagining how it looked in summer. I realized there was some kind of watery inlet between the reeds. The water beneath the ice was clearly deeper in that area. The water might be a mere two or three feet, with reeds cleared away by boats being continuously driven through the inlet. But, I figured, the frozen inlet could be as much as five feet.

Well, maybe six. If the flow of water dug the channel deep, that inlet might be relatively deep.

I snapped photos of the still-distant Helgason house while figuring out what to do. I thought to myself how the character known as "Johnny Northside" was born on a chat thread about T.J. Waconia--a chat thread that grew so hot it radiated an unearthly energy, transforming and changing me into a super blogger. At the same time, arch-villian Jim Watkins was born, the "evil anti-Johnny." This blog and everything it does, everything it represents...it all started with a chat thread about T.J. Waconia on Behind The Mortgage Dot Com.

So, I thought to myself, "he that liveth by the T.J. Waconia fraud scandal, by that same scandal, he shall die." So crossing the ice was probably a really BAD idea, a brazen tempting of destiny.

But then I remembered stuff from my days as a Boy Scout--I achieved the undistinguished rank of Tenderfoot, but practically MEMORIZED AND ATE the entire Boy Scout Manual, both the 1970s version and the 1950s version--stuff about rescuing people who break through ice, and how to survive if you break through ice yourself. I figured if I was going to cross the frozen inlet--and I knew I was going to, the crazy urge was rising up in me the longer I stared at that luxurious lake home--then I should distribute my weight and ARMY CRAWL ACROSS THE ICE.

I put the camera in front of me--the same way a soldier keeps his weapon in front as he army crawls--telling myself that if I felt the ice give way, I would hurl the camera forward hard in that moment. Also, I thought to myself, I would keep going FORWARD instead of trying to retreat. Even if I got soaked with water, I'd still find a way to get to the other side and take my pictures. I'd just have to figure out how to get off the lake by another route once I already had my pictures.

Fortunately, I'd already made preparations by leaving my wallet with my friend, Megan Goodmundson, taking only my drivers license in case I were put in a situation where I had to identify myself.

And so--there on where "Swamp of Fraud" flows into "Lake Helgason," I got down on my belly like a snake and--not even daring to get up on knees or elbows--I writhed my way across the frozen inlet to the other side of the reeds.

Pleased with the success of my strategy, I walked all the way to the shoreline in front of the Helgason house and snapped pictures. Nobody seemed to be at home, but a large dog barked constantly. I noticed a paddle boat on the snowy lakeshore, right next to a nice and adequate dock, partly pulled ashore for the winter. A wooden bench with wrought-iron features sat on the end of the dock. What a lovely place to fish, I thought. What a lovely place to IMAGINE you are fishing while serving a prison sentence, I thought.

On the way back, retracing my route, I thought I was in the clear at the other side of the swampy inlet. But when I stood up, my right leg smashed through the ice all the way to above my knee. I felt the bottom of the lake beneath my foot, so the water wasn't THAT deep, at least not at the point where I smashed in.

My camera hit the snow as I fell forward, but I lunged toward the safety of "shallow ice." Soaking wet, I thought first of the snowy camera and the precious pictures it contained. Unable to shake all the melty snow loose, I actually LICKED the snow off the camera.

I wrung some water out of the leg of my pants, and pressed on. A short time later, I bought some long underwear and wool socks at the local CENEX gas station, made do with my damp boots and pants, and had a steak dinner at a place called Trappers. The camera was fine. The pictures were fine. The steak was pretty good, too.

I wondered if Jon Helgason had ever eaten at Trappers.

So, what do we learn from all this?

THE HELGASONS HAVE A SPECTACULAR LAKE HOME DESPITE ALL THE FRAUD, ALL THE VICTIMIZATION OF NORTH MINNEAPOLIS, AND DESPITE RECEIVING A LONG PRISON SENTENCE.

TAKE A LOOK AT THE PICTURE AT THE TOP OF THIS BLOG POST.

SOMETHING IS VERY WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

My Son Alex--Active And Involved NoMi Citizen (Every Other Weekend, Some Holidays, And Six Weeks In The Summer, Anyway)

Photos By John Hoff
On Christmas Day shortly before going to a delightful dinner at the Jaramillo residence in the Jordan Neighborhood, my son Alex and I spotted an abandoned, trashed up crib right in the middle of an intersection near my house.

And, actually, the crib had been there for several hours but I had made the mistake of thinking, "Well, somebody will come along and get it--after all, they dropped it there."

But it was looking like the crib was just going to remain in the street forever, so finally Alex and I did the good citizen thing and fetched it out. The mattress was trashed--otherwise I would have given it to the Salvation Army--so I set the mattress out in the alley. But I ended up giving the metal frame to somebody who scraps metal. The wooden components, well, they're wood. Enough said.

After we took care of the crib, I looked down the street and...

Oh, great. There was still a shopping cart from Cub Foods parked in front of the house I call the "shotgun shack," right out on the sidewalk.

Sigh.

Our work is never done.

(Do not click "Read More.")

Oh, I Remember This Pamiko Property Well...

Photo By John Hoff

The house pictured above is at 2400 Lyndale Ave. N., right across the avenue from the infamous Wafana's grocery. If you check the city and county's property records information as of today, December 27, 2009, the records will show the last sale was in July of 2005, for the nice sum of $178,000.

That is NOT how much Pamiko paid for the property. The city and county records simply are not up to date by, oh gee, a full year. In fact, other online real estate data shows Pamiko bought the property on November 13, 2008. Care to guess how much Pamiko paid for it?

Wait for it...

Wait for it...

Pamiko paid $7,700 for this roomy duplex. It's certainly not the only spectacular bargain in the Hawthorne neighborhood but, all the same, it's quite a bargain.

