By Mike Lyon, South Northrop Representative
During the meeting on February 22 that was convened to discuss an increase in burglaries in our area, a number of people mentioned a related topic: vacant and problem houses. To address this concern, a meeting was held at McRae Park on Monday, April 4. Chair of the community and safety committee, Ben Elliott, conducted the meeting.
Problem properties and vacant houses
Of the three or four problem properties in FRN that were mentioned at the meeting, the most notable is the property at 4640 Portland Avenue, referred to as “The Pink House,” which has been vacant since 2009.
The property has changed ownership between the City of Minneapolis and Hennepin County since 2009, but was never sold to the public. The city of Minneapolis, current owner of the property, made it available for purchase in mid-January 2016 through a new city program: Vacant Housing Recycling Program. An offer by a well-regarded developer is currently pending approval by the Minneapolis city council and is expected to be finalized in August. If the developer withdraws the purchase offer, the city has committed to raze the house with backed support from council members from the 8th and 11th wards and the FRN board. Once razed, the lot will become available for purchase.
A problem for years
Neighbors have called 911 since 2009 to report suspected illegal activities in the vacant property at 4640 Portland. Because of incomplete information by concerned residents and inaccurate data by 911 personnel, concerns about the property were never flagged as a “problem property” by the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD).
A number of neighbors who attended the April 4 meeting expressed vehement frustration with the situation. A common theme of the night was the willingness of concerned neighbors to continue to monitor and report suspicious activity but they want and expect a response, along with ongoing feedback from the MPD.
Solutions and suggestions
Some solutions to the issue of problem properties were offered by officials and neighborhood board representatives who attended the April 4th meeting. A supervisor from 911 presented information on the correct way to report information. See this website for more information: http://www.minneapolismn.gov/911/ tipsforcalling
The neighborhood community and safety committee will continue to help residents of FRN voice their concerns to MPD’s crime prevention specialist and the MPD in general at monthly committee meetings and through other means of communication. The goal of the community and safety committee is to act as a liaison between the residents of FRN and the MPD when elevated issues are identified. Also, an established block club that is connected to the crime prevention specialist can enact an effective plan for solving an issue such as a “problem property.”
Senior project coordinator from the residential and real estate finance division of the City of Minneapolis Community Planning and Economic Development department (CPED), Roxanne Young Kimball, will be presenting the city council with the recommendation to approve the sale of 4640 Portland on May 13th.
If you would like to know the current status of a vacant property, please contact Roxanne Young Kimball at Roxanne. Kimball@minneapolismn.gov or the neighborhood housing committee at firstname.lastname@example.org. If there is a problem property on your block, you may contact the community and safety committee at email@example.com.