Sunday, April 25, 2010

Mr. Slummy Owes Some Money

Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman (with one exception noted below)

Earlier this week, Hawthorne residents had noticed renewed activity over at "Mr. Slummy's" properties - 2515 and 2519 3rd St N. At this point, there doesn't seem to be much happening at 2515 other than pushing some dirt around. Given some unresolved issues and a stop work order at the address, a 311 call was made nonetheless.

Coincidentally, at a recent social gathering among "NoMi Homies," we were theorizing where "Mr. Slummy" (real name: Mohammed Amro, doing business as Amro's Properties) got his money from. After all, the work he's done, while lacking permits and being out of zoning compliance, can't be free. So I went down to Hennepin County to do a little digging--not as much digging as shown above, but digging nonetheless.

Before we get to that, however, I realize that since winning the City Pages best local blog in 2010, we may have some new readers unfamiliar with this story. So to summarize...

...Hawthorne activists such as Dyna Sluyter were posting about Amro's half-demolition of 2515 3rd St N over Easter weekend in 2009. Connie Nompelis posted about this on her blog and she and other Hawthornites contacted me while I was on vacation in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. As soon as I got back, I confronted a person I believe was Mr. Amro although I didn't get his name. His work was shut down on Easter Monday, and John blogged about it here. The first picture above is from that day, and the second shot would later become a visual metaphor for Amro's precarious financial situation.

In an interesting historic twist, the first comment on that blog post was an anonymous person who coined the name "Hawthorne Hawkman." I liked the nickname so much I changed my Google profile from "The Mortgage Geek" to what you see now. In this way, Mr. Slummy and the Hawthorne Hawkman are forever intertwined.

A very extensive photo gallery of Mr. Slummy's work can be found on my personal Facebook page.

But even with an initial stop work order, Amro applied for permits and resumed his work. This work included adding six egress windows and building an addition so large that nobody really believed he would comply with the residential two-unit (R2-B) zoning for the area. Those suspicions were confirmed when, at a 2009 Heart of the City picnic, five bathtubs were seen inside the property (which was flagrantly open to trespass, making such observations rather convenient).

We got the property boarded up, though. (photo below taken by John Hoff)

Fast forward to the present day. Work has been largely stopped at 2515 3rd St N, although Amro's white pickup truck is often seen in front of 2519 3rd St N. He owns this property as well, and even though he stripped off the siding and put in ugly windows, it appears as if most everything he's done at 2519 has been up to code, with permits, and in compliance with zoning.

What he HASN'T done, however, is actually PAID some of the people who did the work. Siwek Lumber and Millwork filed a mechanic's lien against 2519 3rd St N in October of last year for the amount of $14,841.06 for unpaid work from 4/4/09 through 10/8/09. The lien is filed against the property and against Mohammed Amro as well as Amro's Properties Inc.

There is also a second lien filed by the same entity for the same reasons at 2515 3rd St N in the amount of $12,216.11. Interestingly, there is no mortgage filed against either property. Amro either purchased with cash, or in some under-the-table way in which the holder of the debt has not filed a lien against the properties. Clearly the work done at both places far exceeds $27,000. So the next question is this: did Mr. Slummy pay for that work out of pocket, or does he owe more money in ways that haven't surfaced yet?

And speaking of surfaces, there is still an unresolved issue. Amro did not remove the mounds of dirt he created when excavating. He merely pushed it around and leveled off both of his properties. The problem with that, as evidenced below, is that the house to the south has had their fence damaged. And every time it rains, dirt washes into their garden. Amro needs to remedy this issue before even more fees pile up.


Anonymous said...

This is a great example of utilizing as many resources as possible to mazimize value in a property. It's too bad he wasn't able to finish and get renters in there to pay the contractors. I like to see additions keeping safety in mind like adding egress windows vs just illegally using a basement for bedroom use.

Anonymous said...

Quite obvious the credit crises affected his incredible efforts to provide housing in the neighborhood. The sub that filed liens know gong into it that they are only paid if the owner gets financing in the end. They are all in it together and unfortunately it did not work out. At least he was trying to do something good for the neighborhood.

Anonymous said...


You sure appear to have a lot of extra time on your hands! Apparently you should be tending to your more immediate zoning and ADA issues. We need more accountability of you!

The Hawthorne Hawkman said...

Ah, the immediate contrary viewpoints come about. Let's see here. First, this is a significant housing issue in the Hawthorne neighborhood and finding out exactly what's happening and holding this person accountable falls directly under my role as Housing Director.

Second, in terms of accountability, I'm not accountable to anonymous posters on this blog who I suspect are merely trying to create the false impression that there is some sort of dissatisfaction with my job performance. I am accountable to my board chair, personnel committee, the full board, and Hawthorne residents and members, in that order.

And finally, Mr. Slummy was most certainly not trying to do good things for the neighborhood. He's in it for himself and no one else. Even that's okay as long as one follows the rules. He has flouted them at every opportunity. Oh, and "maximize value"?? Really? The only real question about what will happen with 2515 is whether it will be lost to tax forfeiture before or after it's demolished. There is no value here, although there COULD HAVE BEEN if he'd RESTORED the property.

Anonymous said...

I think you should blame the banks that caused this financial crisis and not some poor landowner who is just trying to make a go of things.

Speaking of ADA and zoning, how are the efforts going to remediate those problems at the Hawthorne and Jordan offices? I hope considerable work is being done in that regard. It is embarrassing to live in a neighborhood (Hawthorne) that doesn't have its own house in order.

