Posts Tagged ‘rehabilitation’

A Proposal to Redevelop #72 Conkey Avenue

For discussions opposing the planned demolition of 72 Conkey Ave.,
Go here. And here.

The structure is currently scheduled for demolition, so this proposal is late, very likely too late. But whatever its fate, I feel it is important to draw attention to what is being lost.

In purely financial terms, for want of the timely investment of $60,000 including purchase, a property that could produce some $2,000 monthly rents, with a payback of perhaps 5 years, is being destroyed. From an urbanist point of view, it means the loss of density, diversity and history – yet another blow to the vitality of yet another neighborhood.

Where does it end?

I. Introduction

The building on the southeast corner at the intersection of Conkey and Clifford Avenues was built in 1879 and was quite possibly the neighborhood’s first corner grocery. At the time, the neighborhood was on the city’s northeast edge as it expanded outward, encroaching on the Irish immigrant farms of an earlier generation.

Here is an idea of what the Evergreen Tract looked like then:

View of Evergreen Tract, 1880
View of Evergreen Tract, from an 1880 panoramic view of Rochester.
Courtesy of rochestersubway.com

Conkey and Clifford is the intersection about midway from the center to the lower right corner of the image.

exterior - store entrancearchitectural detail

This property is typical of the late-Victorian mixed-use storefronts once seen on so many corners in Rochester’s older neighborhoods. It is configured as 3 apartments over a store. Beginning in 1879, the building was a family-owned grocery store until the Great Depression, perhaps longer.

The original owner was Charles H. Schulz, who lived and conducted business there with his family for 30 years, 1879 to 1908.

exterior - north side

The property is a strong potential contributor to the surrounding community and a good candidate for redevelopment. Located at the intersection of Conkey and Clifford Avenues, the property is an anchor, contributing Victorian character, as well as a degree of density and diversity that is rapidly disappearing from the housing stock in the neighborhood.

Ibero houses on Conkey

The Ibero-America Development Corporation (IADC) has recently built 25 infill homes in the neighborhood, 3 of which are on the same block of Conkey Ave. Every lot now has a building upon it.

Please take a moment and view a block that has been vacant and dead for years, as it comes alive and becomes a vital urban space once again. The block is whole again, if only for a moment.

FashionWorks by Ibero

Ibero also opened a retail outlet, “FashionWorks”, on the same block of Clifford Ave.

security camera at Conkey and Clifford

The city recently installed an overhead security camera at that corner, eliminating the illegal drug activity that was rampant there.

community garden at Conkey and Clifford

The neighborhood, which has organized several block clubs under the direction of Project Hope, recently created a community garden on the corner opposite the property.

The Genesee Land Trust (GLT) recently added a playground to the new pocket park across the street.

pocket park where playground was recently added

The neighborhood is organized, significant investments in housing (both new and existing) are being made, crime is trending downward — all these things have changed the investment prospects for the property in the past year. It is in the best interests of the community that the structure be restored, and not destroyed.

About us

Officially, we are Aurora Property Redevelopment. Our objective is to revitalize communities by preserving period structures and maintaining traditional neighborhood density. There is no alternative use for the properties we restore that improves the tax assessment as much for as little expense in as little time.

My partner and I select properties based on 3 criteria: (1) They are within a few blocks radius of our own home on Evergreen Street. (2) They have strong potential to contribute character and stability to our target investment area. (3) They are at risk. We have completed 2 projects within the target area, with 4 additional rehabs in progress, for a total of 8 high quality housing units, with an estimated total gross annual income from rents of $60,000.

II. Gallery of images

Work from earlier projects by Aurora

A PowerPoint presentation showing work from other projects will be included in the submitted proposal.

For examples of our work, refer to:

Devendorf house

Burns house

Images of #72 Conkey Avenue

This gallery presents the building’s general condition (fair to good), its amenities and problems. All three living units retain the original porcelain plumbing fixtures. They all have hardwood flooring that is in good condition. Most window openings still have the original wooden sash, though several are in need of reglazing.

