Saturday, February 6, 2010

A Healy House Gets a Slummy Makeover and the Hawkman is Madder than Hell!

Guest post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

Earlier today I saw a Facebook status of my good friend, Realtor, and housing preservationist Connie Nompelis that said a Healy House was having its siding removed and a front porch was being converted to more bedroom space. It was suspected that the proper permits were NOT in place for this to happen. I was already swamped, but the bastardization of a historic treasure like this was too important to let go undocumented.

So I got over to 3321 2nd Ave S as soon as I could and had a very heated exchange with one of the contractors. I'm going to be quite critical of them so before that happens, let's get some disclaimers out of the way. First off, I haven't confirmed whether these contractors were the ones who had closed off the front porch or if it was like that already. However, when I accused him of doing exactly that, he didn't deny it in any way. Second, I've posted a photo of the work permit that was at the property. I'm not clear from that or the city's website if any of the work currently being done or already done was beyond the scope of the permit pulled.

So I walked up to the house and took a few pictures before one of the workers came up to me...

...and asked what was going on. I told him I work on neighborhood housing issues and a friend of mine called me about shoddy work being done without a permit. The contractor pointed to the permit posted and said everything they were doing was permitted. There may have been some accusations and adult words going back and forth at that point, but I did ask for permission to go and take a photograph of the permit, and permission was granted. The permit is pictured above, but click here for an enlarged version. Here's some of the work they were doing:

I asked why they were closing off the front porch and the contractor openly and immediately stated it was to create more rentable bedrooms in the house. Note that he said bedroomS. Plural. This may be important because the permit granted by the city specifically states "THIS PERMIT DOES NOT APPROVE A BASMENT (sic) BEDROOM, EXISTING FINISHES BUILT WITHOUT A PERMIT, ADDITIONAL DWELLING UNIT OR WORK OTHER THAN DESCRIBED." (note: the original permit has this section in all caps; it was not edited that way for emphasis by me)

Seeing as how we've had plenty of experiences in NoMi with slumlords closing off porches for more bedroom space, this made me instantly furious with righteous anger. "You're doing piece of (bad word) work that's going to attract piece of (same bad word) tenants and you're not doing a (bad word) bit of good for the community!" He shouted back, "What (bad word) business of it is yours?! We're (VERY bad word) making this house BETTER and you come along and (bad word) complain about it?!"

From this point on, I'll just summarize, since the language that we used was similar to that of a drunken sailor who stubbed his toe right after realizing that his wife was cheating on him with the same guy who stole his winning lottery ticket and set his house on fire. In other words, not appropriate for children.

The contractor insisted that the work they were doing was making the property and the neighborhood BETTER. When I explained the frequent relationship to closed-in/converted porches and problem properties/tenants, he said that I should be grateful since the porch was rotting and falling apart before they fixed it. Then why didn't you actually FIX the porch instead of GETTING RID OF IT ENTIRELY? Well, the neighborhood was such that nobody sits out on their front porches anyway.

Wait, wait, wait. Look at the picture with the open porch visible next to the newly converted bedroom space. Which property would YOU rather own? Live in? Have as a neighbor? And the houses in the area that have actual front porches all looked like people were using them just fine. But yet according to this guy's circular logic, the neighborhood was bad, so we should be thankful he's doing ANYTHING in the area. It doesn't matter if his work is directly contributing to the problem or not. And even if it is, well, we all know that crappy neighborhoods don't deserve good things, right?

I also asked why they were stripping off the wood siding instead of preserving it by just putting the vinyl on over it. He claimed that the siding was rotting, and who knows? Maybe he was right about that. When I explained, though, that vinyl siding makes the property look like (bad word), he (bad word) told me that every (bad word) property on the (bad word) block had (bad word) siding and I responded that they all looked worse than they did before as a result.