And, actually, I remember when 2400 Lyndale Ave. N. went on the market. For one thing, I personally made a couple 311 calls on the place--it's hard to remember the details, since my 311 calls literally number in the thousands--and I also remember when the house was "trashed out" before hitting the market. In fact, I specifically recall how the dumpster sat by the property, day after day, filled to overflowing...and some of the items inside the dumpster included really good quality roast eggplant dip in cans from, like, Europe.

I have reason to believe it was very yummy.

Anyway...

A couple days ago an active and informed member of the neighborhood called me up, saying he'd been reading about the Pamiko scandal on this blog and he was all, like, "I know these properties...I know EVERY ONE OF THEM." The uncomfortable closeness of the story to the fiber of our neighborhood...to our collective neighborhood memory...it is amazing and infuriating. I remember seeing house after house hitting the MLS lists, and thinking how I'd like to buy ANOTHER house in addition to my own, and hoping some good owner occupants would get the houses. Instead, so many of the vacant, boarded up bargain houses were snapped up by Pamiko (Expletive) Properties, and now many are going vacant AGAIN.

I can remember calling 311 on litter at the $2.5 million "slum dog millionaire" house. (And, believe me, a yard has to be really bad before I'll stoop to calling 311 on mere LITTER) I remember 1547 Hillside Ave. N. as the property "almost across from Kip 'n' Kelly and right near Dave 'n' Amy," visible from the front yard of Council Member Don Samuels. And, of course, 621 26th Ave. N. is right in the middle of all the interesting revitalization action happening around Farview Park, next to the house where slumlord Bashir Moghul caught a bullet.

It is indeed a revelation to see a list of houses and think: THAT house? THAT one? I know that house. I have history with that house. Pamiko was involved with THAT house?

By the way, it appears "Pamiko" is a combination of letters from PAul, MIchelle, and KOenig. Marklee Construction appears to bear the middle names of both Paul MARK Koenig and Michelle LEE Koenig. The Koenigs do not appear to be particularly creative people, just narcissistic slumlords who put their names on everything they screw up.

One can't help but hope that, with Christmas and the long post-Christmas weekend ending, the first order of business for some public officials will be getting to the bottom of the Pamiko fiasco.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Paul Koenig Reportedly Doing "Snow Blower Penance" In North Minneapolis...





Photos from the Koenig blog, used under First Amendment fair comment and criticism

At least one person in the Hawthorne Neighborhood has a kind word about Paul Koenig, mastermind of the Pamiko Properties scandal which this blog has been extensively reporting. The following was circulated by email among some "neighborhood types" in Hawthorne:
-------------------------
Well Pamiko had someone Snow blow all of the members of our Block Club on December 24th. What a nice gesture, Thanks Paul we are not quite sure what he's hoping for in return. Yes that was sidewalks and driveways. Here he has been a good Landlord, at 2211 6th Street. It was a nice Christmas Eve Present.
------------------------

JNS Blog suspects this is some kind of minor Koenig effort to appear "part of the solution, rather than part of the problem," and launch a minor PR effort. In the meantime, above, here for readers' viewing pleasure are some photos of the Koenig lifestyle, supported by sucking the life out of North Minneapolis.

From top to bottom: Dessert at Disneyland, just a small part of EXTENSIVE vacations all over the country. Second, a horse named L'etoile du Nord takes a little swim. L'etoile is one of the "barn mates" of the Koenig horses, of which several are named in the blog and even have their own blog categories. Third, Paul Koenig takes in a Twins game. The blog even documents their family vacation to Florida where they watch the Twins in spring training.

Fourth, the "rock star size" recreational vehicle of the Koenig family.

Last, the Koenig swimming pool in winter. Why, think of the sacrifice of Paul Koenig...coming to North Minneapolis to clear sidewalks while all these fun trinkets of his lifestyle are waiting for him. (Sarcasm font)

Please keep in mind, these five photos are just a little sampling of the exquisitely well-documented life of affluent gluttony documented on the "Majestic Farms" blog, supported on the bleeding back of North Minneapolis.

But, hey, I should talk! If Paul Koenig doesn't try to slap me with legal paper in the next couple days, I will win a steak dinner!

(Do not click "Read More")

From Bankruptcy To The Horse Racing Crowd--More Details On The Paul Koenig/Pamiko Properties Scandal...

Photo Of "Little Big Time" From The Koenig Blog, used under First Amendment Fair Comment And Criticism

With invaluable help from friends, this blog has come into possession of a bunch of online documents about the legal woes of Paul Koenig, who somehow managed to go from bankruptcy to being part of the ooh la la horse racing crowd within a relatively short span of years.

The Koenig blog--known as "Majestic Farms"--contains 38 posts which are tagged under the subject of horse racing. The blog was set to "private" some days ago, but not before every scrap of information was captured in a "mirror site" for use as evidence. You might say the horse is already out of the barn.

By way of comparison, the same Koenig blog had five posts on the subject of "church" and one about potty training before the blog "went private." The category of "horse racing" has more posts than any other category.

Their blog documents in extensive detail how--while creating more vacant houses in North Minneapolis and sucking down big fat lines of credit--the Koenigs constantly engaged in a form of high-stakes gambling called a "claiming race," click here for a technical explanation, in which horses that race are also, in effect, up for sale to other participants in the race.

There will be more time to digest and analyze this information later. For now, I just want to put the documents out on the internet in the form of PDFs. So, without further ado, here are the documents on the JNS PDF Support Site, click here to your heart's content.

(Do not click "Read More")

Great Deals at Rusty's Tires!


Guest post and photo by the Hawthorne Hawkman

During the first snow emergency of the season, I was driving around and checking out certain properties in Hawthorne. Somehow I managed to get stuck and need help getting pushed out of a mere two inches of snow. This was a MAJOR blow to my pride as a Yooper who KNOWS how to drive in this stuff. But it was also a wake-up call that I needed new tires.