For details, just roll the mouse over any image. Click over any image to view an enlarged version:

Building exterior

exterior - west foundationexterior - rear egressexterior - west side garage

Apartment 1

apt 1apt1 kitchenapt 1apt 1

Apartment 2

apt2 bathroomapt2 deck egressapt 2

Apartment 3

apt 3apt 3apt 3apt 3apt3 kitchen from entry hallapt3 plumbing removedapt 3


interior showing store frontinterior staircase - 1st to 2nd floor2nd floor landing

Basement / Utilities

basement utilitiesbasement utilitiesbasement utilities


apt 1apt 1apt3 water damageattic showing water damageapt2 water damageapt1 water damageapt1 bathroom - missing floor

III. Redevelopment Plan

Phase 1: Develop housing

In the near term, there are 3 residential units with little evidence they were ever combined, so there are no obvious opportunities for de-conversion. Thus the immediate goal is to return the structure to its prior use (three rental units) with higher quality.

Phase 2: (Not to be implemented as part of this proposal) Develop amenities

Roof deck accessible from the rear apartment upstairs. Although greatly in need of improvement, the basic structure is there.

Line of windows along the rear corner downstairs, on the Clifford Avenue side. Visible on the outside, inside it’s buried under drywall in a closet. Could have been an enclosed porch or sun room at one time.

Side garage A 2-car garage just off the back porch, accessed from Conkey.

4 car cement block garage Accessed from Clifford.

Period lighting to be added to front (Conkey Ave.) wall of building for accent lighting.

Fencing added where appropriate, for privacy and aesthetic appeal.

Phase 3: (Not to be implemented as part of this proposal) Develop mixed uses

There are several features suggesting creative uses that could be developed as a longer term strategy. The primary example is the retail space in the front. I can foresee a number of uses that might benefit the surrounding community. A bike repair shop run by teens, a coffee shop, a laundromat, even a community room providing meeting space (perhaps for after-school activities or music lessons) have all been suggested. Another possibility would be to integrate the entire building as live-work space for local artists or musicians.

IV. Summary of Cost Breakdown of Phase 1 of the Plan (3 residential units)

We worked with Eugenio Cotto, director of Group 14621, over several sessions to complete a thorough, professional plan which includes standard costing of each item in Phase I of the plan. A complete copy of the plan is included in the proposal.

Plan Summary:
Site Work Subtotal: $50.00
Masonry Subtotal: $1,619.44
Carpentry Subtotal: $1776.66
Roofing Subtotal: $9,593.46
Conservation Subtotal: $65.00
Drywall & Plaster Subtotal: $650.56
Paint & Wallpaper Subtotal: $5311.35
HVAC & Domestic Hot Water Subtotal: $19,284.03
Plumbing Subtotal: $3834.73
Electric Subtotal: $10,999.77
Fire Protection Subtotal: $538.96
Weatherization Subtotal: $2,054.00
Paints, Caulks & Sealants Subtotal: $2,427.20
Address: 72 Conkey Avenue Unit: 1 Total: $58,205.16

Project: Vol Rehab 01 Total: $58,205.16
Labor (60% of total Cost): $34,923.09

Material (40% of total Cost): $23,282.06

Estimated Time to Completion: 36 Months

V. Summary of Financing

Personal funding sources: $18,000
Receipts from rents on other income property: $40,000
Possible financing through Bank of America: TBD
Possible opportunities for funding support from Ibero, Group 14621: TBD
Total funds available: $58,000

VI. Application for ‘Request For Proposal’ (RFP)

This section of the proposal is the actual application that is submitted for approval to the city Real Estate office. References are made to the supporting documents where appropriate.

A. Contribution to redevelopment in the immediate neighborhood

The corner location is prominent in the neighborhood. The structure has character-defining architectural features that contribute identity and a sense of place. The structure’s empty retail space could benefit the community at some point in the future. There are many options for the use of this space that could generate healthy street activity. Putting an active residence on this corner will deter illegal activity and thus strengthen the neighborhood.

This property is at the center of several other projects in the adjoining blocks. Ibero has built two subsidized housing builds on the two adjoining lots on Conkey Ave., with many others nearby. Ibero is also redeveloping retail space on the same block of Clifford Ave. A new park and a playground have just been completed across the street on Clifford Ave, and the El Camino trail, currently under development, passes by the property to the east.

