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City Roadblocks Against Preservationist Northside Remodeler

Updated: Mar 1, 2019

February 26, 2019 - This letter was shared by Blake Zochert of Zochert Properties. He purchased a vacant/foreclosed house in North Minneapolis from the city of Minneapolis. It is a very telling story about how the city is using its power to crush a good-intentioned local North Side preservationist. These are the very people and small businesses we should be advocating for.


Please contact these city officials if you can throw some support to Blake.


Elfric Porte - manager, Residential & Real Estate Development, Community Planning & Economic Development (CPED)

elfric.porte@minneapolismn.gov

Council Member Jeremiah Ellison (Ward 5)

jeremiah.ellison@minneapolismn.gov

Mayor Jacob Frey

jacob.frey@minneapolismn.gov

David Hoban, district supervisor, Office of Inspections, Construction Code Services, CPED

david.hoban@minneapolismn.gov


Here is Blake's February 26 letter describing his situation, written to neighbors of the North Side property he purchased.

____________________________________


Good day to everyone!


To those who might not know me, or forgotten, my name is Blake Zochert. I purchased 2200 Dupont from the city awhile ago. I've been eagerly waiting to work on the house, but the city keeps preventing me from doing so. I want to be completely transparent about what is going on over there.

The initial delay in beginning the renovation at 2200 Dupont in full force is probably my own: I was finishing up another whole-house, 2,500 sq. ft. remodel at 1519 Fremont Ave N. That property sold at the end of last year, for a record amount for that neighborhood, and probably in North Minneapolis, for around $435,000 retail (although I sold it wholesale).


As that property was wrapping up, and after we improved the property values of the neighborhood and North Minneapolis overall, I was able to refocus attention (and money) on 2200 Dupont.


I've provided the city every document and fulfilled every requirement they've demanded of me. I am dying to get in there and resume the renovation at full speed, but the city is actively preventing that from happening.


I am looking to turn 2200 Dupont into my own personal residence. I am budgeting to spend over $300,000 of my own money on the project, and turn the house into a mini-mansion of sorts (it's a very big property). One that would be the crown jewel of North Minneapolis. I don't know why I'm being roadblocked by the city.

Perhaps they want to keep values down. Perhaps they have a personal grudge against me, as I've upset the Housing Department by pushing back on nonsensical requirements, air tests that aren't necessary, and other confrontations at other properties they're delaying as well.


Whatever it is, I am asking for your help in getting them to stop. Please contact your local city councilperson, city rep, mayor, etc. -- anyone who can tell the city to please let this project continue. I need loud voices: I want you to know I AM NOT the reason why this house sits empty, and in its current condition. The city of Minneapolis is the reason.


I've included all the documentation that I've provided the city that they've said they need for approval (aside from my proof of liquid funds showing my bank account). Included is

  • the insurance they require,

  • the building permit,

  • the proof of funds, both liquid funds AND proof of financing via a loan,

  • the building plans,

  • the scope of work, and

  • the site plans (not the full set of plans but enough so you get the idea).

Included also is a 3D rendering of the renovated garage and the "before and after" pictures of the exterior of 1519 Fremont (my previous project) so you know I have experience in these types of large jobs.


I wanted you to see all this information, to be transparent, so you can know firsthand that I've provided all the city has asked for, repeatedly -- and yet they still won't officially issue the permit and let the project proceed. I wish to apologize to you: I'm sorry you have to live in the neighborhood where this house is. I'm sorry you've had to deal with the issues that arise from a vacant property. I'm sorry nothing is getting done over there. But mainly, I'm sorry that the city is preventing this from happening. I feel like I've done all I can, and given them all they've asked for.


Not only that, but the city is not keeping their word. I met with them early in February and we agreed to a deal to get the project back up and running. I went in and met with them personally, and terms were agreed to. When the city came back and provided me the written version of this deal several days later, the terms were NOT what they had agreed to. They broke their word and went back on the terms they had accepted in our meeting.


There is not anyone else who would be willing to spend this kind of money on this kind of house in North, let alone make it their home for their 2 young children and make the kind of capital and family investment that I am planning to make there. Help me finally make it happen. Make noise: tell the city you want them to let me finish this house.


As of now, you have all the info I have and that I've given them. This is all that they've required. They should have issued the permit over one year ago, but they keep delaying. The real reason why? I don't know. But I want it to stop. If you do, too, let them know. Thanks! And if you have any questions please let me know at any time.


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The city required four things:

  1. proof of funds (either liquid cash or proof of financing/funding);

  2. proof of insurance, one that specifically listed the city of Minneapolis as co-insured;

  3. even though I want to make it my primary residence, the city required a general contractor to pull the permit/fill out a building application; and

  4. plans for the renovation.

As you can see with the documentation, I've provided all those things to the city. The city says I've satisfied none of the requirements.


Right now, it's mainly about the proof of funds. I provided the city proof of liquid funds. That wasn't sufficient. Then I provided them a pre-approval letter from a lender for $350,000. That wasn't sufficient. They wanted the loan to be closed. I had promised to have a lender commitment to them by March 6th, and a closed loan shortly after. They rejected that as well.


Again, the city (via their proxy, Elfric Porte) met with me personally and we came to an agreement to extend the deal/timeline. When I received the actual written version of the agreement, it was not what we had agreed to in our meeting. The city either flat-out lied, or negotiated with me in bad faith. Either way, they didn't honor what we agreed to in our meeting.


Elfric Porte also agreed to assign a staff member to be my development review contact person so that, if there were issues or questions, I could rely on one person, instead of having to deal with 30 different staff members who might not be familiar with the project. This plan (having one point of contact) was going to streamline and speed up the process, something Porte agreed to in our meeting. Then that promise wasn't in the written agreement he provided to me.

Please share my email, situation, and need for assistance with whomever you deem beneficial, to me, and to North Minneapolis.

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