My dilemma is that I drive an 11-year-old Malibu. It's a decent enough car but new tires were expected to be pricey. I went to one spot in NoMi and was quoted $411 for four tires. Granted, that's a bargain when weighed against certain death, but I needed something cheaper. So a good NoMi friend recommended Rusty's Tires on 26th and Broadway, and they charged...

$84 for two (they didn't have a full set on hand). Not only that, but the service was great, and they finished the job within fifteen minutes. I was floored at the price, courtesy, speed, and quality of the work here. Best of all, when I drove my car away, there was an actual correlation between what I did with the steering wheel and how the car moved on any kind of snow. I had kind of forgotten what that felt like.

Since my car was no longer a moving death trap, I was in such a good mood that I was reminded of fellow Yooper and former NoMi resident Jonathan Rundman's fun little jingle, "Bob's Tires." No video link exists just yet, but the words (I think) are:

Here at Bob's you're number one, number one, number one,
Here at Bob's you're number one; we will fix your tires.
We got white walls, blue walls, all at a reasonable price.
Our tires are the best around, they are very nice, Whoa!
Here at Bob's you're number one, number one, number one,
Here at Bob's you're number one; we will fix your tires.
We got white walls, blue walls, all the latest parts.
Our tires are the best around, they are better than Art's, Whoa!
Here at Bob's you're number one, number one, number one,
Here at Bob's you're number one; we will fix...your...tires.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Paul Koenig Fails To Respond On The Record To Three Simple Questions About Pamiko Properties Scandal...

Photo By John Hoff

In the photo above, Jeff Skrenes--The Hawthorne Hawkman--uses bar glasses to demonstrate a point about Paul Koenig and two lines of credit covering many of the same properties. Not shown in photo: me losing consciousness as Jeff makes his scintillating observations about interest rates. 

In any case...

In the last couple days, Paul Koenig--whose Pamiko Properties fiasco has been exclusive blog candy for JNS readers lo, these many days and now Christmas, too, woo hoo--spoke to a third party about the oh-so-negative coverage he has received recently right here on Johnny Northside Dot Com. This third party assumed informal intermediary role between this blog and Paul Koenig. It seemed for a while like Koenig wanted to tell things from his side...

Well, this blog is always happy to print the responses of individuals and/or corporations which this blog has criticized, either in a blog post or by providing a fair, reasonably open comments forum. So if Paul Koenig would only make some kind of PUBLIC response, I'd be happy to publish it.

Well, word comes about how Paul Koenig DID respond to my email and three pointed questions, however, he forwarded the response to the third party with great big OFF THE RECORD caveats on the lengthy email. Well, what am I supposed to do with THAT, Paul, you horse-hugging slumlord dirt bag? I prefer to not even tread near something that would involve violating "off the record" confidentiality.

Anyway, dear readers, here is the email I forwarded to Paul Koenig yesterday with the three questions he refuses to answer ON THE RECORD.

Let the reader judge whether this man is a bad character who has victimized our neighborhood.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
Dear Paul Koenig via (name of third party)

My understanding is you will get answers to these questions back to me by noon tomorrow. I will publish the questions and answers verbatim, without commentary within that individual blog post. (Of course, readers are still free to add their commentary)

If you don't answer the questions, that's fine, I will just publish the unanswered questions and say what I will. Nor is this email itself secret or confidential. I'm NOT going "off the record" with you.

But Paul, I will be very happy to publish your side of things, verbatim. Frankly, it's good and informative blog content, even if I may personally disagree with or doubt what you're saying. Plus I'm sincerely interested in your side of things, and so are my readers.

Here are the questions. They are easy. There are only three.

1.) Tell me your side of things, in detail, at length.

2.) Why is there so much crossover between these various properties and on
the lines of credit?

3.) Why do we see this pattern of a foreclosure only a few months after
modification and increase in the credit line?
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

So that is where things stand, with Paul Koenig refusing to respond on the record, and the questions hanging in the air like a joke which falls flat.

My 2009 Christmas Dinner With Jordan Neighbors...

Photos By John Hoff

It was another divorced daddy (with visitation) magical NoMi Christmas as my son and I were taken in by kind neighbors and treated to a wonderful dinner. This year, we went to the Jaramillo residence in the Jordan neighborhood. Tyrone and Alexandra Jaramillo are very active and involved citizens who have given a lot of time to JACC, including that really tumultuous period of time when the "Old Majority" was making as much trouble as possible.

But who wants to think about THAT on Christmas?

These photos show the...


opulent Christmas dinner shared with my son. We had (let's see if I can remember it all) ham that was lovingly baked for a little more than 7 hours, with an orange and brown sugar glaze, plus pineapples. The collard greens had bits of smoked turkey. Tyone is incredibly fond of authentic homemade Hmong fried rice made by his friend "Fuji," so this dish was featured at the table as Fuji came to visit. Another family favorite is "whiskey dogs," which are "Little Smokeys" sausages cooked in ketchup, brown sugar and a small bottle of whiskey.

(The recipie called for a cup of whiskey, but Alexandra says, "I always tend to add more.")

Though mostly an abstainer from alcohol--MOSTLY--Alexandra loves to include alcohol in various dishes to add flavor. The pecan pie had a tiny splash of bourbon, and so did the WHIPPED CREAM. A cranberry ambrosia had no alcohol in it, but a lavish berry trifle had blackberry brandy "made specially to the Polish taste," according to the bottle.

Some other dishes I wouldn't want to neglect to mention--mashed potatoes, gravy, pumpkin pie, and a sweet potato casserole lavishly decorated with pecans. (Alexandra calls it a "casserole" because it's in a casserole dish, but I found it a lot like a sweet potato pie)

Not wanting to appear empty-handed, on the way to dinner my son and I stopped by Good Deal Grocery on Lowry Avenue North and picked up a selection of four Asian candy-like items, including blueberry mochis. We'd never been to "Good Deal" before and found it comparable to Bangkok Market, though bigger and more impersonal. I used to joke when I drove by the place, saying, "Why would you shop at any OTHER store besides 'Good Deal?' Think about it. Nowhere else is a good deal." There's a tattoo parlor in Stadium Village called "Steady Tattoo" which is another example of an extraordinarily good business name.

