Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Before/After Days


It's been over a year since I updated the house/urban living blog o' mine. Since March 2013 (yep!), so much has evolved in my life. I am still living in my wonderful Camelback Shotgun house deep in the urban neighborhood of Portland (Louisville, KY). In fact, I am spending much more time here courtesy of a divorce and a change of job duties. In case I never mentioned it, I previously lived back and forth between here and Northern Indiana due to a job transfer and traveled north every weekend (a story for another time).

The divorce (still pending and still vicious) was petitioned July 2013 almost to the date of my house purchase anniversary (7/12). It's been stressful on my mind, heart and finances to say the least. House renovations basically came to a screeching halt while horrible, greedy lawyers and The Evil Ex sucked away all my savings. My vow to only use cash on the house work had to be adjusted. Sadly.

But, work has commenced and I am actually feeling more in sync with my old house and my new challenging life. I've made beautiful friends, worked in my community by planting trees and gardens, learned to be ultra-frugal and accepted that my life is headed in new and curious ways. I've made great strides even in the wake of a massive war that is divorce. My community involvement, friends and this house have helped me stay above swirling, dark waters. Well, all of those things plus my dogs (new guy joined our motley crew in December).

I hope to pick back up where I left off here. Catch up on all the sorid details. I have lots of photos to share and lots of stories to tell about the neighborhood and house that finally gave me a home. I want to jump back into the adventures of saving the soul of an abandoned house located deep in a transiting urban neighborhood or perhaps this is simply the story of saving the soul of an abandoned girl living deep in a transiting urban life.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Cool Idea

I came across this interesting group called Good Garbage based here in Louisville. I found it via another local blog, D.I.Y Louisville. The group serves the community by providing an outlet for artists to find, repurpose and reuse items destined for the landfill. I love it! Obviously, having purchased a boarded up, abandoned house in the "throw-away" part of Louisville, I am very much pro-repurposing! I applaud the group!

I also would love to utilize this group. See, I have this idea and I have no idea if the rest of the neighborhood would stand behind me, but I would love to see it happen. Being so close to a major river, but being cut off by a highway has posed a lot of issues for this area. The area that borders the highway is blighted. At some point before I moved to Portland, a group of artists tried to brighten it up by placing street art along the 6-ft chain link fence that separated the sidewalk from the grassy area that runs along the highway. I used to drive by and admire the various works made from recycled materials. Sadly, all of the art installations were removed except for a series of colorful letters.

What I think would be wonderful would be to see a wall replace the ugly chain link next to the highway on ramp. One, the wall would help cut down the noise pollution. And, if it was constructed back a little, trees could be planted to help cut down on general pollution. The view is not worth keeping thanks to really bad city planning at some point in Louisville history (it is literally a view of a highway).

What I think would be even better, though, would be to set the neighborhood apart with art. Why not incorporate a wall made of recycled mosaic art? Can you imagine a wall with a depiction of the neighborhood's history (think steamboats) or a river view of the city. Maybe the faces of past residents. Materials could be old dishes, wine bottles, old tiles, even ceramic figurines. It would keep us weird and wonderful!

While trying to find more mosaic examples and a photo of the area I am referring to in Portland, I stumbled upon this artist's blog. It seems my idea is not unique. I'm still learning who all the visionaries are in my adopted 'hood. I love his idea of incorporating a "permaculture" aspect to the street art and he clearly sees a wall in the same place as I do. I think this was the original sketch for the artwork I mentioned used to be there. I should contact this guy, but I think this group of artists have given up on Portland.

Here are some more mosaic examples:


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Bye, Bye Beautiful

Two sad neighborhood occurrences happened this week (and the last part of the one before):
  • The awesome thrift store that first brought me to the neighborhood closed for good.
  • Two more historic shotgun houses were torn down by Metro (I presume).
A couple of months ago, I attended a meeting with city officials to remove my house from the abandoned properties list. I had no problems and was applauded for being an owner-occupant. The people who helped me were gracious and kind and very much pro-revitalization of the hard hit West End of Louisville. Sadly, however, I learned then that the wonderful building that housed the thrift store was bought and plans were in store to demolish it (note to self: Take photos this week). I also heard that plans included a(nother) dollar store to be built in its place.
Then, I saw a town hall meeting to approve a Family Dollar. At first I had plans to attend and voice opposition to the plan. However, a week or so later I saw a woman walking on a very cold day from the General Dollar which is further away. I thought maybe we (as in neighbors without transportation or means to get to shopping centers) might need a Family Dollar. Of course, I have since changed my mind again and regret not going to the meeting. The Dollar General is actually only a few more blocks away, near businesses and other retail, and why is it this is the only type of business investors will bring to us. How about an Aldi's or Walgreens or other chains if this is the way it has to go? How about a sit down restaurant? Why another blessed dollar store?
When I first decided to move into this neighborhood, I was smitten with the historic houses and businesses (albeit too many of them boarded up and decaying). I loved that it is near the river and the oldest part of Louisville. It was once a busy steamboat port, the last unboarding/boarding before heading on to the mighty Mississippi. John James Audubon even once lived here and owned a mercantile with a friend.
Sadly, technology came and the choice was made to build a lock and dam further to the east. This essentially gave Louisville the steam to become a full fledged city. The neighborhood I live in began its decent into ghost-town-hood soon after it opened. Yes, Louisville killed the steamboat port town (sing to the tune 'Video Killed the Radio Star').
But, even with the demise of the port town, things were still hopping in the West End of Louisville. Just to the south, Louisville had it's own version of Harlem. Businesses, restaurateurs, artists African-American weathy and free slaves were building a thriving, prosperous and colorful community. Then, a man came along, sold Louisville on a plan to turn it into a white cake donut (sound familiar?) and killed Louisville's Harlem as well. They built a highway that cut off the main routes into these historic neighborhoods and funds were diverted to the east side of Louisville. The ghost-town disease spread.
Now, with other cities revitalizing their historic neighborhoods, Metro Louisville supposedly has a strategic plan to turn the west end around. However, their plan seems to be 'contain the impoverished and build warehouses and dollar stores everywhere else'. Many are proposing other ideas (Portland Orchard Project and Urban Louisville are both visionaries outside the usual box). What saddens me the most is that houses that are highly sought after and selling for $100K elsewhere in the city are just being torn down by heavy equipment in mine. At least one of the houses (the one pictured above) still had life and gorgeous original character. Why did no one at least salvage the wood, windows and other details? And, to make it more poignant, these two houses are located just off the major highway exit and the first houses visitors to the area would see if they headed west. Now they will get to see a Shell station and a effing dollar store.
I really think my neighborhood (and the others in the West End) are perfect for the type of revitalization seen in other Louisville neighborhoods like Highlands, St. Matthew's and 'NuLu'. I don't understand why small businesses, artisans and niche entrepreneurs are not flocking to this historic area. Is it just the stigma of urban decay? Is is the Metro? Is it just that people are more interested in McMansions and such? Maybe people are just consumed with their everyday crisis and lack interest or means to change the plan? Where are the artists, the visionaries, the hipsters, the lovers of old houses? Why does the city ignore all these investor and bank owned neglected properties until they can't be saved?
I'm not sure I am going to find any valid answers to all my questions, but I intend to at least ask. Meanwhile, I am mourning my neighborhood's latest casualties.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Creaking Old Houses

Well, I was amazed by my lack of posts in a two month time span, but what FOUR months? Here it is a new year, a different season. I seemed to have misplaced autumn altogether.

Anyway, back at the Shotgun, I have slowly (as in faster than a snail, but way slower than a turtle) been plugging away at the house rehab. I started the siding and I cannot stress how much of a change it is from the icky, rotting plywood siding to vinyl. I would have loved to put clapboard on the house, but, in the interest of not overspending what I can ever sell a property in the ghetto for and the time I need to get things done, I decided to go with vinyl. I'm not straying terribly far from the color on it now (I think it's called slate). This was mainly so I could do it in stages and it wouldn't stand out. I'm glad I chose this route as winter really came on fast and I haven't done anything but the back of the house (which was falling down and needed priority repairs).

The next side to be done will be the west side. This side gets direct wind and, even as I type this on a snowy night, I can hear the creaking of the poorly insulated walls. I had to do a temporary job of shoving insulation along the edges of the crawlspace to block the wind off of the pipes. This has pretty much been wide open to the wind and I realized the importance of wind blocking when my pipes froze last week. Fortunately, I had no damage (no thanks to the worthless plumber I called to help me thaw them out-Yes, I'm looking at you T. D.). I am hoping I don't have frozen pipes again tonight as the temperatures are supposed to rapidly drop. I am dripping the faucets as a precaution, but I am not going to like the resulting water bill.

Overall, I am still in love with the house, but she is a problem child (as was expected when I found her abandoned and neglected). I need to regain my rehabbing mojo, but winter doldrums have kept my motivation suppressed. I am hoping to start some seeds tomorrow (Feb 1st!!). And, even though the blustery snow is beautiful tonight, I am really waiting on spring to come back around.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Really? Two Months?