B. Compatibility with existing zoning, use, density and structures:

The structure’s late Victorian features are very compatible with the surrounding community. Three apartments ranging in size from 300 to 500 square feet are consistent with current neighborhood density.

C. Developer’s Timetable:

The structure will be secured immediately upon iinitiating the redevelopment contract. Stabilization and cleanout will begin April 1, 2011.

Year 1:

Installation of electronic security system, roof repairs, Steel entry doors, exterior paint.

Personal funding sources: $ 5,000
Receipts from rents on other income property: $ 5,000

Year 2:

Personal funding sources: $ 6,000
Receipts from rents on other income property: $15,000

Year 3:

Personal funding sources: $ 7,000
Receipts from rents on other income property: $20,000

Total funds available: $58,000

Ability to carry out the project: The prior completions of similar projects referenced in Section II of this proposal demonstrate ability to complete the project.
Summary of rehabilitation plan: The images referenced in Section II of this proposal show the general condition of the property. Major cost items include:

(1) The roofing must be torn off and replaced.
(2) Three leaks in the roof have damaged the walls and ceilings directly below.
(3) The bathroom floor in one unit has been completely removed.
(4) The plumbing has been removed.
(5) The electrical service needs replacement from the street to the panels.
(6) Heating units to be replaced.
(7) Painting of exterior and pointing of above grade foundation.

D. Financing Plan:

Refer to Section V of this proposal.

E. Public Program Assistance:


F. Preservation (preserves character of site and structure):

My interest is in community revitalization, in large part by preserving period structures and historic neighborhood density. My work conforms to the US DOI Standards for preservation where feasible: I repair where possible, replace where necessary with materials and workmanship ‘as good as or better’ than the original (see images referenced in Section II of this proposal).

G. Tax Status of Proposed Projects:



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This is our fourth house project in our neighborhood.

 view from sidewalk

This is the oldest house we’ve done so far.  It was built around 1875, when the neighborhood was still only a few houses encroaching on Irish-immigrant farms. The house is styled in a tidy, but unassuming vernacular that I tend to see more in the short side-streets in neighborhoods like ours. 

This house has needed more work than most.  There were serious structural and foundation problems, some layout issues, no working utilities at all, and the roof was a complete mess.  In addition, much of the wallboard had been gutted by a fire that was set by intruders while the house stood vacant before we bought it.  The updates made by a recent owner were suitable but amateurish, and now damaged by heat and smoke.  Everything had to be redone.

View into kitchen - before

Dining room doorways - before

After the fire, the city put the house on the list of structures to be demolished.  Nobody, the conventional thinking goes, would be willing to spend the $60,000 to fix the place.  Well, we’re not conventional.  We live in the neighborhood where we invest.  Some projects cost $20,000 or so, one cost us $70,000, not including countless labor hours we put in ourselves.  We don’t buy on an expected economic return, but on the strategic value to the community of restoring the house.  This thinking consistently puts us at odds with the city, strange is it seems.

The first step was to obtain a report from a structural engineer.  The report detailed the work that was needed to repair the deteriorated support system.  The engineer’s report becomes the controlling document for the project.  It is used by contractors to bid on the job, then do the work.  It is ultimately used by the building inspector to approve the job when completed.  I highly recommend not to skip this step when this type of work is needed.  It provides the homeowner with a roadmap, safeguards against shoddy or unscrupulous behavior, and is a virtual guarantee you’ll be taken seriously by the inspector.  It’s a win-win-win when you think about it.   We have always used Joe Rosenstiel with Jensen Engineering in Rochester.  Mr. L.C. (Sonny) Jacobs, aka the “House Doctor”, is our structural contractor. Sonny is an absolute artist with a 13 ton jack.

Engineer's Report Sheet1

We began rehabbing the house in earnest during the last week of December, 2009.  We spent $33,000 on 5 contractors over the next 100 days.  The challenge was to replicate the original interior, and make it feel like an old house as you moved through it.  The newly renovated look is not us. It should heat efficiently and offer modern amenities without seriously compromising the period aesthetics. 

