Nicole Curtis, the star of HGTV’s Rehab Addict, wants Minneapolis to know she’s not done with it yet.
She had already vowed that her drawn-out, troubled Victorian remodel in north Minneapolis – an ordeal that began in 2012 and ended in late 2018 -- would be her “LAST” project in the city. Even though she never explained exactly why that was the case, she’d long claimed city government and regulations “prevented and/or delayed [her] from completing” the work, and she’d had a few harsh words for City Council Member Lisa Bender along the way. (Among those words: “liar” and “destroyer of history.”)
But in a new Facebook post, she railed against the city again – this time for allowing a late-1800s duplex on Aldrich Avenue South to be torn down and replaced with a new townhouse.
“You know Minneapolis – the city that touts itself as one of the ‘greenest’ cities in the US,” she said. “YET!!!!!!!!! They allow anyone to just drive up across a sidewalk and tear down a house.”
She asked if people had “any idea” how many hazardous materials would be released in the dust clouds from the destruction, or how many trucks would be hauling all that rubble to a landfill. She “guarantee[d]” the neighbors’ siding would get well dusted with lead, which would seep into the soil and filter into HVAC systems. She made sure to point out that since the property, 2109 Aldrich, is in Ward 10, this was all done under “council person Lisa Bender’s watch.”
“This is a city council that literally turned roads into solid bike lanes because they are Eco-friendly. IF THAT DOESN’T SCREAM HYPOCRITES????” she wrote. “City of Minneapolis …I had to play nice for a minute, but damn, it feels good to be back.”
The post has gotten more than 10,000 reactions and generated hundreds of comments and shares.
Bender was aware that she’d been called out in Curtis’ post – it wasn’t the first time the TV host had picked a fight with her over an old home demolition in the ward -- but she declined to comment on it.
The coda on Curtis’ post was another call-out – this time to William Wells, the architect of the new townhome. She said he had been on a Facebook thread “bragging” about the demolition and posted a screenshot of one of his Facebook comments:
“Be ready Nicole,” it read. “I am gonna tear down a lot more.. this is the first of many!”
Wells, of Wells Company Architects in Minneapolis, says this new development is by-the-book. It follows all the city’s zoning codes – no variances – and all “city and state regulations were followed during the demolition process.” The old house had even gone through a historic review process and was found not to meet qualifications for preservation.
But on Monday, after Curtis’ post, he went out to the property himself to conduct an inspection and make sure everything was up to snuff. He didn’t see any violations that he “was aware of” – no dust on the neighbor’s siding.
“Some of those claims may be unsubstantiated,” he says.
He did get plenty of backlash after Curtis called him out and told followers to contact him directly. Some commenters went as far as to call him “greedy,” “an ass,” and “a dickhead.” But the angry comments weren’t necessarily from his neighbors in Minneapolis. Most of them, he says, seemed to be from Detroit, where Curtis now works, and where there are “thousands” of vacant lots to use rather than tear down an old home.
“I even got comments from people who live in Spain,” he says.
Despite the internet dustup, he thinks he and Curtis are “both right at the same time.” Curtis is “right” that old homes should be preserved and restored whenever possible. But there are also some that need to go to make room for newer, denser properties.
“There are some properties [in South Minneapolis] built between the ‘30s and ‘50s that you can tell need to be replaced and refurbished,” he says. The house on Aldrich Avenue, he told Bring Me the News, was just too far gone to save. There were code violations, unlevel floors, and a leaky limestone basement. Even if they did spend the money required to restore it, it wouldn’t be economically viable to rent.
Curtis sent a few remarks via email about the exchange. The house, she explained, was not vacant nor "considered a blight by the city" before being sold, and that its status as "beyond repair" is "simply not true." She maintained that the destruction of the duplex had released lead onto the adjacent area, and that the city can "do better" to make demolitions safer.
And as for Wells, she considered his Facebook jabs as nothing less than "a taunt, a threat." Particularly a remark on her personal page that she screenshotted: "Nicole is just mad because I wouldn't date her."
"I'm well known for my sarcastic wit and my sense of humor, but I took that remark to be beyond sexist and appalling," she said. "I have a son in his 20s and he sees everyting posted about me online. It was one thing to come at me professionally, but even I think that post was below the belt."
She says she'll "absolutely" be getting more involved in Minneapolis policies on demolition and environmental safety in the future. No matter how you feel about it, 2109 Aldrich is gone, and will soon be replaced by some newer, denser housing. But Curtis, it seems, isn’t going anywhere.