Standing outside the newly renovated home on Memphis Avenue in Cleveland’s Old Brooklyn neighborhood, one would never have guessed that the house was weeks away from certain demolition. Thanks largely to the efforts of the Old Brooklyn Community Development Corporation (CDC), in partnership with the Cuyahoga Land Bank, Wells Fargo, and the National Community Stabilization Trust (NCST), the 100-plus-year-old house was not only saved from the wrecking ball but lovingly restored into a modern gem.
The road to its current renovated glory was nothing short of a miracle, says Jayme Lucas-Bukszar, Neighborhood Development Project Manager at the Old Brooklyn CDC. The property was very close to demolition in 2015 when Wells Fargo donated the property to the community development corporation, and then again it almost met with its demolition fate in 2016. “We held onto the property for a couple of years while we tried to find funding to renovate it, but we just couldn’t make it a reality,” says Lucas-Bukszar. “We even went so far as to contact the Cuyahoga Land Bank to ask for its help in demolishing the house last year.”
On the recommendation of Cuyahoga Land Bank staff, Old Brooklyn CDC tried a last-minute Hail Mary pass and contacted Wells Fargo in the hopes of securing a grant to help with renovation costs. The last-ditch effort worked, as Wells Fargo donated $25,000 towards the renovation of the home.
“With the help of Wells Fargo, we were able to gut the house completely and start from the ground up,” says Lucas-Bukszar. Renovations, which ended up totaling $82,000, included removing an enclosed porch and building a new open-air porch, new framing and drywall, and all new major systems including heating and air conditioning, plumbing and electrical. A modern kitchen with granite countertops, French doors, stylish new bathrooms and a partially finished attic perfect for a child’s playroom show that no item was overlooked during the renovation.
The Old Brooklyn CDC has renovated 35 homes in its neighborhood since 2012, adding more than $2.2 million in improvements in housing stock. But this was the largest, most significant renovation to date.
“This is a highly visible property on a main thoroughfare in our neighborhood,” says Lucas-Bukszar. “Having the house sit dilapidated for years was difficult, but demolishing a house in this area of the neighborhood would have a negative impact on the entire community.”
“Wells Fargo is committed to investing in the future of our communities through our property donation program, CUSP (Community & Urban Stabilization Program) and we are honored to be a part of the transformation in this neighborhood,” says Ann Tenner, Community Outreach Representative, REO Community Development for Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. “The exceptional work done on this property by these groups will have a huge impact on the neighborhood and the community.”
The renovation of the property has already had a positive trickle-down effect on the surrounding neighborhood. Volunteers recently assisted a neighbor in applying a new exterior coat of paint and helped repair the front porch, and another neighbor is also making substantial repairs to his home. “That whole section of the street is dramatically improved,” says Lucas-Bukszar.
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