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RestorationConsultant

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  1. Wally, the decision to find a new steward for Nagel Merz House was a tough one. On one hand I would have loved to hold it , on the other hand there is work to do and I don't have time to do it. We have 3 full restoration projects going on right now in Knox Hill, I publish the Rustbelt Preservationist blog almost daily. I have two major stencil/mural restoration projects to do for clients this year in other states, plus our normal client consulting load nationally (I'm booked solid through 2016). To that, add running our own historic stencil business, our antique business, and we are working on getting the design center up this year. Plus I run the Knox Hill Save not Raze program and am on the Board of Directors for Knox Hill. Not to mention 'nudging' MSD into advertising four historic eligible buildings for move rather than simply demo them. I am hopeful we can find the right buyer for Nagele-Merz house and thus far I have several inquiries from mostly out of state preservationists interested, plus an inquiry from thisoldhouse magazine about doing a piece on it. So hopefully I can share the "preservation love" with others who can restore some of these homes we have kept away from slumlords by buying an stabilizing them and lighted my own workload just a little bit.
  2. The problem is that selective demolition turns a potentially restorable property into an undevelopable lot ( in the next 10-20 years) that becomes a dump site, giving community leaders a whole new set of problems because the city doesn't maintain that lot and wont for 5-6 years until they take it for the demo lien. It then will be sold in a few years for 5.00 at the annual property sale and some investor from our of state buys it who will never do anything with it. Cincinnati is following the Detroit urban renewal model and we all know that did to Detroit. The facts are it cost 12-15K to demo a house. The city usually has some orders which can be remedied via legal claim and award of property in court. What should happen is the city seeks an award, places the property with landbank and the landbank gives it to group like PHW who then secures it and stabilizes the outside only with say 4000 of the 12 K demo money. A stabilized house adds value to the neighborhood. The biggest problem the city has is it scares away legitimate people trying to come in and fix up property by laying all the prior owners offenses on them and treating them the same way. What I call the 'slumlord assumption" that anyone buying in these neighborhood actually would want to restore an old house, the inspector views as worthless.. Case in point: http://victorianantiquitiesanddesign.blogspot.com/2014/08/city-drives-out-homeownerrestorer-in.html And I can bet the new owner is in the same boat. The management at city hall is beholding and friends with demo contractors. the inspectors have no incentive to work with property owners, only to tag things so the city gets more federal monies for demo. This is not about improving neighborhoods its about a city an agency addicted to federal money to keep its bloated staff going. We need to lobby the city council that CDBG funds (Community DEVELOPMENT Block Grant funds) are primarily used for stabilization not DEMOLITION. This is why Newport and Covington are turning around people are moving across the river to restore to not deal with this city.
  3. One thing I've noted from my Rustbelt Preservationist Blog is there appears to be no shortage of people from both coasts looking to buy Historic homes in the Midwest. http://rustbeltpreservationist.blogspot.com/ These are people from a diverse employment spectrum, but almost all are not necessarily 'location dependent". Some are tech types who want to develop their products in a less tech intensive environment, others are writers or production development people and others have internet businesses. When you consider that if you are willing to live in the Midwest its entirely possibly to buy a mansion for 300K in many cities and live like a king, or if you have kids and want to raise them in a more 'wholesome small town environment" there are tons of towns with great architecture and good school systems. But typically less than an hour or two drive to a bigger city. In my opinion the media and most people have been far too focused on the urban 'hipster' revitalization theories and less in the fact the Midwest has incredible architecture and that is highly appealing to many who are not "location dependent". I see how long the 'grand homes last once they get some national exposure and more often than not they are bought by someone moving to the Midwest not trying to escape it.
