Monday, December 6, 2010

Another Kind of Onion: Green Rehabbing 733 Ferry Street

733 Ferry Street under green-rehabbing construction.

Posted by: Noël Jones

Earlier this summer the City of Easton received $500,000 in Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds to use toward revitalizing the West Ward. NSP funding is federal money from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that is intended for revitalization of depressed neighborhoods. The City has been using the money to buy homes in the West Ward that have been foreclosed on, fix them up, and then sell them at a low price, targeting residents who

have been responsible renters in the West Ward and feel ready to become home owners. The houses will not be sold to investors, but only to residents and families who will live in the homes and take care of the property. The program aims to rehab a portion of the West Ward’s housing stock, 76% of which are historic homes over 100 years old. The City aims to focus on properties close to one another, brightening the look of the neighborhood in one focused area at a time. According to Easton’s Director of Community and Economic Development, Gretchen Lippincott, the City plans to de-convert homes that have been split into multi-unit rentals in the past, returning them to single-family homes wherever possible, to the reduce the rental density that has burdened the neighborhood in recent decades. One of the houses being green-rehabbed is 733 Ferry (pictured above) and since I live across the street, I've been watching the progress, and it is getting interesting.

I have a fantasy about the West Ward--that all the ugly stained white vinyl siding that people put up 30 years ago will get stripped away to reveal all the beautiful brick and clapboard structures underneath--and then of course that they would get re-pointed or re-painted and restore the neighborhood to its former beauty. I have nothing against new architecture, I just hate to see lovely old architecture covered up with mediocre-looking siding in a dismal state of disrepair. Well, at 733 Ferry, it looks like I am getting my wish!

The contractors pulled off the siding this week to reveal.....drumroll......fake brick siding. They dug a little deeper and found the original clapboard.

(This city's West Ward rehab project should not be confused with the similar project being managed by the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley, highlighted in my previous post, which is happening concurrently.)

Residents who apply to buy one of these green-rehabbed houses from the city must be earning under 120% of the regional mean family income, which in the Lehigh Valley is $53,522, with one out of every four homes reserved for applicants below 50% of average mean income. Applicants will be required to go to free financial counseling workshops offered by CACLV to help figure out whether or not they are financially ready to take on the responsibility of buying and taking care of a home.

733 Ferry has accepted bids for interior renovation this week, and Gretchen Lippincott says that the property should be ready for purchase this spring. Another property undergoing green-rehabbing under the NSP program is 672 Pine Street--that one turned out to have some structural issues with the foundation that need to be remedied, but bids have all been turned in, so Lippincott expects that property to be ready to purchase by this summer.

Any profit made in the sale of these homes will be fed back into the program to fund the deconversion and rehab of a third property in the area. In a previous rehabbing program through the city, 1008 Ferry was renovated, and has recently been sold to a new home owner.

Anyone interested in buying one of the homes that the city is rehabbing should contact:

Gretchen Lippincott, Director
Phone: 610-250-6719
 Fax: 610-250-6789 


tunsie said...

my friend just bought one.she told me she loves it........tunsie

Anonymous said...

megiIt's nice to see the city finally doing something for the neighborhoods. i am aware of the one they rehabbed over on the South Side,,,,,,my friend lives next door and it was an embarrassment to him and the city. Panto couldn't get anyone to do the rehab so he had the city start thier own rehab program and I believ ethe one at 1008 Ferry St that just sold is a shining jewel in the neighborhood. The fact that they rehab it as green as possible is a bonus.

Thank you to our city's refreshing to see something really being accomplished. And by the way the clean and safe thing is really working in my section of the west ward.

Anonymous said...

1008 Ferry DOES look good, I wish there was a pictuere of it 'before'; boarded up for YEARS.
I wonder, there was another program that reno'ed some homes right near the bakery. the 2 of them have continued to be vacant since the rehabs some years ago.

noel jones said...

hey tunsie--thanks for posting!

noel jones said...

Anon 8:43--I wish I had known about the 1008 rehab when it started so I could get that "before" picture--at least I have "before" photos on the other two so we can do a comparison at the end!

Dennis R. Lieb said...

I don't want this to sound like sour grapes because at this point the work being done is the best response to the current situation. My problem is with the Easton Redevlopment Authority's past intransigency on these properties.

1008 Ferry as an example: I had an investor client three years ago who would have bought that property and two other major blighted properties - one downtown and one in West Ward - when they were offered to the public through RFPs. We didn't receive any of them despite my clients past experience in major rehab work.

These projects would have been quality single family, for sale units or, in the case of downtown, mixed use, buy and hold - not speculator flips or rentals. Instead 1008 and the other WW property went to people who sat on them for two years and did nothing. The city eventually took both back and had to spend grant money to rehab Ferry while the other sits vacant. Our bid on the downtown property was the only one received and we didn't get that either. It was sold in a subsequent RFP but is now vacant and in limbo because an adjoining building critical to it's redevelopment is tied up in court.

I like to give praise when it's due but it pisses me off when I spend time and effort to get the private sector to step up and then have a city Authority screw up the deal. At least they could give reasonable explanations why they reject professional bids in favor of amatuers or others who can't finish jobs and cost us resources we could be using elsewhere.