Above: The renovated home at 22nd Street and 16th Ave. S (courtesy of City of Minneapolis)
Updated at 4:06 p.m.
Sometimes even good publicity has it pitfalls.
Looking to highlight the success of the city’s vacant home rehab program, Minneapolis officials invited the media in mid-February to tour a privately renovated house in the Phillips area of south Minneapolis. A council member even showed up.
“They were really excited about the house, how it turned out,” said Wilson Molina, whose firm bought the four-bedroom home from the city and rehabbed it.
But that news attention made its way to some local burglars, who ransacked the place. Since the house was staged, stolen items included furniture, rugs, a toilet, kitchen faucets and appliances – worth more than $6,000 altogether.
“It was pretty devastating. I wasn’t expecting that,” Molina said. “It was really bad, but we’ve got to keep working and make it right again.”
It appears the burglary was the work of three people who even rented a U-Haul for the job, Molina said. “Whoever broke into the house saw [it] on TV probably,” he said, noting that he had worked on the house for months without incident.
The home was otherwise a success story. It had sat vacant since 2010, eventually falling into Hennepin County's hands after its owner stopped paying property taxes. The city paid $36,774 to acquire and prepare it, selling it to Molina for $42,000.
Molina’s firm replaced the plumbing, heating and electrical systems, refinished the basement, installed a new bathroom, and rehabbed all the floors.
It immediately garnered an offer of $299,000, and a closing is expected in late March.
The burglary was particularly discouraging to city officials, since Molina recently purchased eight other city-owned homes on the North Side with the intent of fixing them up.
Council Member Lisa Goodman called the break-in "heartbreaking" during a recent meeting of the City Council. Goodman chairs the city's community development committee, which oversees property sales.
Molina is plowing ahead with the renovations of the North Side properties. There has been one hiccup: Someone lit a pile of branches on fire while workers were eating lunch, setting a nearby tree ablaze.
“The damage was done,” Molina said of the burglary. “We’ve got to take care of it and move on and get the property sold and get someone in there.”