March 12, 2014

One Home at a Time ~ The Chestnut Hill Neighborhood

In today's Salisbury Post ~ a wonderful article about the Chestnut Hill Neighborhood Revitalization and the homes the Realtor® Greg Rapp sold through the Historic Salisbury Foundation to kick-start the energy in this neighborhood!

The following is adapted and excerpted from the Salisbury Post, 

Wineka column: Can Chestnut Hill make a comeback? 

Posted: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 1:33 a.m. 


To read the full article, click HERE:
http://www.salisburypost.com/article/20140312/SP01/140319897/1184/wineka-column-can-chestnut-hill-make-a-comeback




"With the way it looked before, few people would have tackled this house at 814 S. Jackson St. But Stevens, 51, says he saw the 1900 house's “good bones” and hopes it can be a place where he can live the rest of his life.  Stevens also is taking a chance on Chestnut Hill, the sometimes forgotten area of Salisbury between the West Square Historic District and Fulton Heights.
In width, Chestnut Hill extends from South Main to Fulton streets; in length, from Thomas Street south to include one of the city's greatest assets, the park-like Chestnut Hill Cemetery.  For much of the 20th century, Chestnut Hill stood as an important working-class neighborhood in Salisbury.  Now it's an area targeted for revitalization. It faces challenges such as absentee landlords and neglected properties, transient residents, changing demographics, increasing crime and withering church memberships.

Over the past year, a quiet movement has started, aimed at reversing Chestnut Hill's decline. It started with Historic Salisbury Foundation's taking options on three neglected houses on South Jackson Street.
Goals include saving and rehabilitating Chestnut Hill's historic houses; returning homes to single-family, owner-occupied status; making the neighborhood safer, cleaner and more attractive; gaining official recognition of Chestnut's Hill historic importance (possibly a National Register nomination); and finding ways to bring residents together regularly and make them feel like stakeholders again.  Street signs are being designed and created to designate the Chestnut Hill boundaries and promote the neighborhood's identity.  Planning has started on forming a neighborhood watch group.
And people such as Stevens, and his next door neighbors, Timothy and Elysia Demers, are approaching their new stake in Chestnut Hill as one room, one house and one block at a time.
Stevens bought his South Jackson Street home from Historic Salisbury Foundation for $12,000 — the price of a good used car.
He liked the high ceilings, hardwood floors, old bathroom tiles, ornate woodwork, the front porch and a garage that's big enough to hold his classic 1965 LeMans convertible and still leave room for a workshop.  “I had that view,” Stevens says. “I could see all the potential in the house. And I've loved old houses, always.”  Much of his first four months has been spent tearing out things, such as closets that hid mantels or replacing wood damaged by water coming in through broken windows.
Stevens considers 80 percent of the work cosmetic. He has a full-time job as a handyman, but he spends two hours every morning working on the house before going to his regular job. He returns in the evenings and on weekends to keep working — he can handle all the plumbing, wiring and carpentry himself.  The walls were painted in neon pinks, oranges, greens and yellows, and previous tenants and vandals seemed to damage parts of the house just for the sake of tearing them up.  “It was a real big mess,” Stevens says.  He expects to be living in the house within four weeks. It will cost him less than what he was paying in rent.   Stevens consciously spends time talking to his neighbors. He likes the mix of people in Chestnut Hill — white, black, Latino, old and young, he says.  “You get to know your neighbors, and they look out for you,” Stevens says.
Of three houses on South Jackson Street that Historic Salisbury Foundation took options on, two have been sold ~ (by Realtor® Greg Rapp with Wallace Realty). Susan Sides, a local historian and past president of the foundation, says the organization is looking at options on a couple of other properties.  “One home at a time,” she says. “... This neighborhood offers new opportunities for home ownership.”  
While there is a solid inventory of homes, the Chestnut Hill challenges include many rental properties with absentee owners, and several properties have become nuisances and eyesores. For example, there is a house  that is burned out and eaten up with termites. Chestnut Hill streets reveal several other boarded-up homes.  Sides stresses demolition isn't necessarily the answer and she supports a city moratorium both on demolition or using dilapidated houses in Chestnut Hill for fire training.
Timothy Demers and his wife, Elysia, recently bought the two-story Victorian house next to Stevens on South Jackson Street. As with Stevens, they are tackling their restoration of the house room by room. Timothy Demers says concentrating on each task daily has been highly therapeutic in his continuing recovery from a brain injury.
The couple bought the house through Historic Salisbury Foundation for $17,500, via Realtor® Greg Rapp.  “We're pretty proud of it,” Demers says, though he acknowledges the home, which once served as a duplex, was in horrible shape and still presents many challenges ahead.  The couple are doing much of the renovations themselves. As for Chestnut Hill, “we all have a goal to live in a nice, clean neighborhood,” Timothy says. “I want people to feel safe walking through the neighborhood.”  Demers says nobody, in a long time, has loved their new house like they do.  “We've had the opportunity to come in and do the job, and we're the people for it,” Timothy says. “I feel like we're in the right place.”  (Mark Wineka, Wineka Column: Can Chestnut Hill Make a Comeback, Salisbury Post, March 12, 2014)
With all of its challenges, today's Chestnut Hill has many assets to build on such as many locally owned and viable businesses, a good stock of older homes, the long established churches and the city-maintained Chestnut Hill Cemetery.  If you think you'd like to be a part of an exciting neighborhood revitalization, contact Greg Rapp at 704.213.6846 and get involved today!  You, too,  could own a home for the price of a used car and a little elbow grease!