Friday, October 26, 2007

Buy This House?

This house is a perfect candidate for a rehab.

It's cheap. It's in a "happenin'" area that has already "turned the corner". It's set up as a two family so you can live in one part while you work on the other. There could be some help from the city, if you qualify.

I suspect that you could finagle an off-street parking easement too.

Plus you'd have some really cool neighbors.

Take a peek.


Join us in the adventure!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Toughest Job in Town

I've been speaking with the city's historic preservation officer, Ashley recently. Ashley is nice, dedicated, and very smart (recently competed on Jeopardy!--I think she wuz robbed). I also think that Ashley has to have one of the toughest jobs in town.

"Huh? How hard can being the historic preservation officer be?"

Well, think about this: Ashley's job is to PRESERVE the historic integrity of this wonderful city. How does one do that?

By saying, "No"

That means when people get a permit to "improve" their home in a historic district with glass block windows, she has to tell them that they can't. As it turns out, in a historic district, there's a lot that one can't do. Basically, if you are replacing something, you have to do it with original materials in most contexts. That can be expensive, sometimes prohibitively expensive. Also, it may well be counter to what the homeowner envisioned.

So, Ashley, all too often gets to be the "spoiler". She has to be the bad guy. What kind of fun is that?

In every other business, if you do a good job, for the most part people will be happy with you. Maybe folks will even praise you. Probably not Ashley, though. I imagine that she gets mostly resistance, anger, frustration, outright obstruction, and accusations of bias and unfairness.

And I understand how folks must feel. It's their property, after all, and one usually buys property because one wants all the rights of ownership--not to be told what they can and can't do. Also, folks have to often think it's terribly unfair to be picking nits over the muntins on the windows, when the neighbor is an ugly pre-fabricated pawn shop or a nasty crack house with no gutters at all, let alone wooden box-gutters.

The thing is, the historic preservation officer only gets to "preserve" in certain instances. New construction in historic zones, major renovations in historic zones, and when city or HUD money is being used on a historic property (and probably one or two other instances that I'm not aware of). They have to use every window of opportunity to try to save the history and integrity of the wonderful architecture of this town, and there aren't that many chances.

The good news is that longer-term, those seemingly horrific intrusions into your property rights have some nice pay-offs. I've seen what happens when the history is preserved in a neighborhood. Drive up and down the Licking Riverside district. In my memory, this area was once pretty scary and it had to have seemed crazy to expend much effort to preserve the history back then. But now, it's still here and mostly restored, and it's a draw. It's beautiful, and it's tougher and longer lasting than many realized. Folks come here just to see the history. Property values are "robust" and that rewards the long suffering home owner. Additionally, often the quality and wisdom of the original materials and design are far superior to anything it might be replaced with.

Also of note, home owners and prospective home owners and rehabbers would be well advised to research their property's status. Is the property in a Historic Overlay Zone? Are there restrictions? Will there be any city or HUD money used? If so, it will make a lot of sense to get in touch with the historic preservation officer. Find out what can be done and what can't be done FIRST, before commitments and plans are made. When you know what you're getting into, it's a lot easier to work with the preservation officer instead of feeling like you're at odds.

And Ashley, there will be legions of future homeowners who will be eternally grateful that the 120 year old, old growth, irreplaceable windows and sashes were saved and preserved. They will have heard their neighbors cursing the cheap vinyl windows that are failing after 10 years and be glad you were here, fighting the good fight. I know I am.