Around that time, he pointed to the "No Trespassing" signs and told me to leave. I said that I wouldn't trespass, but I was free to walk around the public sidewalks, streets, and alleys and photograph anything visible from those vantage points. And that was the end of our rather frank exchange of ideas.

Before I get into naming names, here are some shots of the vehicles used by the contractors working today.

The city's website lists Herman Capital Corporation as the owner. This company openly admits to being a sister corporation to the "We Buy Ugly Houses" crew. However, on the Minneapolis Issues Forum, someone states that the owner is an "out of state outfit." The permit posted at the property and visible online lists Safehaven Development LLC as the entity that pulled the permit. It's unclear if they are the new owners or if they just pulled the permit. And the contractors doing the work appear to be associated with Roen Exteriors.

Any information that JNS readers can share (good or bad) about these entities is requested and greatly appreciated.

It's possible that everything being done right now complies with the permit(s) that have been pulled, although I frankly have my doubts. If the work is being done outside of the scope of the permit, then we have an all-too-common issue at play here. Much of the work being done improperly is done on the weekends, in the evenings, or on holidays, when city inspectors aren't working. Or if there are inspectors out in the field, their numbers aren't proportionate to the time when so much unpermitted work actually happens.

At a previous problem property meeting, residents were advised to call 911 on anything that was "happening now." But housing code violations seem to fall below that level of urgency, even though we don't really know who to call in such a scenario. And this is a big gap in going after such activity; resources aren't allocated to respond quickly and appropriately during the times when those resources are most needed. I don't know how we get at that issue, since our housing inspectors are already overworked, but there needs to be some middle ground between 911 and 311 that citizens can call on to crack down on unpermitted work as it is happening.

Let's assume that everything they are doing falls under permitted work, or that the front porch was closed off by person or party not mentioned above. Can we get some kind of citywide ordinance that bans this kind of work? It's one thing to make a porch more enjoyable during the colder seasons. But virtually every single time a porch is completely closed off to convert more bedroom space, that property is then destined to be slummy.

Watching a problem property being created right before our eyes is not fun in the least. We need a quick response at 3321 2nd Ave S and then there has to be a bigger discussion about the tools that neighborhoods have available to combat this kind of activity.


Ranty said...

I spoke with Ross Herman of Herman Capital today and he told me that he sold the property about a month ago.

Anonymous said...

Wow! What an exchange you had! Yes, enclosing porches to create bedrooms is the cheapest way to slummify a property. I lived in that neighborhood for years and enjoyed sitting on my front porch very much. Converting porches into bedrooms should be banned. This is particularly tragic as not only was it a Healy designed home, but it was the home of Lamont Baewell, owner of the historic Bardeell Robinson factory in the Hawthorne neighborhood. And this is the second Healy property Safehaven has destroyed on this block. They likely are about to begin ripping out the histotic interior too as that is what they have done just down the block. This is a classic example of someone who wants to maximize a profit through cheap materials and as many # of bedrooms as possible - and who cares about the neighborhood or the historicity of the housing stock. It is true this house was in poor condition prior to this work - also due to slumlord ownership. We've got to break their hold on our neighborhoods. A call for banning porch to bedroom conversions would at least be a start.

The Hawthorne Hawkman said...

@ Anon 7:30 - Now I'm even MORE (bad word) upon hearing that there is an actual Hawthorne connection to this property.

And I hate to break it to you, but based on the conversation/confrontation with the contractor, I'd guess that somebody has already (bad word) the interior.

Anonymous said...

Get over it, it's not your property. Whatever they did on the inside is none of your business. If the porch conversion meets code then again none of your business. If you don't like it then start buying up properties like these folks.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 9:19. I have. I posted my earlier comment while working on my vacant and condemned but future to be fabulous home that is now saved from falling intonalum lord hands. I put my money where my mouth is!

Johnny Northside said...

Oh, it's the asinine property rights purist commenting again in the post at 9:19, almost certainly the same guy who said Schoffman had a right to burn down his own house, if indeed that's what Schoffman did. There's an arson investigation going, and no definitive proof of who burned down the house.