But I digress...

Luckily, it turns out Alexandra loves to sample interesting Asian desserts. In fact, she is something of a foodie and tries all kinds of things. Tyone and Alexandra are from the Bay Area of California--an amalgam of various cultures--and say they picked up the habit of serving collard greens from their time in North Minneapolis, but everything else came along with them.

After dinner came my son's favorite part of Christmas--playing new video games like "Call of Duty: Modern Warefare 2."

Here's the delightful berry trifle with Polish blackberry brandy.

One of the Jaramillo family dogs is named Chupacabra, or "Chupi" for short. The Chupacabra is a mythical animal in Latin America, known as the "goat sucker." After watching Chupi endlessly eying my ham with his big, googly eyes, I can see why this is a good name for the dog.

In case you're wondering, Chupi is a designer dog called a "bug," half boxer terrier and half pug. Some young couple paid $350 dollars for the dog and took it to Plymouth, but they didn't have time to care for the dog, so they just gave Chupi away when he was 12 weeks old. Nobody remembers what Chupi used to be called. Now Chupi's life is in NoMi, just like my life and--for certain regular, frequent periods of time--my son's life.

Thank you to the Jaramillo family from the guy behind the Johnny Northside Blog and his son.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Hawthorn (Sic) Crossings Strip Mall Fails To Clear Sidewalks Of Snow...

Photo By John Hoff

The nasty and notorious Hawthorn (Sic) Crossings strip mall, where drug dealers constantly congregate, has apparently stumbled upon an innovative way to fight the narcotics traffic: just don't clear the sidewalks of snow!

This photo was snapped a couple of days ago, before the new foot of snow which just got dumped on Minneapolis. Reporter Andy Mannix is pictured, click here for an example of a story he helped write. In the photo, the sidewalk might appear cleared because of all the (narcotics dealing) foot traffic but, actually, the sidwalk was not clear and had merely been packed down into a super-slick icy mass.

Naturally, I called 311 on this blatant violation of snow removal rules, and that's when--suddenly, unexpectedly--I won the Diamond Jubilee Golden 311 award. Yes, as it turns out...

The reference number for this particular complaint--which I tacked upon 916 West Broadway, the McDonalds restaurant--was 311311.

That number has never come around before. And it will never come around again.

And it's mine, mine, all mine.

Here's a reminder from JNS blog: thug stores and empty buildings owned by banks are supposed to CLEAR THEIR SIDEWALKS OF SNOW WITHIN 24 HOURS. If they don't, be sure to get the city on their butt. How else will we pull our neighborhood upward except to enforce commonly-accepted city norms?

Wafana's Moving Toward Demolition...(Recycled Headline)

Photo By John Hoff

The infamous Wafana's "inconvenience store" located at 2326 Lyndale Ave. N. continues to ride the greased-up skids toward demolition, as previously reported, click here.

A couple days ago I was going by and saw activity inside...

Naturally, I stopped by to make sure everything was OK and nothing unsavory was happening. I found a crew inside stripping out the useful components prior to pending demolition. (So you have to wonder, gee, if the city could salvage scrap metal--pictured above--and old refrigerators out of the thug store Wafana's, why couldn't they save Pauline Fjelde's TRUNK?)

The foreman of the two-man work crew told me "about twenty people" had stopped by just like I did, to see what was happening and then express their delight that, finally, Wafana's was coming down.

However, there's nothing actually WRONG with the building. And, after reading recently about the Dream Homes fiasco, I have to wonder if anything nice will actually get built on any particular vacant lot in North Minneapolis or whether some kind of fly-by-night developer will somehow get the lot and erect who-knows-what shoddy CRAP. More bothersome still is the fact a couple of great guys named John and Edwin were interested in buying the old Wafana's to put in a hip, trendy restaurant but had to back away due to all the scary political complications associated with the building and its zoning variance issues.

I don't know the answer to this conundrum and I feel torn in half by it. Naturally, I'm going to be happy to see Wafana's come down...but how unbearably long before anything good replaces it? And will it actually be something GOOD? Or yet another development fiasco?

On the bright side...somebody was actually looking for a location in the Hawthorne Neighborhood to locate a hip, trendy restaurant. As the neighborhood continues to turn around, hopefully we'll see more of that. A lot more.

Researching The Farview Park Historic District...


Photos by John Hoff

Brian Finstad, a South Minneapolis (SoMi) neighborhood activist who has become increasingly involved in North Minneapolis (NoMi) affairs, was recently doing some research about the Farview Park Historic District. Brian found out that 621 26th Ave. N., pictured above, once had a tower. The tower was removed in 1920, according to old city records.

Brian and Connie Nompelis--who is totally into historic houses--believe the tower was Victorian in style and removed during the 1920s because, during that period of time, Victorian seemed old and icky kind of like a 1970s avocado fridge. However, as Connie put it so well, if you wait around long enough...avocado makes a come back.

Right next to 621 is 623 26th Ave. N., where slumlord Bashir Moghul caught a bullet recently, click here for that story.

Oh, the photo of Brian is taken inside my house on Bryant Ave. N. Brian is expressing how much he loves French glass doors.

(Do not click "Read More")

Artistically Painted Utility Boxes? Great Idea!

Photo By John Hoff

I spotted this great utility box in downtown Minneapolis and I thought, wow, why can't ALL utility boxes be made into expressive, beautiful works of art?

More to the point, why can't that happen in North Minneapolis (NoMi)?

(Do not click "Read More")



JNS PHOTO EXCLUSIVE: Senseless Destruction Of The Historic Pauline Fjelde House...

