Lake Station tries to flip a house
BY MICHAEL GONZALEZ Post-Tribune correspondent March 7, 2014 10:32PM
Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist stands on the new, wooden deck at 4800 26th St. The city rehabbed the house and will put it up for sale this month, with sales proceeds going to improve more city-owned homes. | Michael Gonzalez/For the Post-Tribune
Updated: April 9, 2014 6:08AM
LAKE STATION — A nasty divorce left a waterlogged house for neighbors in this east side neighborhood.
Several years and a major remodel later, the house will go on the market and give Mayor Keith Soderquist a chance to play George Bailey, the do-gooder hero of the classic movie “It’s A Wonderful Life.”
Next month, the city will look to sell its first remodeled home after pouring $28,000 in big repairs into the once-shuttered house at 4800 26th St. The proceeds from that sale, expected to fetch a price in the mid $80,000 range, will go to more fixer-uppers the city owns.
“You take a little bit more sense of pride when you own the home, because it’s yours,” said Soderquist, waving his arms around the new living room flooded with natural light. “It’s that aspect of waiting to buy your home. Wait for what? For when your kids grow up and are gone, and you have no memories of your own home?”
Unlike larger cities in the area, which dole out millions of dollars in federal funds to fix up blocks of abandoned homes, Lake Station waited years to fix up a place it already owned.
Proceeds from the sale will go to fixing up more abandoned homes the city owns throughout the city, Soderquist said. The next site will be on Lake Station’s west side, just off Clay St.
Three or four more projects will follow, but the idea is to provide quality homes at affordable prices as a form of economic development, he said.
The newly remodeled house, built in the 1950s, became an eyesore in an otherwise attractive east side neighborhood. A divorce turned nasty once an ousted ex-spouse turned on all of the water faucets and hoses in the home, flooding it while the homeowner was away.
The house sat for about four years, with the bank holding the mortgage refusing to do anything with it, Soderquist explained. The bank deeded the property to Lake Station, meaning the city spent no money to obtain it.
Using economic development money sitting in an unused fund, the city hired a carpenter and put city workers on the project. A practically new, mold-free house emerged 18 months later.
New laminated flooring in the kitchen, living area and hallways are complemented by new thermal windows and decorative doors bought at steep discounts. Wooden decks greet visitors at the front and rear of the house; in the back, the deck is large enough to accommodate a grill and patio furniture.
The expansive basement is framed for several rooms, with a masonry wall filled with decorative stone fragments at the foot of the stairs.
“It’s an amazing job, and it’s really good to see the city doing something like this,” said Fifth District Councilman Rick Long at a recent City Council meeting.
Lake Station remains on an administrative time-out with U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, so it must rely on its own means, Soderquist said.
“Maybe we’ll get to the point where maybe we’ll need to acquire a whole block and we’ll need millions of dollars from the (federal) government,” he said. “We’re nowhere near that. We’re taking one home and trying to turn it around. Moving it forward, we’ll see.”