Anonymous said...

What determines if a property is slummy....or MR. Slummy as you call this property owner?

If he pays his property taxes current does he suddenly become un-slumified?

(Because that appears to be a jab you make at him.)

Define your Mr. Slummy tag. Don't rant, just cite a few honest examples of what pushes him into this Mr. Slummy tag.

Is every property that needs repairs a slummy property?

The Hawthorne Hawkman said...

Anon 10:39,

Hawthorne is moving through the process of rezoning our office space. The dates and procedures for doing so are not flexible and I will not stop other revitalizing work while navigating through this issue. Incidentally, the city staff recommendation, which I am looking at right now, recommends our zoning variance to be approved, so it is quite likely that we will take care of this soon.

Secondly, I doubt very much you live in the Hawthorne neighborhood. Folks who do live in Hawthorne and have concerns know how to reach me.

Anon 11:03, if you go back and read this post, you'll see that property tax payments were one "jab" I did NOT make in this case. I did predict that he will either lose the place to tax forfeiture (since there is no mortgage filed and I doubt even the mechanics' lien people want this property through foreclosure) or that it would be demolished. However, I made that prediction without knowing whether he was delinquent on property taxes.

But now that you mention it, he does indeed owe over $5,000 in taxes on these properties and there are prior years' taxes due as well. Thanks for reminding me of a detail that I normally include when I examine the behavior of slumlords.

John was the person who coined the name "Mr. Slummy." I just saw no reason to come up with a nicer term for him. As far as what makes him "slummy" or the more formal "Mr. Slummy," well, the case has been made quite clearly on this blog and I see no need to explain further.

Anonymous said...

If anyone questions whether this place is a dump, he or she should just drive by the place. It is a complete blight on the community. This property owner has done very little to rectify this situation. He sure has heck has not improved the look of the neighborhood.

Johnny Northside said...

This guy was not trying to do good in the neighborhood, he was trying to make a mega-slumlord housing thing-a-mah-bob. I'm so glad it's not working out for him.

The Hawthorne Hawkman said...

Anon 4:03, you're being too kind.

The city had to remove two dumpsters and various debris from the parking lot across the alley at 2510 4th St N.

The city has come by numerous times to pick up debris from the yard at 2515 3rd St N.

The city boarded up the property when he left it open to trespass (and open for kids to play in and get hurt as well).

Amro put up a silt fence on his own and removed the final two dumpsters, but only after repeatedly being informed that the city was about to do these things and assess him yet again.

My guess is that when the grading issues between this property and the one to the south are finally addressed, it will be a city crew handling that as well.

Anonymous said...


What does it take for my neighborhood to get a "housing director" like Hawthorne has. I live up in Brooklyn Park and would love to have someone go around the neighborhood and keep an eye on things like you do.

Is it just that the municipal government is cheap in the suburbs or is there someone I need to talk to?


The Hawthorne Hawkman said...


My job is paid for largely through a foundation's grant, with some general operating dollars from the neighborhood as well. I admit to knowing relatively little about whether Brooklyn Park has such neighborhood groups.

But knowing what I know, if I had to start from scratch up there, here's what I'd do:

First, I'd find some organization that addresses issues in your specific geographic area. That might not be a neighborhood group per se, but hopefully there's something. I have some ideas of who might be able to do this work but would rather discuss them away from a public forum.

So once you've identified an organization that will house and supervise a housing director (and presumably act as the fiscal agent as well), you can start looking at various foundations for financing. Once again, I'd prefer to discuss specifics in a more private forum, but feel free to contact me.

Here's the other piece of work that needs to be done: a job description/scope of work for the prospective housing staff person. I remember starting at Hawthorne and quickly realizing that the job description used to write my grant didn't really reflect what I needed to do to address housing issues in Hawthorne. (I also remember quickly realizing that MY OWN pre-conceived notions about what I would need to do were just as inaccurate.)

So that description should focus more on what some needs and issues the community faces are instead of what the staff person should specifically do to address them.

With those things in place, I'd say it then becomes a matter of shopping around until the funding is put together.

Please feel free to contact me privately to discuss this further. I'm always willing to share what I and other Hawthornites have learned with our neighboring communities.

Johnny Northside said...

The following information came from a known troll, and it is substantive enough that I am going to publish it without publishing the rest of the troll's comment:
City records show that almost $180,000 in permits were pulled for the property at 2515 3rd St N. I know that $180,000 is certainly a significant number. What is you basis for slamming this guy for trying.

Anonymous said...

Good show John. Thanks for filtering out the disagreeable comments. I come to JNS to read your opinion and people like you. If I want to hear from the thugs I'll go to or something like that.

You've let people get away with way too much lately.

Anonymous said...

Not only are you admittedly not posting comments, not you are editing them to only reflect what you want them to disclose. This looks like a great point. I, for one, think that may be too much to spend in the neighborhood but you are calling him Mr. Slummy.

What gives with the one sided bashing and unfettered flow of alleged "free speech" you keep touting.

This worries me.

The Hawthorne Hawkman said...

The value assigned to the permits Amro has pulled is an interesting tidbit but ultimately not terribly important. This is a man who flouted the most basic rules, harms his neighbors' yard to the south daily, and has only complied with the most basic of rules after repeated citations and fines.

I'm concerned with making sure he follows rules or gets out of the neighborhood. And really, if he does toe the line, he could straighten up and prove himself to be a good neighbor. On a related note, the Minnesota Timberwolves could win the NBA championship next year.