Photos By John Hoff

Here are pictures from today's Christmas Eve surprise demolition of 3009 Park Ave. in South Minneapolis, the former home of renowned textile artist Pauline Fjelde. Above, the license plate on the truck of a member of the wrecking crew. Click "Read More" to check out more photos...


Above, this appears to be the bundle of lumber which was dropped through the roof--whoopsie daisy!--BY ACCIDENT (cough, cough) and supposedly this ruined the structural integrity of the house. Uh huh. I wonder if it was dropped "by accident" one time or SEVERAL times. I mentioned in my previous blog post that James Schoffman is a scum bag, and the point needs to be reiterated.

Here, above, you can see some of the historic trim on the house...which was not saved, but just smashed to smithereens while committed neighborhood activists and preservationists watched.

Above, the face of Connie Nompelis (No-bell-iss, it's Greek) shows sadness as the house meets its fate before her eyes.

Note the green mark on the side of the building. Somebody had painted "We're sorry, Pauline" before the words were covered over. Geez, even when I do vigilante graffiti abatement, at least I make an effort to MATCH THE COLOR. But, hey, the property is owned by scumbag James Schoffman, so what can you expect?

Above, this is what the roof--already scorched from the mysterious arson--looked like after the bundle of lumber oh-so-accidentally fell through.

Reporter Sheila Regan of TC Daily Planet talks to one of the workmen, click here for a previous article she wrote about the Pauline Fjelde house.

Note how the backhoe operator had his machine completely supported by the beams of the first floor. Lack of structural integrity, indeed. This place was built like a Sherman tank and went down fighting.

While the backhoe did its work, a little boy watched from a neighboring house. He appeared fascinated and having a good time, but was this child's future made better by the demolition of this building? Definitely not.

It was a sad day, but the house did not go down unloved, unnoticed, and undocumented. Now, neighbors appear to be turning their attention to requesting investigation of the oh-so-mysterious circumstances of the damage and IMMEDIATE demolition, plus they'd like to make sure James Schoffman never never never gets his precious parking lot.


JNS BLOG VIDEO EXCLUSIVE: Senseless Destruction Of The Pauline Fjelde House At 3009 Park Avenue...



Word came mid-morning that the historic Pauline Fjelde house was facing an "emergency demolition" on Christmas Eve. Though this house is in SOUTH Minneapolis (SoMi) and this blog normally concentrates on NORTH Minneapolis, (NoMi) the public policy questions and preservation issues are important enough--pressing enough--to merit coverage. As it turns out, this blog is the first media entity to report the story of today's senseless destruction of the house, in a blog post which Jeff Skrenes managed to post all the way from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, click here.

The way the story goes in broad outline form, disgusting slime ball owner James Schoffman had an order to repair the roof and secure the building against the weather after a fire had broken out in the house and damaged the property, click here for a story about the fire. This oh-so-mysterious fire came after the city refused to grant a demolition order so Schoffman can build a parking lot.

So after leaving the house open to the elements, the owner finally got an order to secure the roof against the weather. Today--supposedly this happened TODAY--a massive bundle of lumber was being hoisted up for roof repair when--oops, the bundle of lumber slipped and damaged the structural integrity of the house. Somehow, an "emergency" demolition managed to happen on CHRISTMAS EVE. Yes, somewhere in North Minneapolis 1564 Hillside sits day after day, not getting demolished even though there has been a raze order up for months, but somehow a massive backhoe shows up the very day of the (oops!) "accident" and razes the house. ON CHRISTMAS EVE.

It was the opinion of bystanders that some kind of "fix is in" when had nothing to do with fixing houses, but tearing them down.

As a backhoe moved toward the house, one neighborhood activist named Madeleine (spelling unconfirmed) rushed up the front steps and hugged a house pillar, refusing the move. Workmen called police to the scene. Madeleine yelled for other sympathetic bystanders to join her in an act of spontaneous civil disobedience, but nobody among the onlookers felt able to follow through and take such action. As a police car drew near, Madeleine walked away from the house. Two police stood near to keep order, but did not intervene or question anybody about what Madeleine had done.

The house--which had been designed by a renowned architect--resisted the backhoe to an amazing degree. Each individual component of the house seemed to stand all by itself, even when other components were removed. The house fought all the way down and appeared--in the words of one bystander--"as solid as a brick (expletive) house." The house was so solid the driver of the backhoe was willing to trust the beams of the house and drive directly inside, poised over the basement area on the floor of the first story.

Most horrifying of all was the fact no attempt was made to save historic or architectural components from the backhoe. WItnesses saw--and actually videotaped!--Pauline Fjelde's trunk in the third story area exposed by the backhoe, and then smashed to bits. Missing soffit had revealed pretty corbels, which were also smashed and lost. Over $3,000 worth of old radiators were destroyed without the slightest attempt at preservation. Clearly, something is wrong with city policy if an event like this can take place. Salvaging the components would have been cost-free, as there are individuals and companies willing to do it for free. The loss of the trunk was particularly inexplicable and is well-documented.

A crime took place today in South Minneapolis, and there is no way James Schoffman should get permission to build a parking lot after the stunt he pulled with this house.



Happy Holidays from the Johnny Northside Blog!



Guest post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman

A few commenters have asked if this blog will let up on the Koenigs as some sort of Christmas truce, and more readers have objected to that idea. I say that as long as we're still feeling the effects of the Koenigs housing ventures, be it fraud or just bad business, we don't let up.

But that doesn't mean NoMi friends can't have a little fun. Pictured above is John's Christmas present, made by Ken Farkash, and given by Connie Nompelis and myself. It's a piece titled...

"Frog Man." As soon as Connie and I saw this at the 42nd Avenue Station display, we knew it belonged to John. In talking to Ken, we were told it was actually INSPIRED by him, and so we picked it up for him right away.

