Rebuilt HUD home impresses visitors
“I wish it was mine,” proclaimed Cleveland Heights author and longtime resident Marian Morton, referring to a recently renovated home on Westover Road.
She was among more than 200 people who attended the Aug. 13 open house hosted by the Home Repair Resource Center (HRRC), the Cleveland Heights nonprofit that spearheaded the reclamation of this previously neglected property.
The celebration marked the completion of an 18-month effort by HRRC’s subsidiary, Home in the Heights, to restore the house. During a brief ribbon-cutting ceremony by Mayor Ed Kelley, HRRC Board Chairman Mike Gaynier thanked the many partners for making the project possible. Then Project Manager David Hunter turned they keys over to new owners Nadelane Joseph and Mark Finkenbine.
“The work on that house is phenomenal,” observed Council Member Mark Tumeo. “It sets the benchmark for future renovation projects in Cleveland Heights.” The project's high quality is why he believes the house was sold so quickly.
Joseph and Finkenbine were only the third prospects to see the house; they walked through it when it was stll being gutted, Gaynier said. They paid $181,500 for the property, which was sold through Howard Hanna Real Estate Services.
Less than a year ago, the home was an eyesore on a lovely street in the Forest Hill neighborhood. It had been vacant for three years. This spring, after several delays, Home in the Heights, secured ownership from the city, and financed its restoration. Hunter shepherded the six-month process that upgraded almost every major system in the house, while making it energy efficient and using green building practices.
The City of Cleveland Heights was a critical partner in the project. In 2008, the city obtained 28 homes from the federal government through a program to address HUD-owned foreclosed properties. The Westover house is the first of these to be brought back online.
Hunter worked closely with Cleveland Heights Housing Manager Rick Wagner to determine which houses were feasible to renovate. HRRC hoped to renovate about a dozen of the homes, but last year's credit-market collapse forced it to limit the project to three properties. The other two are on Qulliams and Edison roads; HRRC's goal is to complete one of those by January.
Tuemo said four of the other 28 HUD houses have been demolished. The city has sold one parcel to a neighbor, is developing a community garden on one, and will land-bank two parcels. Another eight houses will be demolished using federal stimulus funds; they aren't cost effective to repair. The city is working on plans for the others.
The Home Repair Resource Center was established in 1971 to maintain and strengthen the houses of Cleveland Heights to support the community's rich diversity. Its programs help residents complete repairs to their homes (do-it-yourself and contracted), advocate for improved housing, and provide financial assistance, individual counseling and financial literacy classes. In 38 years, the organization has facilitated more than $13 million in home repairs. To learn more or make a donation, call 216-381-6100 or visit www.hrrc-ch.org.
Susie Kaeser is on the board of the Home Repair Resource Center.