From the front porch of a newly painted house one can see an orchard of 95 apple, peach, pear, plum, nectarine and cherry trees, and anyone in the community can enjoy the fruit.
It sounds idyllic, and it is. But it also is in the 3300 block of Forest Avenue in the Center City Neighborhood.
“One of the things that attracted people to the house is the orchard,” said Eddie Tapper, president of the Center City Neighborhood Association.
The fully restored, recently owner-occupied home had for years sat vacant and for a while was a drug house.
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“It was the problem house on the block,” Tapper said.
It fit the old image of property east of Troost Avenue — poor and black with residents struggling against crime. That’s changing as new urban pioneers of all colors buy into this community.
Center City is bounded by Troost Avenue, 31st Street, Armour Boulevard and the Paseo. It’s where some committed people like Tapper are building new homes and saving others from being bulldozed.
“It would be great if we had more receivers like him restoring houses in the urban core,” said John Wood, director of Neighborhoods and Housing Services and assistant city manager of Kansas City. “It brings more people back into the urban core.”
It’s also a way for investors to make a lot of money in today’s sellers’ market. These properties are close to downtown and are growing as attractive investments.
The front-porch property across from the Center City orchard is one of them. The house was one of more than 300 in the city’s receivership program.
Many of the owners haven’t been good stewards of the property, owing back taxes and failing to respond if notified by the city of problems. If the owner won’t comply, the city clouds the title, preventing it from being transferred to dodge responsibility. Eventually the city forces the owner to make needed improvement or the property goes to a receiver with the assurance that it will be renovated.
“This house’s owner wanted to get rid of it,” Tapper said. Providence Partners, of which Tapper is a partner, bought the property.
That’s not an easy process. Tapper explained that the receiver must respond to the needs of many “bosses,” such as the city, the neighborhood and the investors.
“Everybody has to be involved,” Tapper said. “The city law department has been phenomenal.”
Financing has to be presented, along with licensed workmen, a schedule to prove that the house will go from an eyesore to an asset and finally inspections. That’s what happened with the house on Forest Avenue.
Knee-high debris was removed from the residence, and boards in the oak flooring were replaced. The house then was gutted, and a new roof and double-paned, energy-efficient windows were added.
Insulation was blown into the walls and the attic. New drywall was installed as was new wiring in the restoration of the three-bedroom home. A new heating and air-conditioning system was added.
“It is a very tight, sound house,” Tapper said. Granite counter tops are a feature of the kitchen along with Ikea cabinets shipped from Chicago.
The kitchen overlooks the dining room and leads into the living room. Stained oak floors add a taste of the past to the updated, modern home.
The residence also is equipped with Google Fiber, a gas fireplace and an alarm system for security. Private investors made the work on the high-ceiling, two-story, 1,350-square-foot house possible, and it sold quickly for $90,000.
“Everybody is saying with the vacant houses there is no solution,” Tapper said. “This proves there is a solution.”
Kansas City now needs to replicate this success in hundreds of other homes.