Olde Town East house rehab highlights land bank’s changing focus
Great article by Columbus Dispatch
When Laura Atack and husband Chris Rapking bought a former city land bank house, Atack mentioned it to some of the security officers at the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, where she works as a law clerk.
The security officers — some of them former Columbus cops — were concerned about them buying in Olde Towne East. But the couple liked the idea of living so close to Downtown and how businesses, including Yellow Brick Pizza and Angry Baker, were helping to change the area.
They bought the house and adjacent side lot for $240,000, benefiting from a 10-year, 100 percent property tax abatement.
“We had some concern about crime,” said Atack, 27. “Two months later, we don’t feel unsafe.”
The couple has settled into their Sherman Avenue house, an example of a land bank property that was renovated instead of demolished. The house was part of a city tour last week of once-blighted and vacant properties.
City and Franklin County land bank officials want to fix up more properties after tearing down more than 2,000 citywide.
Rapking, 30, a lawyer who works Downtown, said they didn’t know they were buying a former land bank house.
“We came into the house not knowing the history,” he said.
They bought it from Esteban Saldarriaga, whose company EyE Homes spent $130,000 to restore the house, including the installation of hardwood floors and a garage. He bought the three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath house from the city land bank for $14,000 and the side yard for $7,000.
Rapking said that he didn’t feel that he and his wife overpaid for the 2,200-square-foot house, which includes a finished attic. He said they are sure the neighborhood, which was known for crime and blight years ago, will continue to improve.
Another stop on last week’s tour was the Franklin Park Medical Center building at 1829 E. Long St., another land bank property, one that the city and county spent $300,000 to $400,000 to rehabilitate. The building is now for sale.
When it first opened in 1962, it was a medical building for African-American physicians — Mayor Andrew J. Ginther called it the first of its kind in Columbus — and had been on Columbus Landmarks’ most-endangered list.
Denise Ransom, whose father, Leon Ransom, was the building’s architect, remembered walking through the building as a child when it was under construction.
“This was a personal building for him,” she said.
Ransom said people often think buildings last forever. But she referred to a former Columbus landmark that her father designed: the iconic round, layer-cake Christopher Inn Downtown on East Broad Street. It opened in 1963 and was demolished in 1988.
Ed Lentz, executive director for Columbus Landmarks, said the medical building is an example of what can happen when the land banks work with the private sector to restore properties.
The city and county land banks now control about 1,500 properties, said John Turner, city land bank administrator. The vast majority of them are in Columbus.