But, hell, MOTIVE is an element of proof, isn't it?

Margaret said...

I can see where a bedroom on the front porch might meet code, as in egress, right number of electrical outlets and ventilation but how can it possibly be anything other than a slumlord attempt at being able to claim the maximum number of bedrooms for section 8. Who would sleep in a front porch bedroom if they had a choice. You would have no privacy, there would be a certain amount of danger. Your stuff is the most likely to get stolen since it's right next to the door. People will have traipse through your sleeping space to get into the house. It sounds like a nightmare waiting to happen, if it was a child's bedroom.

M. Clinton said...

From History of Minneapolis, Gateway to the Northwest:

L. J. BARDWELL (Lamont Jenks Bardwell) - Vol II, pg 581
Minneapolis is proud to number among her native sons L. J. Bardwell, president of the Bardwell-Robinson Company. His birth occurred on the 6th of September,1872, a son of Charles S. and Annette (Jenks) Bardwell. Charles S. Bardwell was a carpenter by trade but when the Civil war broke out he enlisted in the Second Minnesota Cavalry, and served throughout the conflict. At the close of the war he came to Minneapolis and laid the foundation for the present business, of which his son is president. His demise occurred in 1892, after a life of successful achievement. L. J. Bardwell was educated in the public and high schools of this city. When he entered the business world he became associated with the old firm of Bardwell, Robinson & Company, which was founded by his father and L. C. Bisbee in 1873. S.C. Robinson subsequently bought into the company, and in 1881 Charles M. Robinson was taken in as a partner and the company became Bardwell, Robinson & Company. The business was conducted under that name until 1892, when it was incorporated as Bard-well-Robinson Company, S. C. Robinson being the first president. After the death of his father, in 1892, L. J. Bardwell succeeded to his interests and subsequently became presi­dent of the corporation. He has since been active in this important executive capacity and has been a prime factor in its continued success. This corporation is one of the representative manufacturing enterprises in the state. On the 14th of June, 1894, occurred the marriage of Mr. Bardwell to Miss Susan Baxter and to their union four children have been born; Adele, who is now Mrs. Warren A. Breckenridge of Omaha; Margaret L., who married R. C. Woodworth of
Minneapolis; Annette J.; and Robert L. The political allegiance of Mr. Bardwell is given to the republican party and the principles for which it stands. He is active in party affairs although he has never sought nor desired public office. Fraternally he is identified with the Masons, being a Knight Templar and a member of Zion Commandery. Socially he is identified with the Minne­apolis, Minikahda, Lafayette and Automobile clubs. Along strictly business lines he is a member of the Manufacturers Club. The success which Mr. Bardwell has achieved may be attributed to the honor and integrity which have governed all of his transactions.

M. Clinton said...

Mr. Bardwell's factory today (a Hidden Gem of Hawthorne):

The Hawthorne Hawkman said...

@ Anon 9:19 - First off, there is significant evidence to suggest that the owner may NOT have had permission to do what has been done.

Second, I believe that slumminess anywhere is a threat to non-slumminess everywhere. What this owner is doing to this particular property is almost exactly what other problem properties throughout NoMi look like. And if he can do it with one property in Central, he can do it to five properties in Hawthorne. This isn't some California condo association whining about how clotheslines create the impression of poverty. This is about what these repairs do to the property for decades or longer.

Finally, different people approach problems in different ways. When it makes sense for me to buy up properties and approach the issue from that angle, I look forward to doing so.

Anonymous said...

The most distressing part of it for me is that when you see a property going through a renovation of this type, where the focus is to add as many bedrooms as possible, it's typically to qualify for a social program (such as section 8) that will allow the property owner to maximize his/her investment.

Don't get me wrong, I believe the EVERYONE should be afforded a place to live. However, it does NOT benefit people on the lower rung of the social ladder to be "clustered" into very small, densly populated areas.