When we presented this to John, he picked up the reference right away to his frog-hauling stints as a truck driver. He caught further symbolism in his military background, as the "frog men" are often sent in to do dangerous work clearing out an area for the rest of the operation. I don't know if Ken intended for that to be part of the painting/sculpture; if not, it's a sign of quality art. I always enjoy works that stick with the viewer perhaps differently than even the creator of the art intended - like French Impressionist pieces or Catherine Zeta-Jones' laser scenes in "Entrapment."

On a personal note, I'm always torn about how to address the various holidays around this time of year. "Happy Holidays" seems so bland, but "Merry Christmas," "Happy Hanukkah," or whatever you say about Solstice seems somewhat exclusive. But I think there's a holiday that really encompasses what the JNS blog is all about: Festivus.

Consider this: We've got a Festivus pole, the airing of grievances, a Festivus meal, and feats of strength:


And look! When I click "Publish post," it actually publishes the post! It's a Festivus miracle!

Happy Festivus from the rest of us at JNS!

An Inside Look At FK Art Glass...








Photos By John Hoff

A couple weeks ago, I went to an open house at 2210 Bryant Ave. N., the Hawthorne Neighborhood home of FK Art Glass. I saw amazing glass chandeliers and sipped homemade root beer, which they brew right there at the house.

If there's ever a tour of the Most Romantic Homes of NoMi, FK Art Glass should be near the top of the list. Plus, their tours are not a rare, infrequent event. I remember publicizing another tour back in May of this year, click here.

In the photos above...

From top to bottom, glass blowing demonstration...one of the chandeliers, very modern and distinctive...a working, vintage Dr. Pepper machine in the studio area, right near the root beer taps for homemade root beer...floating glass balls in the tank of Koi fish, who are inside for the winter.

I tell you, every time I see Koi fish all I can think is: look at the MEAT on those little suckers. I bet they taste just like carp.

Oh, anyway...in the next photo, an interesting and somewhat gothic metal statue in the living room. On a lighter note, hand blown glass Christmas ornaments. In the next photo, an image of the bathroom sink, made of glass, of course. In fact, even the KITCHEN COUNTERTOPS are made of colorful glass, something I've never seen before.

In the last photo, more blowing glass in the studio. I think the guy in the brown shirt was some guy on the tour who had an opportunity to work with the glass, but that's unconfirmed.

By the way, if you want to buy a house right near this very active center for the glass blowing arts, there are PLENTY of houses coming available on the 2200 block of Bryant Ave. N. and quite near by, still selling for a song.

Photographic After-Party: The Swearing-In Of Former Hawthorne Neighborhood Chair Peter Teachout...






Photos By John Hoff

Peter Teachout, former Chair of the Hawthorne Neighborhood Association--and a good friend--recently joined the army and "swore in" at Fort Snelling, an event reported on this blog, click here and also here.

Recently, I found a few more nice pictures of the event which I wanted to share with readers on Christmas Eve, with a reminder to think of and pray for our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines all over the world.

(Do not click "Read More")

JNS BLOG HISTORY LESSON: Paul Koenig And The So-Called "Dream Houses" Fiasco...



(Not having a photo of a Dream Home, I have substituted this video as a kind of commentary)

The Pamiko Properties scandal which has dominated the attention of this blog lately is also drawing in commenters on the infamous Minneapolis issues list forum. One of those commenters was Steve Brandt of the Star Tribune, who re-posted some stories he'd written years ago about the "dream homes" debacle.

Since moving to NoMi only a couple years ago, I'd often heard there was a complicated story involved with the so-called Dream Homes, but I never had all the gory details laid out in front of me. These STrib stories tell a...

...lot of the tale, and since Brandt sees fit to reproduce the stories online in a public forum, I see fit to do likewise. As the Pamiko Properties scandal continues to unfold, it is good to review what damage Paul Koenig has already done to North Minneapolis.

New modular rental houses draw criticism from some on North Side

By Steve Brandt

August 25, 2002

After years of accumulating empty lots as boarded homes were razed, the lower North Side of Minneapolis now has a booming housing demand. Chanhassen-based Dream Home Development has filled some of it, erecting six-bedroom, factory-built houses that are hauled to sites in four pieces and assembled in a matter of hours.

"We go from dirt to tenant in three weeks," said Dream Home partner David Kohlenberger. But two neighborhoods have told city officials they don't want Dream Home's style of development, and some housing activists express similar views. They object to adding low-income rental units in areas that already have plenty, and they worry about the homes' design and durability.

"I really see that housing as becoming future slum landlord housing," said Deb Wagner, a real-estate seller and a member of the Jordan neighborhood's housing committee. Activists question the single-family homes' lack of basements and garages, asking where residents will store lawn mowers or bikes. They point to bedrooms as small as 82 square feet, not far over the city housing code's 70-square-foot minimum. They say the all-electric heat in many of the houses will be expensive for tenants. And they dislike the fact that Dream Home buys lots directly from private owners or county tax-forfeit auctions. Such purchases cut neighborhoods out of design reviews they get when the city acquires lots for redevelopment.

Kohlenberger said that his homes meet building codes and are designed "to be as durable as possible." He said a design revision will address many of the objections. But an even bigger issue for some is that Dream Home is reintroducing rental housing on lots they targeted for owner-occupied houses. In Near North, Willard-Hay and the adjoining Harrison neighborhood, for example, the last census showed that half of the households were renters. Almost half lived in government-subsidized housing, according to Patti Marsh, a veteran housing activist. The settlement of a federal lawsuit alleging segregation in public housing curbs the government's ability to develop federally subsidized housing in the city's poorer, more minority areas. But private developers aren't bound by those limits.

"Our neighborhoods are prime targets for investors who are trying to cash in on the affordable-housing mania," Marsh said. So far, Dream Home has put up 30 homes, most in Minneapolis.