  4. For those that may be interested, Four Landmark eligible structures in S Fairmount will be headed to demo next year UNLESS someone is interested in buying and moving them. YES for once we were able to pressure MSD and the city into at least trying to let something be saved. More details about this on my blog: http://victorianantiquitiesanddesign.blogspot.com/2014/12/last-chance-looms-near-for-four.html The two residential structures are both good candidates for move. The frame Queen Anne would be the cheapest to move and is one of ONLY three Queen Anne residential structures in S Fairmount, The other two are both on top of the hill in the Knox Hill neighborhood. The commercial is not impossible as there are lots across and down the street. Anyone who would be interested I would advise to contact one of the nationally known building movers as local companies want 3-4 times what the people who do this nationally would charge. The most important building is the convent building.The convent was designed by John F. Sheblessy, who was educated at the Chicago Art Institute and the Armour Institute of Technology. He practiced in Chicago and Louisville before moving to Cincinnati in 1907. Sheblessy designed several Roman Catholic churches and other institutional buildings in Cincinnati and its surrounding vicinity. This building is a long shot to move because of its size but if a corporate entity came along it would make excellent offices. While MSD is likely viewing this as an "excruciating exercise" they have been 'forced' to do, for 106 compliance and don't expect anyone will be interested and they will bulldoze them, this is the FIRST time we have the county and city talking about at least allowing moving and saving something. They are becoming advertised nationally on HistoricProperties.com and several preservation blogs will be promoting the availability of these, so with national advertising there is a chance. With the city being viewed nationally as not pro preservation because of the Gamble house, Corryville, Glencoe and most recently the Arch street properties, this would be a good thing if at least one of these could be saved. This is important because with the widening of Westwood some 30 buildings built between 1860-1890 will be lost and if we can set a precedent here, this would be useful don the road when we have to deal with those building being endangered.
  5. I figure three trips to permits, one time to see what they want, a second time for them to tell you what you brought back wont work ad third trip to meet with a department supervisor who usually agrees that what you brought the first time is enough. The people at the permit desks are not consistent. I would really recommend you set up a meeting with Ed Cunningham, if you can show him what you want to do, how you plan on getting there and how the city benefits, things will go smoother. As a consultant I work with cities all across the country on historic projects and Cincinnati is absolutely the worst in terms of consistency . For a city with the architectural assets they have, they seem bent on demoing all of it and ultimately putting themselves out of a job because there will be no tax base to pay their salaries. There is a reason Covington and Newport are bouncing back and we have thousands of properties on a demo list...lack of cooperation and this city's typical adversarial stance.
  6. First if an LLC owns it explain to them the city will place lien on the vacant land. Honestly if you have to pay a lot it for it , it may not defray the cost of what you are about to get into. The city will REQUIRE you to post the equivalent of the demo cost (about 15K). You would have to show that 1.) you have purchased the property 2.) That you have obtained liability insurance (usually a million dollars). 3.)You will then have to submit some form of restoration plan to the city along with probably architect stamped drawings and an engineering report. 4.) You will have to pull permits for literally everything (add a few thousand for permits) 5.) You will have to PROVE you have financial resources to restore it (cash, because you wont be able to get a loan on a condemned house). 6.) You will not be allowed to live in while you are restoring it. So add in the cost of replacing your tools and probably the stuff you just fixed as you will be broken into by scrappers and heroin addicts. They will also likely, once it gets to a certain point, want you to apply for a VBML waiver (which also cost time and money). Unless this is a one of a kind home done by a famous architect and surrounded by high dollar houses..you will probably go bankrupt, or after years of fighting the city, (which should be congratulating you for saving it and returning it to the tax roles) you will simply walk away. Cincinnati has some really great homes that need restoring that do not have this level of red tape. I could not, in good conscience advise you to put yourself through all the misery ahead of you. In the very best of circumstances, saving historic homes is an uphill battle in Cincinnati..one that is at this point? You probably should walk away.
