She's no Kim K, but Nicole Curtis is a bona fide reality TV star. The peppy host and hammer-swinger of HGTV's Rehab Addict has made a career out of transforming dilapidated houses into dream homes.
On camera, the single mom has found success and celebrity in the male-dominated world of renovation, as she pours time, money, and elbow grease into reviving blighted homes, often in low-income neighborhoods. She's hard not to root for.
But the next time Aimee Lundberg sees Curtis, she doesn't want an autograph. She wants answers.
Lundberg and her husband Jonathan live next to a house Curtis planned to rehab in north Minneapolis. However, two years after the cable queen swiped the imperiled lot off the demolition block for just $2, it remains uninhabitable.
Last summer the construction noise coming from 1522 Hillside Ave. N. was music to neighbors' ears. But those sounds haven't been heard in months, they say, while felled trees and untouched materials are strewn around the yard.
"As of now the property is a liability to us and the children of the neighborhood," Lundberg says.
Though the house is fenced off and signs warn of security cameras, the Lundbergs say the vacant property is a magnet for drug deals and trespassing partiers. They have also expressed concerns about asbestos blowing into their yard where their two kids, 5 and 7, play.
In April, Aimee Lundberg wrote a letter to Curtis on behalf of the Hillside Avenue Block Club, which she posted on the cable star's Facebook page, asking for an update on the stalled project.
Three weeks later she followed up with a private message. On May 11, an unnamed person handling Curtis's account for her replied, "There is no update, over the weekend someone threatened [Curtis] and issued a letter blackmailing her regarding this property. Therefore, it is on hold again. This is not something that is taken lightly."
According to a WCCO report, two liens were recently placed on the lot. Though one debt is settled, subcontractor Jepsen, Inc. claims Curtis still owes it $25,000.
An email to Curtis's management company was not immediately answered.
Brenda Hawkins, who lives across the street, hasn't seen "drug addicts" hanging around the property, which was condemned in 2009. But she says the house "could be beautiful" and hopes issues delaying its rehabilitation will be resolved soon.
"My granddaughter calls it the scary house," Hawkins says.
While Curtis has successfully saved and revamped numerous homes in Minneapolis, her relationship with City Hall has been rocky lately.
In February, things got testy after Curtis and an army of preservationists tried unsuccessfully for more than a year to stop the so-called Orth House in Uptown from being demolished. The bulldozing of the Victorian home, built in 1893, made way for a 44-unit apartment building. Defeated, Curtis started insulting City Council member Lisa Bender, calling her a liar and "destroyer of history" on Facebook.
When the comment section got ugly, Mayor Hodges rebuked Curtis's handling of the kerfuffle on social media.
Meanwhile the house on Hillside Avenue — a few houses down from where Minneapolis school board member Don Samuels, who was on the City Council when Curtis bought the property, lives — remains in limbo.
The Lundbergs still hope a family will one day occupy the troubled fixer-upper. But they're frustrated by the delays and lack of communication from Curtis.
"If this was in Edina she would be crucified," Jonathan Lundberg says. "But because it's north Minneapolis" it's accepted.
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