Disposable cities

We won’t let Ted Poetsch’s former house rot away, Fannie Mae says

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

poetschhouse.jpgNow officially vacant and officially owned by Fannie Mae, 823 Penn Avenue North in Minneapolis – the subject of Monday’s story and video and this photo by my colleague Kyndell Harkness – has a bright future, if Fannie Mae‘s promises are fulfilled. Amy Bonitatibus, a spokeswoman in Washington for the federally-bailed-out mortgage giant, said that as of March 31, Fannie Mae owned 62,371 single-family homes nationwide – all of them obtained through foreclosure. That’s nearly 20,000 more than a year earlier.

But Bonitatibus pointed out that Fannie Mae is selling thousands of houses as well, through private brokers, auctions and its own web site. Fannie Mae’s modus operandi is to fix up the homes and then sell them, rather than just unloading them as is, she said. It won’t sit boarded for years, either, she said. She suspects the repairs and listing could happen within 30 days.


“Distressed urban neighborhoods” among 10 endangered places, preservationists say

Friday, May 8th, 2009

1195bush1.jpgNobody thinks the current glut of vacant homes targeted for demolition, like St. Paul’s 1195 Bush Avenue above, are the equivalent of Minneapolis’s dearly departed Metropolitan Building or New York City’s majestic Penn Station. Yet the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota has taken note of the cumulative effect of demolitions to list “distressed urban neighborhoods” among the 10 “places” most at risk. Here’s how the historic preservation group explains it:


Cities using federal money to flatten decrepit homes, while St. Paul tells dozens of landlords to replace their windows

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

The federally-fueled demolition push in St. Paul and Minneapolis that Whistleblower has been blogging about house by house got some big-picture treatment, thanks to reporting by my colleague Chris Havens.

The numbers are striking: Minneapolis is planning to knock down 150 homes in the next 18 months, up from 34 in 2006, while St. Paul wants to raze between 90 and 130 buildings this year. Altogether, the cities demolished 369 houses from 2006 to 2008. A typical street in the Minneapolis grid has 14-15 homes on each side, so if all these homes were adjacent to each other, the flattened area is the equivalent of 12 city blocks. That’s a big jump for recent years, but as a planning expert points out in Havens’ story, it follows in the footsteps of the massive demolitions that accompanied “urban renewal” and highway construction in the 1950s, 1960s, and the late 1970s through the early 1980s.


Latest homes on the demolition list: 301 Burgess Street, 1195 Bush Avenue in St. Paul, two burned-out hulks in Minneapolis

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

301burgess.jpgThe gabled house stood on Burgess Street in St. Paul for a hundred years. In December, the owner of record, Wade Brummund, was told by the city to abate the “nuisance” that the dilapidated home had become. It didn’t happen. On April 15, the St. Paul City Council ordered the demolition of 301 Burgess Street and another troubled home, 1195 Bush Avenue, within 15 days. Other homes on the demolition list got reprieves. That happens a lot, as property owners come up with last-minute renovation plans. Those frequently fall through as well, but it’s one reason the process can get so drawn out. Also this month, the Minneapolis City Council ordered the demolition of two houses that were struck by fires. No one is likely to mourn the loss of these two from the city landscape.