IT’S BEEN SITTING THERE, dark and dormant, for so long now, you probably don’t even notice it anymore. It’s the house on the corner of Washington and Lincoln… the one that’s been in a constant state of disrepair, or rehabilitation, with very few visible signs of progress.
I reached out to the owner, at least who I think is the owner, but haven’t heard back. I guess when you don’t have anything to report, there’s no sense responding to questions. Questions like… what’s going on there? And… what’s your plan? Ok, so I’m not 60 Minutes, but I’m sure you wonder too. Is anything good ever going to happen with the house on the corner?
A few years ago some work was done and it appeared there was hope for new life. But that was short-lived. I also seem to recall the owner going public with comments about finally making the house move-in ready. Alas, it never went much further, and now the only residents are likely of the wildlife kind… happy to have the place to themselves.
The structure itself looks like it’s worth saving. Good bones, as they say. And certainly in today’s market, any house that’s even remotely inhabitable has value.
According to Dennis Stachewicz, the city’s Director of Planning and Community Development, the property has gone through a number of owners, none of whom it seems have been able to make their dreams come true. Whatever those dreams were.
One question we usually ask is… why does the city allow this to continue? Don’t we have ordinances that address property maintenance?
Yes, we do. And you can find those on the city’s website, outlined in the International Property Maintenance Code. If you have some free time, you can check it out. It covers everything from A to… W. (Nothing under X, Y, or Z. Either there are no regulations that start with those letters or the code’s authors simply got tired after writing 30 some pages of potential violations.)
Here’s the skinny. Yes, there are lots of rules about what you can and can’t do on your property. For example, it’s a violation if: “Siding and masonry joints including joints between the building envelope and the perimeter of windows, doors and skylights are not maintained, weather resistant or watertight.” Did you know that?
The regulations, even those that seem unnecessarily specific, like the one above, are important to maintain a level of quality and safety in our buildings. And though some may seem excessive, they’re all there for a reason.
What does this have to do with the house on the corner of Washington and Lincoln? Or with any number of other properties around town that don’t meet the drive-by eye test? Even with the written code, there is only so much the city can do. Much of that boils down to personal liberties. As in… you can’t tell me what to do with my own property.
The city walks the fine line between a violation and a property owner’s rights. In most cases, officials try to work with offenders to fix the problem without imposing fines or other disciplinary measures. In some cases, money is an issue. In others, it’s simply apathy. Regardless, outcomes are all that matter, and on the corner in question, the outcome to this point is unsatisfactory.
I had heard that the Veridea Group was interested in purchasing the property and making it whole again, just so they wouldn’t have an eyesore right across the street from their attractive commercial development. Unless that’s still in the works, it looks like we’re going to have to live with the calamity on the corner for a while longer.
Maybe, as we celebrate Presidents’ Day in a couple weeks, the current owner will decide it’s time to do the right thing and fix up the property on the corner of Washington and Lincoln.
Or maybe, it’s time to call in Mike Potts.
Do you know Mike? He’s one of the owners of Lakeshore Park, the commercial complex across from McCarty’s Cove. Mike is also in the construction biz, owner of Tamarack Custom Builders.
Mike can build you a new house, but his true passion lies in RE-building… bringing new life to older structures. “I enjoy seeing and finding pieces of history inside the fabric of buildings. It’s always a window into the past when we open up walls.”
There are plenty of other benefits to reconstruction as well, not the least of which is the conservation of usable assets. “I’ve been to many landfills and transfer stations and the amount of good materials and items dumped on a daily basis is astounding. In a world facing climate emergency, the waste of resources is concerning to me.”
Mike also builds boats, like the one he’s seen with above. Attending to his commitment to repurpose whenever possible, this seaworthy vessel was built using wood reclaimed from an old sauna. “Almost every project I do involves salvaging and repurposing of materials. Any time I can gather enough similar materials, it provides opportunities for creative reuse of stuff.”
There are tangible benefits to Mike’s practices too, including “historic preservation of unique structures as well as keeping discarded materials out of landfills. Renovation can also be a way to keep people in their existing homes and help to preserve communities.”
I asked Mike what he thinks could be done with the house on the corner of Washington and Lincoln. He said a lot of the cool stuff, things you find in older houses like a fireplace, stained-glass windows, and natural wood floors, has likely already been removed or covered over. “I think they made a good start and could have had a good finished product but it didn’t work out that way. The building is still in good shape and could be finished up relatively quickly. Hopefully, the current owner has a plan and funding to get it done after all these years.”
A plan and funding. Yes, hopefully the owner of the house on the corner of Washington and Lincoln has at least a little of each.