I've often thought that from a social standpoint, it would benefit everyone greatly if the number of subsidized houses were limited geographically. I mean we zone for usage, why not zone for this type of usage?

I see a direct link on this issue to the actual chances of success for the children that are raised in neighborhoods such as this.

How many times have you heard the statement from a child that it was peer pressure and the lack of choices in their immediate environment that was the major cause for their wrong choices? I've heard it and seen it plenty of times.

AAA said...

It's a shame to see yet another NoMi property get slumified. Thanks for your work trying to keep the place cleaned up. I'm trying to get in the habit of calling 311 too.

MeganG. said...

To Anon@9:04 - I agree about the clustering of low income folks - and I have talked to elected officals and city staff about this exactly-about limiting # of subsidized housing in a particular geographic area, or even limiting # of rental licenses in general in a particular area.

City was not willing to further explore either - the subsidy thing gets into discrimination, because receipt of public assistance is a protected class - so it could be seen as same as limiting # of "swedish" people in a geographic area.

The rental license restrictions, they weren't willing to explore because it got too far into intruding on property rights and the US constitution.

They weren't willing to take risk/liability for either of these that they felt would both surely result in complicated law suits.

One time at a public meeting about a new apartment complex that was proposed for Broadway & 29th - about 50 units - I loudly argued if they build this, then the city needs to NOT give out 50 other rental licenses in north to balance out. That wasn't going to happen - and so far the apartment complex is on hold, I guess due to economy bottoming out.

MeganG. said...

@AAA - are you here in NoMi? I browsed your site/blog and got impression you were in 'burbs. Interesting site/blog by the way. I tend to fall somewhere in between the right and left. So I have to read both to stay balanced.

Anonymous said...

Megan - I agree it wouldn't fly to limit the number of section 8 (or generally - subsidized)properties within a specific area.

However, I do believe that there is a way to legally limit the number of residentially-zoned rental properties in a specfic area. I just don't believe it's fiscally expedient for the City to to so, as the short-term effect would be to depress property values even further.

In the short-term, I think an earlier blog (I believe by the Hawkman) regarding limiting the number of "provisional" licenses that one individual could hold at any given time would go a long way towards causing a higher entry threshold for many "get-rich quick" artists. It's just too easy at this point to snap-up a foreclosed house, slap-on some paint and get a provisional rental license at this point in-time and it is indeed a vicious, repetitive cycle that many people in NOMI have seen more than once.

Kevin said...

"The rental license restrictions, they weren't willing to explore because it got too far into intruding on property rights and the US constitution."

I agree this is probably the thinking of our current city leaders, but why can suburban communities do things we can't? It's my understanding certain communities are very restrictive about what can be built, the minimum value, what kind of renovations can be done etc. How are they able to do these things without tramping on property rights?

Johnny Northside said...

Hell yes! Take Inver Grove Heights, for example. I looked into this--since I actually own a small, cheap plot of land out there--and I found out you need, like, 2.5 acres to build a house out there in that particular area. So they manage to keep themselves affluent and exclusive by trampling all over property rights, but none of the property owners seem to complain.

Meanwhile, we can't "trample property rights" and we get slummy rental property as thick as peanuts at a circus.

Anonymous said...

That is because the restrictions are created when the development is, or in the case of an HOA the covenants list the rules so a potential owner agrees going in on the limitations of their property rights. In the case of Minneapolis when the homes are bought they are done so under the current restrictions so any new ones are indeed a taking unless the property owner is fairly compensated. If a HOA or suburban government did similar after property was purchased i'd say it was the same taking as some of you would like to engage in the NOMI area.

Kevin said...

How about then, at the bare minimum, anyone doing major renovations like the above be required to present their plans to the neighborhood organization. Maybe we couldn't stop them, but at the very least we would have the opportunity to face that person and let them know what we think of such renovations.

