A couple weeks ago, Jeff Skrenes gave me and my son, Alex, a tour of his new home at 2601 Penn Avenue North, a location that is right in the middle of everything. From all sides of Jeff's property, one can stand and watch the unstoppable, inevitable forces of neighborhood revitalization pushing up against, well...
Crap. Just crappy stuff that needs to change.
After saving his pennies, obsessively clipping coupons, and monitoring every point on his credit rating for several years, Jeff became a homeowner.
Jeff makes no secret of the fact a divorce put some serious dings in his finances, but there's plenty of THAT going around. North Minneapolis is the place where a single guy (or gal) can start life all over again as a home owner.
And what a nice home it is...
Above, Jeff shows off the built-in antique buffet where he stores the good dishes. There was apparently a moment--the kind of moment you still talk about when you're 85 years old--when the sunlight was hitting the buffet just so, and Jeff thought, "This is the house for me."
the beast that tried to kill Luke Skywalker on the ice planet of Hoth. Well, OK, the creature that tried to kill Skywalker was A LOT bigger; this one looks like a baby taken out of season. I'm just saying.
Clearly, this kind of intense feeling shown toward Star Wars toys needs to take place in the privacy of one's own home; a place where no landlord can suddenly appear and shout, "What IS that THING and what's it doing on my FLOOR?"
Another geeky touch. The light switch is a big red button.
As in, "No! Don't touch the red button!"
What movie is that from, anyway? Well, apparently it's no SPECIFIC movie, it's actually from A LOT of movies. Naturally, I pressed it. And then I realized, wow, that's a great way to get people to TURN OFF THE LIGHTS WHEN THEY LEAVE THE ROOM. Make it fun, somehow. That smarty-pants Jeff Skrenes; always influencing people in clever, geeky ways.
Jeff put flowering plants on his front step to alert bus riders the house is occupied and they shouldn't sit on his front steps. He claims this polite tactic is working to discourage "step loitering." If Jeff sees somebody sitting on the steps, Jeff goes outside with a pot of water and acts surprised to encounter somebody (oh, my goodness!) sitting on his steps. My opinion is, "If you think potted flowers work well, you should see what a VIDEO CAMERA can do."
Rather than doing an expensive renovation of the wood steps leading upstairs, Greater Metropolitan Housing Corporation (GMHC or "Gimmick") covered the steps with carpet. I've seen this exact shade of carpet in so many GMHC houses that I've dubbed it "Gimmick Gray."
But let me put it this way: Better Gimmick Gray than Reitman Blue.
includes attending "Window Restoration Boot Camp." Showing some flexibility, Jeff conceded to the windows being replaced at his dream house but asked for the historic windows to be saved back. Here are the windows, down in the basement.
As long as we're down in the basement on our photo tour, here's Jeff showing where somebody had started to install a wooden partition. Apparently, in those desperate last days before the house was lost to the previous owner, a plot was afoot to create more bedrooms and fill the place with renters desperate enough to live in such circumstances. The Jordan neighborhood caught a lucky break when this house changed hands.
Dean Rose, the owner of Broadway Liquors, gave Jeff this little housewarming gift. As you can see, Jeff appreciates the gift since half the bottle is gone.
Another geeky touch on top of the fridge; Darth Vader's head.
It should be noted this fantastic house sat vacant for a long time. Many wonderful houses remain in North Minneapolis at great prices. The concerted efforts of citizens are making the area safer all the time. On a long list of recent neighborhood victories, the purchase of a home by Jeff Skrenes is another "one small step" for North Minneapolis, but probably a giant leap for the intersection of 26th and Penn.