  7. No. while the city has in the VBML ordinance the ability to concert for example the VBML 'fine' into a lien, they do not do it (basically because they get sued). So somebody buys a property (often a foreclosure) from a bank and when you do the title work you get a clear title usually from FHA since they usually have these and FHA has NO WAY of knowing about city orders. VBML is unique to Cincinnati and most locals don't know about it, nor do lenders. You do everything you should do. You do a title search, you buy your home expecting to fix it and move in and you are getting it ready and a few months in you get a VBML order (kicked from the prior owner) AND you are told you cannot occupy the home. Which as we all know if imperative in most neighborhoods to keep from getting broken into and ripped off. Even worse you now cant get a loan on it because banks wont make loans on "encumbered property with threat of legal action and liens". So the out of pocket money you spent trying to get the house to appraise for enough to get a loan is now impossible as you've just been effectively "redlined' by the city.
  8. We all know that city inspection has a 'one size fits all" approach to buildings and once its got orders on it its almost impossible to do anything with it. Today on my Blog I wrote about a man in Price Hill who is about to throw in the towel on a house he bought, puts thousands into, and now he has it on ebay where he will be lucky to get 10 cents on the dollar. http://victorianantiquitiesanddesign.blogspot.com/2014/08/city-drives-out-homeownerrestorer-in.html I was struck by his honesty in how he was blindsided by the city for just buying a house and trying to do the right thing with it. "You would think when a man with no criminal record goes into a neighborhood , hires the unemployed to work , starts fixing up property ,trying to be a good neighbor, and making a home . Local government would want to do everything possible to assist , not fine -fee -and harass . . By the time I would be able to move in , I would have paid the city the cost of the house " The SAD thing here is this is MOST people's experience with this city. You come in and you try to SAVE something and your worst enemy, the one throwing up red tape and roadblocks, is the city vacant buildings task force and city legal for the 'bad deeds' of a prior owner. Our current policies are not working and probably contributing to Covington and Newport's preservation efforts because people would rather buy across the river than deal with City of Cincinnati. This case is a perfect illustration of the problem and I encourage everyone to get involved and try to educate the new mayor and council to the fact that we need SERIOUS policy change. When someone comes in and is clearly demonstrating they are doing the right thing the city should back off. Maybe there is a way to turn this situation around. We need to keep this man in our community not drive him away and maybe, just maybe , its not too late. We cannot grow our city when Vacant Building Task Force and city Inspections are making it impossible to effect change in our neighborhoods. We have to stop 'criminalizing' historic preservation and restoration. We should be rewarding people like this for coming in and fixing things.
  9. First I would NEVER recommend doing your first restoration of a 5000 sq ft house. In spite of people saying "I will live there forever" most people don't. Large houses take longer to do, and cost far more money than you will ever expect . Home inspectors will cover the basics; Roof conditions, electrical, HVAC stuff like that. They are not structural engineers and can't determine "potential issues". If you are in a position to pay cash for the house, you should know that the bank wants to get rid of it. Typically if a house is listed at 30K I'll offer 7500.00 and go up to 10K. The longer a bank holds, the more it costs them. The yard mowing, the guys who will have to keep coming out and boarding it. Do not let the Realtor fool you in to thinking a foreclosures is a "great deal". Often you are better off to pay more for a "habitable house" or one that hasn't been updated. So many foreclosures were redone at the real estate boom and the work was slip shod. Look for city orders that may be against the house. I know people who have bought condemned homes ( that you would not assume were condemned) and have spent years fighting the city to save them. A restoration is expensive, plain and simple. You need to get someone whose done restoration to advise you as to what you need. This should NOT be the contractor you hire. You want to do your homework, understand the code requirements and prepare a bid specs of what YOU want and actually need. Do not let the contractor tell you what you need. 3 bids a must, License and insurance must be checked and you want a "no sub clause" on things like the roof. Many roof contractors hire subs who are not contractors, have no insurance, often have illegal workers who are not experienced. If that "illegal" worker falls off your roof, guess who gets sued? You do and you will probably lose your house. I require in some trades that all workers must provide US ID and must be minimally proficient in English (communication is a safety issue). Painting contractors must be EPA certified and must follow lead safe procedure's. If they don't you could find a stop work order on your house, and you do not want the EPA opening a can of worms If they find asbestos add 40K for additional abatement My general rule of thumb, Get the outside envelope done first. Roof/gutters/downspouts. Window rebuild/storms and tuck-pointing or siding repairs..THEN do the inside. The pretty stuff comes dead last after the insulation, HVAC, electrical, plumbing. 70-125 dollars a sq foot is not uncommon in a typical restoration, (not the crap that "flippers" do and call restoration), if you are hiring most things out. YOU want to do it right the first time. Better to buy a house with period light fixtures, mantels and staircase in good shape and maybe pay more that a "bargain" basket case that will require you to go out and buy VERY expensive salvage to complete it. Again I would NEVER recommend anyone buy a 5000 sq ft home their first time out, because you will be looking for a marriage counselor or a divorce attorney before you ever get done. I deal with the aftermath of restoration gone wrong every day and its not pretty!
