Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Green Row House

A little shabby. About three blocks east of where streets are revitalizing. Their time will come. 

In the meantime, the green paint has faded and cracked and softened. I know improvement is good, but when these houses are rehabbed, who will be able to afford them? 

Yet there is absolutely nothing I would do to prevent someone from trying to get their money back. Rehabbing is expensive. It frequently doesn't pay to make a house of smaller expectations. I think that is why condominium ownership is a good way for inner cities to keep a middle class. 

In the case of this rowhouse, though, we are talking four families, maximum, to split the costs--three floors plus the English basement. There is a problem of scale with that. It would be better to own the whole row and defray the costs by that many families. And that takes a larger investor. Again, where does the middle class go?

Truly, I love them just as they are.


Momma Fargo said...

I love row houses and all the history there! I sympathize with you! Although renovations are usually very spectacular...you take the history right out. And leaves nothing to imagine. Unless they truly restored them to their original grandeur...then again...no imagination.

Unknown said...

I dig row houses too. But I'd want it all. All 4 glorius levels to myself!! lol

Carolina Linthead said...

Dear Ann T.,

Are you seeing in this row house a metaphor for the American middle class itself? I think I am: "A little shabby. About three blocks east of where streets are revitalizing." That sounds familiar to me. I am an assistant professor of history, by definition thoroughly middle class, and yet I can't afford doodly squat on what I earn. Mind you, I live in the midst of corn and bean fields! I'm surrounded by others who are in similar straits, but our plight is nothing compared to professors living in areas with much higher cost of living. All of which fits with your question: "where does the middle class go?" Where, indeed? Lovely house...I very much like it the way it is, and I wish it well. Wish me the same :-)

Ann T. said...

Dear Momma Fargo,
Oh, you are so right. I think the history they preserve gets rid of all the interim contributors and concentrates on the "founding year" and the current electrical codes. Except for the kitchen, of course.

In some housing districts the historical preservation people will even dictate the color chart you can use on interior walls. This is ridiculous.

Last of all, I knew a man who could make furniture of the Federalist period in the Federalist manner. He once gave me a snooty look, he was carving the arms of a chair, and said, "Just because it's old doesn't mean it's a good design."

He was remaking a dolphin-carved chair, but with more graceful lines and better proportions. Now that's the right thing!!

Thanks for a thought-provoking comment! I hadn't thought that all the way through . . .

Ann T.

Ann T. said...

Dear peedee,
Yeah, me too! Except the English basement I would rent out to a nice little old lady who would be interested in doing some of the gardening!! And liked to cat-sit . . .

Our perfect world!
Ann T.

Ann T. said...

Dear C.L.,
Just lately I have been thinking about WHERE the middle class can find a roost in cities. I had mostly been thinking about the loss of public spaces, to mostly the desperate poor.

I notice this after I buy ice cream. The park is full of sleepers. The benches are all private for restaurants. The stoops of other people's houses cannot be invaded and the church has a "no loitering" sign.

Perhaps those metaphors also apply. But I do think the loss of the middle class is changing the face of this country, and our expectations of community are gradually becoming toast.

I do wish you well!
Ann T.

Carolina Linthead said...

Ann T.,

Reply (not rebuttal): I always hesitate to say anything about the middle class in decline, as I still have a job, a roof overhead, a car to drive: "I got a daytime job...I'm doin' alright," to borrow from Dire Straits. But the middle class dream is in retreat, and the rage is growing among those who don't see a way to realize that dream. Unfortunately, those most in need often feel the brunt of that anger. I've read a lot lately concerning what you describe: the displacement of the homeless, as if displacing them is somehow solving the problem! Resources are cut, public spaces are restricted, and on and on, while the fundamentals remain in place. I get frustrated by my humble earning power, but I get even more frustrated by this modern-day "enclosure" movement, marketed as urban revitalization.

Ann T. said...

Dear C.L.,
Right, I completely understand your reluctance. Compared to my expectations, we were struggling in Rivertown. Yet we had no children, both of us had jobs, and our combined income was probably equal to any three or five houses in the rest of the neighborhood. It makes it hard to complain.

At the same time, I think this young middle class I see is less and less afforded "cheap" entertainment. They must buy to sit and meet and congregate. No sitting in the neighborhoo park. The poor also, worse. Where are they supposed to go when McDonald's has a sign up that says no sitting for more than 20 minutes? It is aimed at the homeless, but everybody has to move.

Without a perch, a bird will gradually die of exhaustion.

Ann T.

The Observer said...

Ann T:
I have an idea. At least for KC. Rehabit the first ring suburbs. My neighborhood. Similar 'hoods exist over in Kansas. See, the lots are small and the houses small and 50 years old. Everyone wants the McMansion. I love my neighborhood. If the schools were better, I would be a total cheerleader for my neighborhood. I still think it's pretty good, if you can get past everyone trying to scare you to death on the news about how terrible the crime is (and realistically, the crime is worse on the east side of the school district, where Nick Dutcher lived.)

A lot of it is media generated fear, and some of it is racism and fear of living in a "ghettohood." But if enough people with passion move in, regardless of color, they will hit a critical mass that will not tolerate criminal behavior.

As for your row house, I hear you on renovations and cost. It's complicated, isn't it?

Thanks for the post, and a look at that Eastern phenom (I haven't found any here in KC), the row home.

The Observer

Ann T. said...

Dear The Observer,
You bet! The McMansions are now easily seen as "unsustainable development" as we call it in the international relations discipline. People bought more than they needed and now can't pay.

Schools are probably going to be the biggest thing. In Louisiana and Texas, the confederate flag often puts people off too! But neighborhoods like you describe are definitely worth saving!

Thanks for much to ponder. I am sure my reply is very rambling!

Ann T.

Bob G. said...

Those particular houses are a REAL find.
They have to go back to turn of the century (19th-20th that is).

Hard to find those long, TALL windows anymore, except in historical districts or rural houses that were once owned by farmers or railroads.

And to find artisans that can bring back the uniqueness of such a building is fast becoming a lost cause.
People that used to work plaster or tin and copper are fewer and fewer.

Darn shame...this place looks to have such great potential.

Good post.

Slamdunk said...

Darn Philly Eagle fans trying to show their colors in DC. Wait, this post isn't about football?


Ann T. said...

Dear Slamdunk,
ha ha ha! I guess I did post on football once! Once.

Ann T.

Unknown said...

AND Dog sit!!! lol I'll take the top floor and you can have the other two. Deal?? Deal!