It's one thing to simply do such renovations behind the scenes, but to actually face a group of neighbors and hear what they think of your plans before you start would be a meeting I wouldn't want to miss.

Anonymous said...

To Anon 7pm
While I agree with everything you're saying, I also believe that there is room for change through a "grandfather" clause for all existing rental property owners.

Laws and regulations are supposed to reflect what society requires, especially in a democracy.

Clearly, change is required on this issue. Clustering rental properties (especially low-income) is not good for anyone, except those that own the properties.

The Real AAA said...

Hi, the comment above that claims to be from "AAA" is not really from AAA. I am AAA and know that I did not leave that. Some less then honest people have been leaving comments around the internet with my name and a link to my blog on them.

So please, if you see them, let me know. And sorry for the bother, these people way too much time on their hands.

The real Andy A Aplikowski

Anonymous said...

Yes a grandfather clause is the way to handle such changes without stepping on the rights of the existing property owners.

The Hawthorne Hawkman said...

I agree that a grandfather clause would be a given in this case, even though that means that the scummy contractors and owners associated with this particular property get off scot-free.

Although maybe we could write it in such a way that if a building is VACANT long enough, then the full code compliance REQUIRES that the new owner either change the porch back or get a conditional use permit/zoning variance. At least that way a new prospective slumlord would have to work with the neighborhood groups around his/her property.

Anonymous said...

AAA is right, we all need to start calling 311 a lot more often.

Johnny Northside said...

Absolutely! In fact, let me tell you about something that happened a few days ago along those lines: I was in the Hawthorne Neighborhood Council office, and there was a map generated by the 4th Precinct showing all the calls which had been made along a particular section of Penn Ave. N.

I looked at that map and mentally calculated that somewhere between 5 percent and 20 percent of those 911 calls had been made by me, personally, on the "suspicious person" (probably a prostitute) calls. And it was a great feeling, knowing that all my calls were being COUNTED somewhere, CALCULATED somewhere, compiled in the various stats.

It's like a game of baseball. No particular swing at the ball wins the game, most times. No particular catch wins the game. Sometimes you don't even manage to make the play. But if all the players aren't in there SWINGING, CATCHING, RUNNING...

Then the other team is going to win. The thug team. The chaos and disorder and decay team.

So, you know, let's all get in there and play hard, every day, all the time. And, by increments, WE WILL WIN.

Anonymous said...

It's good to have you out there JNS. I don't have as much time to patrol the neighborhood and call 311/911 on the ne'er do wells. I sleep better at night knowing you do.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you dont want to let any low income people in your neighborhood to me.The looks of the new make over should certainly improve your property value. But than with you for a neighbor, it might be rather hard to get a tenant in the building.Unless of course you work and dont actually spend your days looking for things to complain about.Nice picture of your neighbors truck too.

The Hawthorne Hawkman said...

@ Anon 11:19 - It's not about the income level of the potential tenants, or at least for me that's not the issue.

The issue is what kind of community gets created when these "repairs" get made. The owner could still rehab the place WITHOUT changing the floor plan to maximize bedrooms. The property is more desirable when a front porch can be used as a front porch instead of another bedroom. A more desirable property is going to attract higher quality owners and tenants, regardless of income.

Anonymous said...

for one i am not the contractor for 2 im a hired sub to perform a job. as for who lives in there or is going to live there i dont know and dont care! i fixed the place up you should be happy. where are all the before pictures of the place so everybody can see how nice we fixed it up! i am Ben i own Roen Exteriors Inc, again i was hired as a sub to perform work. what happens to the building after im done is up to the owner who is not me! and like all jobs i do it looks great and will for years to come, so all those in need of new siding or a roof give us a call.FREE ESTIMATES Thanks Ben Roen

Johnny Northside said...

Testing comments function to see how long comments take to appear on it, test test...

Low End Leroy said...

Ben Roen has NO CLASS.
People with class do not perform jobs such as this, regardless of whether they are the architect, contractor, the sub, the owner, or the resident.

