GROUP SIZE: 11 – individuals fronting vast corporations with hundreds if not thousands of additional individuals. This is an estimate due to individuals deploying dummy phone numbers and possibly even aliases.
ABATOR in a SoHi alleyway, Denver
NATURE OF GROUP: Eddie Mowrer, Hunter Hinson, Seth Taylor, Benjamin Olssen, and a half dozen unidentified agents representing the following corporate entities; Networth Realty, SWT Management, REcolorado, Move Out Move On, We Buy Ugly Houses, and MD Home Acquisitions. This study group is comprised of front men using an off-grid advertising scheme of hand-lettered yard-wicket signs in the west Denver neighborhood of South Highlands (SoHi), even masquerading as local yokels, to offer cash for houses or investment properties for sale, presumably to developers. The property investment corporations behind these men are looking to snatch up cheap single family homes on large lots. Dozens of lots in the study area have been, are being, (or are vacated to eventually be) scraped and replaced with densely packed 500k three-story town houses.
INCIDENCE: #ABATOR #corporate #graffiti #abatement”
“They buy ’em cheap and stack ’em deep.”
– SoHi resident Heather Link-Bergman
on the developers who are scraping and
rebuilding her West Denver neighborhood.
Seth Taylor signs – 1700 Federal Blvd.
Denver is adding 20,000 new residents a year and projecting one million more residents in the next ten years. Housing demand is being met by infilling industrial and vacant lots and scraping houses in economically depressed areas to make way for multi-unit buildings. SoHi, the study area for this report, which includes parts of the West Colfax, Cheltenham Heights, Jefferson Park, Hallack Park, and Sloan’s Lake neighborhoods, is immediately west of downtown and south of the affluent Highlands. A hundred years ago this part of town was a Jewish ghetto and the childhood home of Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir. The long-demolished “largest Synagogue west of the Mississippi” is now the site of Mi Pueblo Market and an 80% abandoned derelict shopping plaza. For much of the latter 20th century, until the current property boom, it’s been a barrio of Juarez transplants. The commercial sections of Federal and West Colfax are dismal, peppered with gravely, weed choked vacant lots, B-list fast food spots, flop-house hotels, and stucco taquerias.
The development of abandoned St Anthony’s Hospital on the shore of Sloan Lake, is projected to accommodate an additional 25,000 residents to just this neighborhood! That’s a year’s supply of new Denver residents! A new west light rail line is driving city planning around increased density parallel to West Colfax. Adjacent neighborhoods are undergoing rapid in-fill and wholesale urban renewal. Slum lords barely up on their property taxes, unsold foreclosures from the recession, and longtime residents looking to cash out are feeding a frenzy of property speculation and slap-dash construction.
A massive duplex is being built on a former vacant lot ten-feet from an El Azteca, North Side Mafia safe-house that’s regularly monitored by undercover Denver detectives. A squalid brick row house with five 1-bedroom units and kids toys spilling out onto the lawn nestles in a canyon between massive 3-story buildings with six 450k condos being nail-gunned together in great haste. A longtime resident with a DIY cinder block fence and a large corner lot, who likes to day-drink 24-packs of Bud Lite Límon with his buddies out front listening to accordion and polka jams, has his 3-bedroom oak-and-brass barrio jewel on the market – with the house next to it included – for 650k.
Joe, aka Move Out Move On Inc., 2500 W 26th Ave., Denver with a bonus Hunter Hinson sign
The yard-wicket signs used by the front men are a way of cutting through the clutter of traditional advertising and communicating in a high-volume cash business where opportunities are fly-by-night. Some signs have a fictitious personae, “Joe Buys Houses As-Is” or they cut the pretense with “I Buy Houses Any Condition CA$H”. Some are aimed at an internal audience of other brokers and developers, “80% ARV ALL IN”. Some of the listed phone numbers have people on the other end – the men named in the study group. The number often goes to a voicemail for one of the named corporate entities. All are able to buy your property “as-is” in cash. “As-is” can mean gutted and boarded up with all the copper plumbing stripped out, or with a plume of abandoned mattresses and furniture erupting off the porch, into the yard, all buried in snow.
“As-is” condition house
“Starting in the 500’s”
Many of the corporate entities and named individuals seem to have tenuous contacts to Denver – a satellite office, a recent transplant with a minimal online presence. Signs list multiple google-voice numbers with default-setting voicemail greetings. There’s Hunter Hinson’s almost perfect unintentional self-parody and/or fake facebook page of duck-faced selfies and white BMW snaps (facebook.com/hunter.c.hinson). Seth Taylor has a confident headshot and title on his LinkedIn, “Foreclosure Servicing, Property Preservation, Realtor”. There’s circumstantial evidence of actual residence in Tennessee or Houston. These men are not out placing the signs – that is outsourced to minions. This agent observed an owl faced man in a driver cap placing several signs at Colfax and Irving at 7am on a Wednesday morning.
Individuals in the study group comprise a community with it’s own language, signifiers, and public hand-lettered communications. Not unlike gang or graffiti tags, these signs advertise territory. Six figure transactions in cash arranged with sharpies. $500 worth of ad space on the adjacent bus bench for a $20 blank sign from Ace Hardware. They have developed a method of off-grid advertising by utilizing corporate graffiti.
2380 W Colfax and 5200 W 17th Ave.
Into this group-dynamic sashays ABATOR – a west side vandal with a lot of flat gray primer. Beginning in late fall and now into spring ALL of the yard-wicket signs in the SoHi study area have been abated on a weekly basis. This agent has photographed 24 distinct sign abatements. During this time several broker agents have resorted to affixing signs onto wood telephone polls 9ft off the ground – requiring a slight change in tactics.
ABATOR is an shadowy figure, never adding any commentary aside from a 15 second helium-voiced instagram statement and hashtag manifestos, “#ABATOR #declareswar #recolorado #broker #benjaminolsen http://www.linkedin.com/pub/ben-jamin-olsen #fixandflip #yardsigns #westside #gentrification #denver #corporate #graffiti #vandalism #abatement.”
3300 W 29th Ave.
An abated sign picture which got a heart from @cityofdenver and a comment, “#denver is where it’s AT” were met with a responce that give us a window into the mind-set of this vigilante-vandal:
“@cityofdenver thank you for your comment on my photo. Unfortunately Denver is no longer ‘where it’s AT’ for low income residents of Jefferson Park, West Colfax and Cheltenham Heights who are being forced into Lakewood by rapacious property development. We need more affordable housing on the west side – not a race to replace every modest single family home with four 400k luxury town homes! But yea – glad you commented on my photo of abated fix and flip signs so we had this chance to talk. #ABATOR”