Thursday, May 19, 2011

Cincinnati government "clueless". New Orleans moves 73 houses

Most cities, NOT Cincinnati, have long recognized the value of Historic Preservation as an economic development too. Case in point, New Orleans has relocated over 70 homes from the site of a new VA hospital.
This modest home is headed to a new lot and restoration
What is interesting to note is with the exception of one house, the Green Mansion , a stucco, tiled roof mansion that weighed in at an estimated 220 tons,  the vast majority of homes relocated are simple worker homes. Why move those homes you ask? Well, economic redevelopment. These homes were moved to blighted neighborhoods nearby. Neighborhood devasted by hurricanes, disinvestment and poverty. The logic?

The Green Mansion was moved at a cost of 43,000 and 25,000 grant provides for new foundation, Restored the house should be worth a couple of million. Its restoration will provide jobs and increase the tax base.
These relocated homes will all be restored under the watchful eye of the preservation commission and will help 'set the standard' for neighborhoods they are placed in. Once these homes are restored and resold they provide real estate comps that will make vacant houses around them economically viable to restore. Most of the work is being done by local non profits and development corporations using a variety of funding including federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) money. New Orleans "gets" the value of historic preservation as an economic development tool. The new hospital will need quality housing nearby. these restored homes will be attractive to young medical professionals employed at the hospital. Existing residents struggling to keep and restore their homes will have real value returned to their neighborhoods meaning they can once again obtain loans and insurance.

Some questioned the logic of moving "unremarkable' workers homes as part of the Indianapolis canal project. Today these modest homes, close to town, fetch upwards of 300K
Other cities understand this too. Indianapolis as part of its canal project which has generated hundreds of millions in private investment and redevelopment moving thousand back downtown, used  moving historic homes part of that redevelopment , moving many homes to Fayette street a new conservation district established by the city. Properties that were near the canal development and in the way of the IUPUI campus expansion were moved to the 900 block of Fayette street. Many questioned the 'common sense' of moving worker class houses but today those working class houses command prices upward of 300,000.00. That development also led to the turnaround of the Ransom Place neighborhood nearby.

So its been proved over and over again that moving and restoring historic homes, even modest ones, makes sound economic sense. So the question becomes why is MSD and the city wanting to fire up the bulldozers and level a few blocks of Queen City and the entire Northside of Westwood Blvd when  there are available vacant lots closeby. Often across the street that are available to move. If we use the logic of MSD that daylighting Lick Run will not only solve the sewer overflow issue but create a public facility that will raise property values then logic dictates that the very homes they want to put in a landfill will be very valuable prime property if they simply move them across the street.

This remarkably original Westwood Blvd Queen Anne home sits in the way of the MSD project . Does it make sense to put this in a  landfill or move it across the street where it can be restored and overlook the Lick Run Park? Does it make sense to use our tax dollars for demo or relocation?
Before we rush to bulldoze, we should explore other options as these homes and business buildings as part of a "gentrified Fairmount" will raise property values and increase the county tax base and provide needed jobs in the community. Monies are out there to relocate many of these homes and private developers, sensing the ability to turn a profit could also step in. The relocation of many of these properties makes sound economic sense. There is a proved track record that relocation and restoration spurs revitalization of neighborhoods so why are we not doing it? A question that we should be asked of MSD, the city council and the Mayor.


Karen Anne said...

Was that very attractive little yellow house originally a two family house? It looks like it had two doors.

Paul Wilham said...

Yes Karen it was a double. These houses when moved were all stabilized, put on new foundations and the exteriors were done. Some were sold that way others were redone completely. This one was made into a single family but the restrictive covenants meant the original door opening must remain.