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Wednesday, November 3,2010

East side upgrades

Unique partnership hopes to educate eastside residents on efficient and affordable home renovations

by Andy Balaskovitz
Two homes that have fallen into disrepair on Lansing’s east side and were going to be demolished will soon be models of home renovation, thanks to a partnership of the Ingham Co. Land Bank, Allen Neighborhood Center and Lansing Community College.

The homes across from each other at 1501 and 1512 E. Kalamazoo St. will be hands-on models for home restoration. About 40 students in LCC’s Environment, Design and Building Technologies Department will remodel the two homes over the course of three years, educating interested residents on their energy efficient and cost effective renovations.


As the students work, the neighborhood center will hold weekly tours inside the homes. There are also plans for monthly workshops to highlight specific aspects LCC students work on, such as windows or roofing.


Ultimately, the homes will be sold once they’re finished.


“The goal is (for residents) to learn how to do these projects themselves,” Joan Nelson, executive director of the Allen Neighborhood Center, said.


The project is called Restoration Works! The Land Bank owns the two foreclosed properties and is letting LCC students upgrade them.


Initially, the homes were up for demolition, Land Bank Chairman Eric Schertzing said.


“Without LCC, these two homes were looking at demolition,” said Schertzing, who is also the county treasurer. “It would have been tough to figure out a way to make those two houses economically viable.”


George Berghorn, chairman of the LCC building technologies department, said this project was ideal for getting students out of the classroom to experience hands-on construction.


“We were interested in finding meaningful laboratory experience for our students and connecting them with opportunities in their community,” he said.


Berghorn, an eastside resident himself, said the house at 1512 E. Kalamazoo will be tackled first. There, the students will focus on “livability retrofits,” or what it takes to fix up a red-tagged house, by fixing holes in the walls, the chimney, furnace and duct work. The second phase will focus on energy efficient retrofits, Berghorn said.


The class will focus on renovations particularly suited for craftsman-style eastside homes, Berghorn said, and will keep in mind tight budgets.


“People on the east side can see what’s possible, (with both) technology and cost,” Berghorn said.


Schertzing
said that because the properties are tax-exempt, there isn’t much value
to them at this point — about the same as if the Land Bank would have
demolished them, he said.


“It’s not a draw on our resources. We all win,” he said, adding that he hopes this is the first of many partnerships with LCC.


“We
really hope that LCC over the years will have the ability and the
desire to do this in other areas of the city,” Schertzing said. “Even
better would be young LCC students getting to know Lansing
neighborhoods.”


Allen
said these are two historic, “gorgeous” old houses with “craftsmanship
you don’t find in new builds.” The 1501 E. Kalamazoo house was built in
1922, while 1512 was built in 1916. They both were student rental houses
in the 1970s and 1980s, Nelson said.


She
said the neighborhood center will be responsible for “creating the
buzz” around the project and coordinating the tours and workshops.


She said LCC is the real “driver” of the project and echoes Schertzing’s hope that it attracts LCC students to the neighborhood.


“This
is the start of something very exciting,” Nelson said. “We think it’s a
creative response to the issue of tax foreclosed and abandoned houses.”


The project website, www.restorationworks.org, launches today and will give “up-to-the-minute records of what’s happening in and around the houses,” Nelson said.

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