Ben Roen: you can take your sawzall & nasty siding and stay in the suburbs. YOU WORK PRODUCT HURTS MY EYES.


Low End Leroy said...

Brian Roen: It's the difference between a withered property with unlocked potential, and a property that will likely never be restored from the ill effects of your work. Though you claim to provide a benefit, you are simply another symptom, and perhaps in some cases, a cause, of the problem.


Anonymous said...

I've been reading this and it's posts....I am a neighbor and thinks this house looks great.

Anonymous said...

who is this safehaven delevpoment???? Are they the contractor?

Ranty said...

Ben, the house was in disrepair before you started work on it, that much is true. I toured it several times.

However, it had the potential for restoration (plenty!) and now that potential is all-but-gone, at least from what I can tell on the outside.

Thanks for ripping the original clapboard off before cladding it... now NOBODY can bring it back. (And you can't buy redwood around here, from what I hear, which is what the original likely was.)

And the integrity and pride of craftsmanship just OOOZES through your comments, eh? Nice.

JNS - is this post tagged with Roen Exteriors, by chance? Might be nice in case any potential customers want to google them......

Ranty said...

@Anon 6:35

Really? You like it?

Do I know you?

Ashley said...

Granted, its a shame that it couldn't be restored to its original self. Just because an old car can't be restored doesn't give the right to trash them for not fixing it the right way.

Granted, its a shame that it couldn't be restored to its original self. Just because an old car can't be restored doesn't give the right to trash them for not fixing it the right way.

Anyone more concerned about the visual restoration rather then its purpose of being lived in has a terrible argument. Looks, rather then the good of having someone live there is ridiculous in general. Especially in this economy.

Lel, "Unlocked Potential?"
Shouldn't the potential here be the fact it can be salvaged and put to use? From the sound of it this property was in really bad shape. Now its being fixed so deserving families can live in it, rather then the thousands of empty properties off the market because banks want to make profit.

And did this Johnny Northside fellow really run onto these folks property snapping photos like Perez Hilton...? Grow up! Seriously!

With the Economy the way it is You shouldn't be aloud to whine about things like this. Be a Good Person and Stop your Negativity.

Oh, And the last person to complain about Class in Neighborhoods was Glenn Beck from Fox News...Congrats...

Lel, "Unlocked Potential?"
Shouldn't the potential here be the fact it can be salvaged and put to use? From the sound of it this property was in really bad shape. Now its being fixed so deserving families can live in it, rather then the thousands of empty properties off the market because banks want to make profit.

And did this Johnny Northside fellow really run onto these folks property snapping photos like Perez Hilton...? Grow up! Seriously!

with the Economy the way it is You shouldn't be aloud to whine about things like this. The country is in a financial stress. Be a Good Person and Stop your Negativity.

Oh, And the last person to complain about Class in Nieghborhoods was Glenn Beck from Fox News...Congrats...

Shamika said...


This blog is full of haters. These are the people who want to turn the Northside into little Edina. They are failing miserably, but it is fun to come here and laugh at them.

The Hawthorne Hawkman said...

Brian Roen: Your work on this property looks like crap and you should be ashamed of it. The fact that the property was in need of repairs before you came along and did this extraordinarily substandard work is no excuse whatsoever.

Ashley, it wasn't "Johnny Northside" that went and took pictures of this property, it was me. And I'll keep on doing this as long as I'm aware of work this horrid being done in my fair city. For the record, though, this entire exchange took place on a sidewalk and street, aside from the one moment when I walked onto the property with the permission of the contractor.

Furthermore, I went through this post and comments and nowhere do I find anyone calling for the demolition of the property. We are merely lamenting the shoddy work that will condemn it to a life of slummy ownership for the foreseeable future.

Ranty, good point. I will go back and add Herman Capital Corp, Safehaven Development LLC, and Roen Exteriors to the tags in order to help Google searches.