Thursday, December 21, 2006

Turner Detective Agency

Alright, I'm home sick today, so I figure I might as well do something productive and post a few blogs on here. There's a lot that needs to be posted before I get this "up to date".

So after deciding the VFW hall was not worth the investment due to the area I started looking at a funky little place not too far away: an old detective agency on Penn Ave. in Doughboy Square, the corner or Lawrencville, the Strip District, Bloomfield and Polish Hill. The Lawrencville area has recently shown a lot of promise in making a resurgence. Lots of new stores and bars have opened up; there are lots of those ever popular hipsters moving into the area; and there's a massive hospital being built up Penne Ave that has really made the area start to change. Because of this, I thought that investing money into the detective agency would be fairly low risk and I could deal with the area being a bit rough for a while.

I went inside the place a couple of times and it would've had to been totally gutted and restored and I would've wanted to add a third floor onto it etc etc.

To make a long story short, on the morning before I was going to buy the property (after much debate with my parents) I went to hang out outside before I went to work to see what it was like there. I then realized that there was a "stop here on red" sign directly in front of the building going up a hill, and a bus stop one door down. This meant noisy cars and busses come to a stop then accelerate up hill and people congregate outside what would have been my front door. After this I got to thinking and decided yet again: this wasn't the place for me. From the financial side of things, it would definitely be a risk, and although I'm confident that the area's worth investing in, it could be 10 years or more before my investment would be profitable.

I've had a constant debate with myself (and my parents) over the course of this house project in general as to whether or not I'm really just building this house for myself, or am I building it to resell. There's a fine line to walk in this regard because although I AM doing it for myself, should something drastic occur and I need to move, I would need to be able to sell or rent it. Another aspect is that I very much like the idea of continuing to buy and renovate places.... and if I do that, I need to be able to sell/rent them out.

So anyways, back to the detective agency: I checked out the street scene the day before I was going to buy it and decided that I shouldn't do it. A couple days later I drove by it around 2AM and there were cop cars everywhere and police tape surrounding the front of it and the place next door. At that point I knew I'd made the right decision.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

VFW Hall Pictures

Here are a couple of the pictures of the VFW hall. The front shot shows pretty well how cool this building is. The second shows how the roof's caved in and the overgrown backyard :P

Another small problem with this property was the fact that the neighbors had built their deck into the backyard... a possibly tricky situation to deal with.

Introduction and the start of my search

Welcome to "Todd Keebler's: This New House".

A year ago I purchased a 20' x 72' garage at 7 Uxor Way in the Southside with the intention of turning it into a place to live. The previous owners used it as a garage for storing and fixing race cars, zoned as a residential auxiliary building; before that, it was used to make furniture. It's located in a narrow alley between 13th and 14th St approximately half a block behind Dee's Cafe.

The story starts long before the purchase though. At the end of 2004 I began my search for a unique, non-house building to turn into a place to live. A nickelodeon turned VFW hall in Polish Hill by Gooski's was the first building I considered. The structure itself was in good condition, made from cool looking ceramic blocks. However, the roof and floor of the building had caved in years ago into the basement... along with a car previously parked inside. The project was daunting, but the more difficult part was the leins placed on the building years ago. After the property was foreclosed and the city took ownership, the debts on the building were sold off to a third party called Capital Assets for a fraction of their worth. Capital Assets was asking for the full $16,000 dollars, despite having recieved them for most likely a 10th of that. Clearly, I had no interest in paying these fees so began to draft a letter to Capital Assets offering them a small portion of the money. Before sending this letter I visited a number of properties for sale in the neighborhood.... after seeing the low prices and poor conditions of these houses I became skeptical that putting a large sum of money into the VFW hall was a good investment. I looked into other recent house sales in the area and found that despite the improvements made to some of the properties, their sale price was still minimal. Although I think Polish Hill has a lot of potential in terms of existing buildings, proximity to downtown, the Strip District, Oakland and Bloomfield, view of the city and general charm.... at the same time, I just couldn't take the financial risk involved in the area.

Next I'll update the blog with pictures of the VFW hall and the next building I looked at: the Turner Detective Agency.