In St. Paul, where it installed its third home last week, DFL state Sen. Mee Moua said she likes a model she was shown and sees potential for sales to large immigrant families, who she said have trouble finding homes with enough bedrooms in the urban core. Dream Home has worked to hold down the cost of the homes so it can make a profit renting to people holding federal Section 8 rental vouchers. A family big enough to qualify for one of its typical six-bedroom homes holds a voucher worth $1,889 per month in Minneapolis. The family pays 30 percent of its income toward rent and utilities, and the voucher pays the remaining rent. Kohlenberger said tenants have flocked to the 1,856-square-foot houses. One of the renters, Aziza Sarwar in Minneapolis' Jordan neighborhood, said that many Section 8 units are dumps and that their landlords are "out for the money." But "it seems to me these people, so far, want to help the poor people," she said.

Diminished role

The Minneapolis Community Development Agency (MCDA) used to get its pick of tax-forfeit lots in poor neighborhoods for no cost. When it felt the market was right, it offered them to developers for a few thousand dollars. Neighborhoods had design leverage because their views on proposed sales were forwarded to the City Council. That changed, apparently inadvertently, with a 2001 rewrite of state law that has been interpreted to mean the city must pay the appraised value for such lots. It has obtained fewer as prices have risen.

"We are seeing developers go to the county auction and picking up vacant lots mostly, and then putting up housing that doesn't fit the neighborhood," said state Sen. Linda Higgins, DFL-Minneapolis.

Kohlenberger said his company is finding it harder to dig up Minneapolis lots outside MCDA control. It made offers on 10 MCDA lots in the Jordan neighborhood, and three in Near North/Willard-Hay. But the neighborhoods told the agency they don't want lots sold to Dream Home, and agency officials say they will recommend against the sales.

"We refused them flatly," said Char Perry, housing director for the Jordan Area Community Council. The neighborhood group's letter to the MCDA said its housing committee members who toured a Dream Home house found its quality less than adequate and doubted the houses will hold Dream Home's estimated finished value of $220,000. Dream Home has said it hopes to develop a plan in which tenants may buy the houses in which they live. But it will be months before it firms up details, Kohlenberger said.

Some who work with neighborhood housing predict that tenants will be disappointed if they move in expecting to buy.

About the company

Dream Home is a partnership of Kohlenberger - a former commercial general contractor - and Paul H. Koenig, a rental property manager. They met about a year ago and decided that modular housing with a long-term warranty offered fewer headaches than older housing stock. The company is accelerating its pace and could be installing three homes a week by November, Kohlenberger said. If Dream Home can hold that pace for another 20 months - meaning it will have installed more than 350 houses - Kohlenberger said the cash flow from rents will cover all overhead and debt. He said the firm is finding cheaper, more plentiful lots in St. Paul and is starting to talk to suburbs. The firm also installed its first fourplex this month, on a Cedar Avenue parcel only slightly bigger than a typical single-family lot.

Carol Pass, an activist in the housing committee for that area, said putting the 20-bedroom fourplex on so small a lot gives children no room to play. "It's just not a very responsible way to do development," she said. Pass recalls with distaste Dream Home partner Koenig's stint as the manager of a duplex in the area. Koenig and duplex owner Michelle Milbrandt, now his wife, were sued by a housing advocacy group last year. Tenants had called a city inspector who found 34 building code violations. After many went uncorrected, the city condemned the building, and the group sued to force repairs. A housing referee found that although tenants didn't always make timely payments and had poor housekeeping, Koenig gave them eviction notices to punish them for calling the inspector. The referee ordered cuts in rent as compensation until repairs were made. At one point in the dispute, a judge ordered Koenig not to have any contact with tenants after their attorney described him in court papers as "very volatile and intimidating."

Koenig described the issue as a vendetta against landlords by the advocacy group. Michelle Koenig sold her seven rental properties shortly afterward, which helped Dream Home get its start late last year. She is listed as Dream Home's co-owner with Kohlenberger in offers the firm made to buy city lots, but Kohlenberger said Paul Koenig is his partner in the enterprise. There are indications of financial stress in both men's pasts. Koenig shed some of his debt by filing a bankruptcy liquidation petition in 2000. He listed assets of less than $21,000 and debts of about $107,000, including back taxes and bad checks written at Mystic Lake casino.

Kohlenberger last year paid off a federal lien for $31,177 in federal income taxes for 1997 and 1999. Both Koenig and Kohlenberger acknowledged these events. .

(Now here is the second Steve Brandt story about the Dream Homes fiasco)

February 19, 2005

Steve Brandt

The factory-built houses started popping up three years ago across the North Side of Minneapolis, on vacant lots where dilapidated housing had been razed years before. Now the company that erected dozens of instant houses, there and elsewhere in Minneapolis and St. Paul, is folding. That leaves neighbors wondering who will run the six-bedroom rental units, most lacking basements or garages. They fear the reappearance of blight.

"I truly believe that the afterlife of each one of these is going to be a horror story," said Roberta Englund, who staffs a livability task force that covers much of the North Side. She's concerned about maintenance of the houses, mounting back taxes owed on some of them, the impact on tenants, and potential public costs for dealing with the properties. "This is a case where building new homes in a community diminishes the value of the property around them," she said.

The homes were put up by Dream Home Development of Chanhassen. The plan was to finance manufactured housing with the federally subsidized rents of the people who occupied them. The homes were assembled from factory-built modules and were completed in days. Erect 350 houses, co-founder David Kohlenberger said in a 2002 interview, and the company could make a profit. But Dream Home barely got one-fifth of the way there before running out of money.


Now its stock of houses is being sold to try to pay the firm's debts.

"My main goal is to get these things liquidated," said Paul Koenig, Kohlenberger's onetime partner in Dream Home, who has assumed control of the properties. Kohlenberger didn't respond to repeated requests for comment.

A cautionary tale

The firm's story is a cautionary tale of the difficulties of trying to catch the right wave in the housing market, and of meshing a company's goals with a neighborhood's aspirations. Dream Home began buying vacant lots in 2001 just as the prices began rising because of increased demand from developers of owner-occupied housing. The company began renting its housing just as the demand for rental homes softened noticeably. And its cash flow suffered last year when federal subsidies that supplement tenant payments were cut back 7 percent.

