December 28, 2018

Poplar Lawn: “Ugly House” sells for more than $150,000

Key Ceremony to take place on January 3, 2019

On January 3rd The Cameron Foundation, Virginia LISC and project:HOMES will host a Key Ceremony to celebrate the sale and new homeownership of the newly renovated house at 135 Liberty Street in Petersburg’s Poplar Lawn Historic District.

135 Liberty Street — before renovation

135 Liberty Street was a vacant and severely blighted historic property, with multiple safety and code violations. After extensive renovations, the once unlivable home has been brought back to life and will soon have new owners. Less than a year after announcing plans to rehabilitate the proverbial “ugly house next door” in Petersburg’s historic Poplar Lawn neighborhood, Virginia LISC, project:HOMES and The Cameron Foundation announce the sale of the home. While this is not the first or only project completed, 135 Liberty marks the first vacant property to be renovated and sold through the “Partners for Neighborhood Renewal – Poplar Lawn” (PNR) initiative. Having undergone complete renovations, 135 now serves as the model home for the neighborhood, where PNR is concentrating its resources.

On January 7, 2019 the new homeowner closes on his purchase of 135 Liberty Street. “I’m originally from Newark, New Jersey and came down here to try to give my daughters a better life. And my daughters, fiancée and I are very excited and overwhelmed about the home that we’re purchasing, and we can’t wait to move in,” the homeowner said of his pending purchase and move-in.

135 Liberty Street — after renovation

Homeownership was a personal goal of 135 Liberty Street’s new homeowner and it is also one of the primary goals set by PNR, the collaboration between the City of Petersburg, The Cameron Foundation, Rebuilding Together Richmond, project:HOMES, Preservation Virginia, HistoriCorps and local Petersburg churches. “Through The Cameron Foundation’s mission, we’re working to create a vital economy and vibrant community for Petersburg and its residents. This initiative is a prime example of a strategy we can employ with our partners to foster positive and impactful change in Petersburg,” said J. Todd Graham, president of The Cameron Foundation. The partners have selected Liberty and Harrison streets in the Poplar Lawn Historic District as the target area for a pilot project. The sale of 135 Liberty Street represents a critical turning point for this much-anticipated neighborhood revitalization in Petersburg.

The creation of affordable homes in Petersburg is a shared vision between Virginia LISC, The Cameron Foundation, project:HOMES, and the other nonprofit housing partners involved. “We are not only helping to preserve a beautiful neighborhood with rich history, but we are resetting the single-family housing market in Petersburg. By placing homes back on the market, we are setting the stage for a renewed housing market, with increased property values,” said LISC’s executive director, Candice Streett.

135 Liberty is a mid-19th century house and had been vacant for 20 years, prior to project:HOMES’ acquisition of the property with grant funding from The Cameron Foundation. The renovation was a nine month process, facilitated by project:HOMES, the Richmond-based nonprofit housing development organization. “This was an exciting project for our team. Given the age and state of the house when we started, there was a great deal of work to be done — but it was incredibly rewarding to see the finished product; an historic home preserved and put back on the market as an affordable home for a future Petersburg resident,” said Lee Householder, project:HOMES’ executive director. The house, which tops 2,300 square feet, features three bedrooms, two baths, exposed brick fireplaces and hardwood floors.

In addition to the significance that this model home holds for the collaborative group, 135 Liberty is project:HOMES’ first shell renovation in the City of Petersburg. With the closing scheduled for January, the organization also will celebrate its first sale in the city. According to the terms of project:HOMES’ grant with The Cameron Foundation, the proceeds from the sale of 135 Liberty Street will be reinvested into another renovation project in the neighborhood to perpetuate the momentum of Partners for Neighborhood Renewal’s revitalization efforts. The second house already is under contract, located next door to 135 Liberty Street, at 137 Liberty. This home, built in 1906, will undergo similar renovations and project:HOMES expects it to be completed by December 2019.

The homes in the Poplar Lawn neighborhood date back to as far as the early 1800s and many in the target area of this initiative are vacant and severely blighted. Instead of letting these homes continue to age and deteriorate, the partnership is working to proactively intervene. With funding from The Cameron Foundation and the City of Petersburg, community development expertise from Virginia LISC, and renovation work by housing partners like project:HOMES, the initiative is a multifaceted strategy that includes renovating owner-occupied homes as well as partnering to acquire and rehabilitate vacant single family homes and rental properties so they can be returned to the housing and rental market.

“There is a lot of excitement around the completion and sale of this model home. We already are seeing other homes in the area being renovated. This is the domino effect that we expected, and we are proud to be a part of the process that is helping to uplift the housing market in Petersburg,” said Graham of The Cameron Foundation. Candice Streett of Virginia LISC added, “We know from studies done by the Federal Reserve, that within a one-mile radius of new projects in distressed neighborhoods, private development becomes firmly established within one to three years. This is just the beginning of what’s becoming a resurgence of this distressed area in Poplar Lawn.”

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