To me, it doesn't SEEM that long ago, but it's been FOUR YEARS since I bought a dumpy little house smack dab in the middle of a four square block area the City of Minneapolis and neighborhood based organizations had dubbed "The EcoVillage." The area was, statistically, the roughest four blocks in Minneapolis. I was surrounded by crackheads, prostitutes, wrecked and devastated houses, and a small number of decent people who were doing their best to stay inside behind locked doors while drug dealers literally fought over who "owned" which street corner and the madness of "The Apartment Complex of Anarchy" spilled into the streets.
Not everybody was staying indoors...
Then-chair of the Hawthorne Neighborhood, Peter Teachout, was out and about, fighting for those same blocks. I lived practically across the street from Peter. Jeff Skrenes, Housing Director of the Hawthorne Neighborhood, was constantly in the EcoVillage, trying to get the area cleaned up. One EcoVillage resident I dubbed "Patty Cake" called myself, Peter and Jeff "the three musketeers." We each did things in our own way, implemented our own tactics, but we were stronger working together.
We learned tricks off each other. Aggressive surveillance and calling 911, using videotape to document ongoing problems, and blogging about EVERYTHING in a high profile way. If we were beaten down in the street, people would know. People would give a hoot. MAYOR RYBAK would give a hoot. (Peter always tried to influence me not to use rough language on my blog and his influence shows even this moment)
Knowing I had an entire city government behind me, knowing Jeff and Peter had my back, knowing I had an audience interested in the struggle through my blogging, I started "pushing the boulder up the hill." I would walk around or drive around (driving felt a heck of a lot safer) and begin making reports to 311, to 911, or implementing "self-help measures" such as replacing the official city boards on empty buildings which had been ripped off by crackheads seeking shelter...
And, often, I blogged what I was doing. There were so many issues in that four square block area (plus the "perimeter" of the blocks facing the four square block area) that I would write long action reports about this house, that house, this known and notorious crackhead hanging around, etc. Here's an example of such a "progress report" from April 9, 2008, click here.
Recently, I was back in Minneapolis on some paid leave I took following deployment to Afghanistan, and I found myself in the EcoVillage area. I wanted to see what changes had taken place in a whole year, and so I decided to "secure the block" and file a report for old times sake.
Pictured at the top of this post, a beautiful new house at 3035 6th St. N. This used to be the location of "the mold house," a house with mold problems so severe you could smell it from the street.
Pictured above, new housing at 416 31st Ave. N., a house that was the subject of numerous blog posts including this one about its overall historical pattern of "misery," click here. I am hopeful this is the beginning of a new historical cycle marked by happiness.
rehabbed by Anderson Mitchell and it looks great. As I was taking pictures, a man came out of the house leading a small child. I quickly explained that my friend had rehabbed the house and I hadn't seen it in a while. He just smiled and said he didn't live there, but it was really nice inside. There was none of the paranoia in his voice which used to greet the mere sight of a photographer in the EcoVillage. Not just the buildings have changed but the attitudes as well.
This house was vacant back in 2008 according to one of my old "securing the block" reports.
Coming all the way back around to the other side of the EcoVillage, I see that Bangkok Market now has solar panels. The owner was nice enough to send me a "thanks for your service" message while I was in Afghanistan. Bangkok Market was high on the list of things I missed about home while I was over there.
3101 6th St. N., the location of the former Apartment Complex of Anarchy, there is nothing but dandelions. All the same, this is a city owned lot and if the city can't keep its grass mowed, then I don't know WHAT. Step it up, people. My yard looks better than this and I was gone in Afghanistan for a year.
Next I went to 2939 Lyndale Ave. N., which is in the "impact zone" of the Hawthorne EcoVillage and was miraculously saved from demolition by a narrow vote, click here. What others think of as an impact zone I used to call my "perimeter" back in those days of "running patrols" and "securing the block."
Knowing I could invoke the name of a mutual friend, I knocked on the door hoping for an impromptu tour. Nobody answered, but I snapped this picture of a nicely-restored facade.
The American flag and the rainbow flags fly side-by-side. God bless America.
I hear on good authority that a new house will be built at 3016 6th St. N., my old address. Word is some architectural creativity was required because the lot is so small. I had always advocated for the property to remain a vacant lot, perhaps to be used for gardening efforts by the properties around it. However, I'm excited to see what develops.
The old block is doing well. Progress is busting out all over. It won't hurt to drive through there from time to time, but other areas need my attention a lot more.