  10. And that raises the 'different standards' argument that if you area preferred contractor the city looks the other was. I know of homes that were VBML'd and condemned and demoed over minor issues and you have structure like this with clear structural issues that need more immediate attention. I spent a great deal of time with city officials to get city inspectors to "back off" the overly aggressive VBML task force. Unfortunately the VBML has become a 'revenue stream' for the city. WE use the majority of our CDBG (Community DEVELOPMENT Block Grant) monies on demolition with no redevelopment component. This results in an erosion of our tax base, leaves communities with the issues of vacant lots and illegal dumping since the city has no money to cut the lots. That was the primary reason we started our save not raze program which acquires endangered property and stabilizes it. This is an activity that frankly the city should be doing with CDBG funding. Other cities like Milwaukee do this: http://city.milwaukee.gov/HistoricHouses In a conversation last year with Ed Cunningham, he related that he was only allocated 200,000 for stabilization efforts CITY WIDE! that allows him to do two projects one in Price Hill and one in Bond Hill. At the same time we demo 250 homes. Clearly there is no leadership in the preservation community and the demo contractor lobby is running the show. We should be devoting a majority of our CDBG funding to stabilization efforts. That will require council action to seek modification of our CDBG grant applications to refocus our efforts.
  11. Glad to see this topic is reopened. Just for anyone's interest who may have been watching this unfold, the State Ave property is now shown as pending. I was told there were multiple offers, so apparently there was great deal of interest and its location did not deter those who wanted a great restoration of a great house. This is good sign of the ability of neighborhoods to restore and that preservation can trigger change and move forward any neighborhood in a positive manner and is a good thing for the ENTIRE Cincinnati preservation community.
  12. This sits on a large estate lot so it doesn't have a "neighborhood context". However it strikes me as something that would easily integrate in to most Victorian era neighborhood settings. I have not seen the inside of it but I understand the interior is mostly salvaged materials.
  13. OK how about this: This was constructed by a Preservationist friend of mine in Northern California for his country house restoration. He also owns the famed "Russian Embassy" house in San Francisco. New Construction, but architectural salvage from demolished property (legally rescued pre demo) was integrated into the structure. This appears as a classic carriage house. I actually plan on doing something very similar on an upcoming restoration project to go with a large second empire mansion.
  14. I don't have that address, its an entire neighborhood of "new/old" stuff out in suburbia in a former cornfield. YOU can google Villages of West Clay and likely get an address. Their town square is interesting, they even have an new art deco CVS store. Reminds me of Disneyland
  15. This is new construction, however its new construction in a new "old neighborhood" development. called Village of West Clay in Indiana. Some of the stuff like this is almost spot on. My only critique is the lack of dormers on the front of the mansard roofline, but the roof execution. These kind of 'old town neighborhoods are being developed out in suburbia where 'allegedly' you have that hoem town feel, your kids can ride their bikes to the "New town square" and you have great schools, and security because many of these kind of developments are gated. You could drop something like this in just about any historic neighborhood but the bigger question in my mind is there are so many real houses out there that are endangered, do new developments like West Clay hurt preservation efforts or help them. Does a 2-3 million dollar "faux Victorian' do anything to help preservation? Now it may 'inspire' some who would look at this and say I can restore the real thing for a lot less, or does this cheapen historic preservation overall? thoughts?
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