Here is our progress over those 100 days…

cellar - view of structural work

The structural work came first.  Once the structure was made sound, the rest of the work would be a safe investment.  The existing makeshift and rotted piers have been replaced with new steel and concrete.  According to the engineering specs, each adjustable steel column is capable of bearing over 13,000 lbs. They are set on concrete footers 24x24x12 inches, bedded on undisturbed soil.  The center of the house had sagged an amazing 4 inches. Once Sonny had poured the footers and put in the columns, he was able to gradually push up the sagging floors by adjusting the height of the columns.  He then poured more concrete to cover the threading, which fixes the height of the posts permanently.

view into parlor - pre-existing wall

Next came the framing on the first floor.  The wall between the parlor and middle room had to be redone.  This was a modern wall, located where the original wall had been, but with a small opening for a modern door.  When this two-story house was converted into flats, the parlor was needed as a bedroom. Marks on the floor showed us where the original parlor door had been.  It was much more spacious, as you can see in the next image. 

Also, the pre-existing work prevented further sagging of the second floor, but did not repair it.  The sleepers nailed to the ceiling joists in the picture tell the story.  If you follow along the bottom edges, you can see they are wider and lower toward the wall, thinner and higher toward the center.  This had to be fixed before a serious investment could be justified.

view into parlor from dining rm

The new framing is complete.  A 2X10 micro-lam header now supports the 2nd floor, which includes the full weight of a chimney.  Yep, you read that right.  In this house, two chimneys were raised, one in the front for heat, the other in back for cooking.  They ended at the 2nd floor, with a hole to accept a duct rising from a stove on the first floor.  Which means the weight of the chimneys had to be borne to Earth by the framing over two floors.  Now you know why they sagged. 

So Joe and Sonny had to fix a problem that was built into the original house.  Here’s how they did it.  First is the two 2X10’s, face-nailed with a 1/2 inch spacer in between.  Notice in the right end of the wall, the last stud is a 4X4, double width.  The 4X4 is directly under the chimney.  Finally (you’ll have to take my word on this), Joe purposely located one of the steel poles in the basement such that it would be directly under the 4X4!  So now the weight of the chimney is borne properly to the ground.

Note the doorway has been restored to the exact original dimensions.  The front room has been deconverted from a bedroom back into a parlor.

Antique radiators from ReHouse

To heat the house, we bought antique radiators from ReHouse, an architectural salvage shop on East Main Street in Rochester.  At our request, they gave us free delivery due to the size of the purchase (9 units), which helped us a lot.  To that point, ReHouse had not been pressure testing their radiators, and a few of them leaked.  Owner Kathy offered to exchange them when they got more in stock, and they have since begun to test the units before sale.

New boiler installation

Modern high-efficiency heating system.  The boiler piping includes separate heating zones for 1st and 2nd floors and the hot water tank.  The supply and return lines to the radiators are modern PEX piping, which won’t freeze and can be run in the walls. The two zones allow the comfort level of each floor of the house to be independently controlled using separate digital programmable thermostats for maximum efficiency.

2nd floor bath rm - apartment era

The 2nd floor bathroom was actually on the stairway landing.  A small hallway was sealed off.  This is a good example of the downside of conversion, when  simple, honest spaces are cut up to fit more in.  The initial conversion occurred after 1928, according to a newspaper we found under a modern stud wall in the main stairwell. 

2nd floor bath rm - new location

The new bathroom on the 2nd floor, moved from the landing into a real room with better load bearing support.  Notice the cool old radiator we got at ReHouse.  Modern sink has been replaced with an antique pedestal sink from ReHouse.

2nd floor insulation

Plumbing and electrical roughing is complete.  A work crew installs R30 insulation with a vapor barrier before hanging the wall board.

Front room ready for wall board

Trim, plaster grounds and baseboard nailers are done, following the Victorian practice.  Insulation has been installed.  The parlor is ready for blue board.

parlor during plaster work

We had the blueboard installed like it was brown-coat plaster.  This is backwards from the established (modern) practice.  The trim is installed first, then the wallboard is put in to fit.  This made installation very challenging for the crew.  The blue coating allows application of finish plaster over the board – just like original.

detail of doorway 1

Detail of doorway showing replicated Victorian trim found in the house.  Blue board is installed flush with the trim.

detail of doorway 2

Image showing trim after finish plaster has been applied.  The excess plaster on the wood will be sanded away before painting.

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