Well, I see I forgot I have this blog. Life just seems to get faster and faster and two months (plus!) have marched away since I closed on the Louisville house. I am working away on her, but my early zest has trickled to a bit of a slow crawl thanks to work travel and other items that have taken my focus of late.

So, to catch up, here is what I have managed to complete:

*New roof
*Office floor finished (more on that in a minute)
*Painted the living room (horrible shade that will need to be redone later)
*Painted part of the kitchen (really great color)
*Installed most of the kitchen floor
*Installed new doors
*Uninstalled cabinets in kitchen (much better!)
*Patched up some holes

Wow, looking at this list makes me feel I've hardly accomplished anything, but many of these projects took a long time, not to mention money, to complete (like the roof). I still have two major exterior projects to complete before winter gets here-siding and insulation. I still need to have the furnace examined or replaced as well. Once I get past those hurdles, it's mainly cosmetic.

I really like the neighborhood and the neighbors all seem friendly enough. The most excitement has been an accident that happen this past Sunday inches from my car (so I am parking down the street a bit now). My only gripe is that there is nothing to do around here. This is such a cool, historic area of Louisville. Where the H is the restaurants, pubs, shops? I am really hoping some revitalization happens around here at some point (sans gentrification). On the plus side, there is a Habitat Restore and a great thrift shop within walking distance to my house.

And, in "file under wonderful", I have been told I am moving to a home office! This is such great news and will not only help me save on mileage, but will give me back at least an hour of my life! This, of course, meant the office room moved from near the end of my ginormous house list to near the top. I'm not complaining; I'm ecstatic!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

West End Girl

OK, no more boo hooing about closing on the house!

The closing finally happened on July 13 (Friday!). The day of the closing I heard Pet Shop Boys' "West End Girls" twice on the radio. I hoped it was a sign of good things to come.

My first project was to gut the house of it's yicky carpet and three layers of vinyl flooring. I also had to moved all of my stuff from the apartment (bank too me to the wire on my lease) and it is currently crowded and ugly right now, but do I ever have inspiration running amok in my head. I cannot wait to dip brushes into paint, shovels into dirt, and rebuild this baby into her former glory. Only a bit more modern.

I have taken to calling her Fannie J. Glory.

Of course, I am still full of the negative nellie stories: Like the mountain of garbage I found in the front yard on the first day, or the punk guy who gave me the look of hate because of the neighbor's garbage can in his way, or the nightly domestic fights. Welcome, Friends, to the ghetto!
I do have some photos to share, but for now, I am dreamy with what will be. I will instead leave you with some links to beautiful things.

I love the blog All the Luck in the World. Check out the second and third photo on the post I linked here. Gorgeous!

And, here is a link to a Pinterest Board I made last month. I am constantly adding to it.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Day 36: Do I have a Choir?

I am starting to be a bit redundant here. Yes, another week of no progress. I am out of tears and my frustration is turning to sullen apathy at this point. I am tired of hearing that the bank does not have to abide by the same rules and regulations as the rest of the US population. I mean the rules and regulations are created by them (through our own legislation), so you would think they would be the first to uphold their end. You would think. And you can laugh. Out loud.

The listing agent has no balls to confront the bank and get this thing moving. I mean a split $500 commission just is not going to be motivation to be a strong force against the a*holes. Nope, I'm on my own in my cloud of frustration. I am the only one that seems to care that I am going to be homeless in a few weeks if this does not go through anytime soon. My buyer's agent just keeps saying "It's'd be easier if we were dealing with an individual and not a bank."

I keep thinking I get to lose my initial investment because someone didn't do and doesn't want to do their jobs.

I am afraid to push the envelope until after the paperwork is finished, but I do plan to make a HUGE congressional complaint. I will be heard. Neighborhoods? Why are you not putting together a class action against Fannie Mae and cohorts for allowing houses to rot and blight to fester? Local politicians? FUCKING care about your jurisdictions and constituents. Owner-occupants? You, too, should be questioning these unfair selling practices (i.e. only investors who do not have 'time is of the essence' issues and worries can buy at low prices; the rest of us have to buy homes from them at inflated costs and low appraisals if we hope to live in the damn thing). We lose out over and over and we allow them to walk all over us. They make rules for us to follow and then ignore them for themselves. It's not healthy or fair or sustainable. Someone needs to stop this ride.