"He had good ideas, probably bad timing," said Mike Czarnik, the firm's former housing administrator, about Kohlenberger. Moreover, Dream Home's path never meshed with neighborhood aspirations. Neighborhood groups had earmarked for homeownership the lots that Dream Home snapped up for rental development. They argued that much of the North Side was saturated with rental housing. They lobbied successfully to keep the city from selling lots it owned to Dream Home. And the boxy minimalism of houses by Dream Home and some other developers prompted the City Council to impose a one-year moratorium on North Side residential construction until design standards could be enacted.

Dream Home was a marriage of Kohlenberger's general contractor background with Koenig's experience as a rental property manager. But by the fall of 2003, Koenig was ready to sell his share of Dream Home and two related firms. Kohlenberger agreed to pay Koenig $1.2 million for his half, according to court documents. But employees say that as 2004 wore on, Kohlenberger's refinancing plans were put off in anticipation of a large sell-off of homes to provide an infusion of cash. He sold more than a dozen properties to investors, but that was fewer than the firm hoped for, according to Czarnik, the firm's former housing administrator. Some employees were laid off in November, and subcontractors began pressing for payment. An excavating contractor won a judgment for $83,847 in December, while a foundation contractor sought a judgment for $147,393.

When Dream Home auctioned office and field equipment in December, the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office seized proceeds for partial payment of the excavating debt. Then the Koenigs sued the Kohlenbergers and the companies, alleging they'd not been paid the $1.2 million and that the properties hadn't been managed properly. According to Koenig and his attorney, Steve Silton, the lawsuit was settled recently, and Koenig will assume control of the properties, sell them in an effort to pay debts, and fold operations.

Failure's fallout

But more problems may lie ahead. Out-of-state investors who bought six Dream Home houses have filed a federal suit alleging fraud. They sued Dream Home, the Kohlenbergers and real estate agents representing the firm. The investors allege that the rental income on the properties was inflated with fictitious rent subsidies from nonprofit sources. A Twin Cities investor, Peter Bazil, bought seven Dream Home properties and said similar cash flows were shown to him. "I've had many problems, many issues with them," he said of Dream Home.

Meanwhile, six former employees have sued to recover almost $67,000 in wages, expenses and a $20,000 loan Czarnik made to the company. Czarnik defended the quality of the houses, although he acknowledged the neighborhood opposition to cookie-cutter designs. "I heard mostly good things from the tenants about the units because they were almost brand new," he said. The firm added basements and garages in its latest models, he said, but those added tens of thousands of dollars in costs. Yet some community leaders fear that the problems of Dream Home property may linger long after those financial and legal issues are sorted out. They wonder how long the vinyl-sided houses will hold up with intense use by large families. With no basement or garage storage, they fear blight spreading across lots, some of which have yet to be sodded. The reappearance of blighted properties is a sensitive issue in some north Minneapolis areas that worked hard and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in the 1990s to get such housing razed.

"What do you do with this very poor quality housing, and what does the future hold for it?" asked Council Member Barb Johnson, who represents part of the North Side. "It's a very scary thing. It just is not going to last. Eventually we'll be tearing them all down in five years." 

(And here is the third article, which has no author listed)

Dream Home's demise - Dream Home Development is folding after putting up 80 "instant" homes in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Six-bedroom rental homes, most without basements or garages, are being sold to pay off company debts. Back taxes are owed on some houses, creditors are demanding payment and out-of-state investors have filed suit claiming fraud. North Minneapolis neighborhood activists fear return of blighted properties the homes were supposed to replace.

Disappointed dreams

Dream Home Development got building permits for close to 80 factory-built homes in Minneapoils and St. Paul in a three-year period, most on the North Side of Minneapolis. A chart shows the neighborhoods with Dream Home houses and their shares of the firm's Minneapolis total.

Dream Percent of Neighborhood Homes city total

Willard-Hay 15 21%
Hawthorne 15 21%
Near North 14 20%
Jordan 10 14%
Phillips 5 7%
McKinley 3 4%
Central 2 3%
Lind-Bohanon 1 1%
Camden 1 1%
Cleveland 1 1%
Logan Park 1 1%
Harrison 1 1%
Whittier 1 1%

Percentages are rounded.

BREAKING NEWS! Pauline Fjelde House Demolished!



Guest post by the Hawthorne Hawkman. Image from Southside Pride, and photo from "Ranty."

Although this is not a north Minneapolis-specific issue, it affects the lives of many on this blog and tactics could be repeated here. With a rueful sense of irony, I think of the previous JNS post, where I speculated that the owner of 2515 3rd St N might be employing the same tactics.

The following message was posted by Wizard Marks on the Minneapolis Issues List...

"As I type, the city is setting up the paraphrenalia for the house munching machine which will shortly take down Fjelde House as it has become a hazard.

Yesterday (?) the owner hired men to secure the roof before january 1, the deadline set by the city for that inspections order. The workers "dropped a load of lumber from roof joists. It crashed through to the basement taking the whole corner of the house with it. The city's structural engineer examined it and judged it unsafe and wrote the order for immediate demolition.

One can speculate from here to eternity, but the house is, or will be, gone within an hour or two."

Moments after reading this message, I recieved a phone call from Connie Nompelis. She informed me that a preservationist stood in front of the bulldozer on the front porch of the Fjelde House before demolition began. She also added that a structural engineer employed by the owner was the one who deemed the structure to be unsafe. Quite a conflict of interest, if you ask me.

It is widely speculated that the owners deliberately allowed or directly caused this house to fall into disrepair so that they could arrange for its demolition and replace it with a parking lot. Let's hope they are fully assessed for the demolition, although no price can be paid for the damage they have wrought. A historic house is lost forever and cannot be replaced.