Dec 5, 2012

Rehabbed Homes in Masten Neighborhood Come with a High Price Tag

Back in April I posted a story on my blog about four properties in the Masten Neighborhood that were slated for rehabilitation rather than demolition. Belmont Shelter is rehabilitating a total of ten properties to the tune of $350,000 each. The funding for the rehabilitations comes from the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP). Burke Homes, the same builder of Colvin Estates, is the contractor for the project. I was only aware of four properties when the project was originally announced and grabbed photos of each for some before and after shots.
11 Holland Place before rehabilitation work. Note the intact architectural details
I had some high hopes for the rehabilitation considering the high price tag and the rich architectural details each home had. Unfortunately, when going out for my “after” photos I was extremely disappointed.

11 Holland Place after rehabilitation work and devoid of architectural details
The homes had been stripped of their original architectural integrity inside and outside. 11 Holland Place is one of the best examples; the exterior featured clapboard in great shape, detailed wood porch columns, a simple dentil cornice above three windows in the uppermost gable, and a beautifully hand-carved motif in the porch pediment.

11 Holland Place porch pediment before being scrapped
Work during the rehabilitation scrapped every last one of those details in favor of vinyl siding, the removal of the three windows in the gable, and sending the porch columns and carved pediment to the trash. The fireplace and pocket doors with ornate brass hardware have also been removed in favor of a more “vanilla box” interior.

The same dull gray vinyl (likely bought in bulk), removal of architectural details, and installation of vinyl windows repeats at the other homes. At 144 Glenwood the Palladian window was removed in favor of a single vinyl window, the bay window at the second story was removed for a flat wall, and the full height pilasters at the corners have been removed or covered.

144 Glenwood Avenue: Before and After

Before the work started the homes were neglected, but retained some rich architectural details, making it easy to identify them as unique and varied structures. After the rehabilitation they are thankfully once again livable, but almost indistinguishable from each other.

It’s an interesting contrast to the fantastic job Matt Newtonhas done at the Lyth Cottage on Harwood Place, especially when looking at the cost. To date, Matt has spent about $30,000 on his home and put in a lot of sweat equity. For that price, he has saved a beautiful home that was one its way to the landfill just like these other homes.

While I understand not everyone has the time or is up to the task to restore a home, a part of the problem is because the city does a poor job of marketing available homes for sale. Each of these four homes was previously owned by the city and available for purchase, but only if you knew where to look. There was no sign on the lawn, nothing posted on the door, and navigating the city website for information was a headache. For those who want to learn more about purchasing a city-owned property, check out this great Buffalo blog, Unbreak my House as a duo chronicle their story from start to finish and how to get things done.

291 Northampton Street: Before and After

Longtime local blogger, David Torke (fixBuffalo) chimed in saying, “the concentration of development is really exceptional and a good choice for the neighborhood. Renovating them is very important for the city at this time. The question that remains is why the cost for rehab is so high, it remains unclear why the rehabilitation of each property was specified at such a high cost.”

One reason that the cost is so high is because the jobs must be bid as prevailing wage jobs. A good chunk of the budget is spent on labor rather than materials. It is also likely most of those people doing the labor do not live in the adjacent neighborhood. While it’s great to have some historic homes back online and not in the landfill, it would be dangerous to repeat these types of rehabs too many times.

Those who appreciate architecture love Buffalo for the varied styles and details that can be seen in our buildings on any given street. Imagine if a whole street of homes were rehabilitated in such a manner, the streetscape would become dull and uninteresting. I’m thankful these homes will once again welcome families and be put on the tax rolls, but the end product leaves a lot to be desired.

To see more before and after photos, click the link to my Flickr page.

Views of Buffalo Flickr     -     fixBuffalo     -     The Atlantic Cities     -     The Urbanophile


  1. this is very sad. i was interested in 11 holland, had a tour with the real estate dept of the city and was then told it was not available because of a builder. i loved the architectural details of this home and am very sad to see them gone. this is not a "re-hab" this is a shame

    1. I know how you feel. I had an interest in the same home and was in it several times before the "rehab." They essentially ruined it.

  2. i am just so confused. i thought protecting the architectural value was the first priority? 11 holland would have looked the very same as it did originally if the city would have let me do the "re-hab." the house is ruined. weird to say about what is "essentially" a "new" house, but the style does not fit in that neighborhood. given all the homes around it, 11 holland must look even worse when the surrounding homes are in view as well.

    1. Are you still looking for a home to rehab in the same area? I have two that come to mind, one of which is detailed even better than Holland before the "rehab"

    2. possibly, depends on the house. interested in finding a warehouse space now that i could have a loft living space for myself, and a business on the ground floor. always interested in architectural diamonds in the rough though

  3. Thank you for the information.
    Rehabbed houses are sold at a higher prices because it is a flipped house.
    I was actually confused about these things but i took a real estate class and sold Rehab House for profit. and now i work in real estates.