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Coon Rapids program encourages remodeling on a budget
- Article by: BRYNA GODAR
- Star Tribune
- February 14, 2012 - 2:42 PM
In response to the slouching economy, Coon Rapids is focusing its Home for Generations remodeling program on affordability this year, hoping to offer realistic examples of development for homeowners to emulate.
Home for Generations began in 2009 with the goal of encouraging homeowners to invest in their houses and showing them examples of how it can be done. The city has since bought, remodeled and sold four houses.
Each year, the projects emphasize different styles of development, tackling split-entry houses, ramblers and one story-and-a-half house. Last year, the remodel looked at green and sustainable remodeling, using recycled paint and solar panels to make it more eco-friendly.
In addition to targeting owners, the program encourages home buyers to consider options they otherwise would have overlooked, helping them to envision possible remodels, said Kristin DeGrande, Coon Rapids neighborhood coordinator.
Janice Fulwider, now 57, bought the first house remodeled through the program in 2009. "I wouldn't have given [the original house] a second thought," she said. But after the remodel, she saw pictures and loved the open floor plan. "It's very unique," she said. "This was almost like moving into a brand-new home for me."
This year's project, scheduled to begin next week at 11635 Xavis St., will demonstrate how to do large projects in gradual, more affordable phases. The main floor plan will be changed, new windows installed, the roofline altered, and a 3/4 bathroom added, among other changes. The project also will fit a lower budget of $40,000; budgets in past years ranged from $57,000 to $75,000.
"We want to make these projects realistic," DeGrande said. "We're really trying to make the best of the economy right now."
For each project, the program offers open houses before, during and after remodeling. DeGrande said residents have taken a lot of interest: 1,200 to 2,500 people have toured each of the four houses, she said. The preconstruction open house for the current project will take place Sunday from noon to 3 p.m.
"It helps [homeowners] to see the remodeling taking place," DeGrande said. "It makes them more comfortable with the process."
After the city's first remodeling project at 11610 Juniper St. in 2009, 29 remodels were done within a half-mile radius of the house from May 2009 to July 2011, an increase from previous years, DeGrande said. Driving through the neighborhood, she added, she could see the projects being replicated on the outside of homes.
Revitalizing the neighborhood
"I think it just gives people ideas that they normally would not have considered or thought of themselves," said Shelly Weber. Weber bought the remodeled house on 109th Avenue NW. in 2011 and said many neighbors have stopped by to look at it.
"Since I've been here, I've seen a lot of contractors coming in and doing remodeling [in the neighborhood]," she said. "I think it's a great way to revitalize the neighborhood."
The city hasn't quite recovered its investments in the houses; three broke even while one cost the city about $15,000.
DeGrande said the benefits outweigh this cost, however, in the value of educating homeowners and motivating them to invest in their own houses.
The City Council will decide whether the program will continue; DeGrande has not yet purchased more houses.
She said the hope is that a second phase of the program will kick off this spring, involving financial incentives for homeowners working on remodeling projects.
Officials haven't yet worked out the specifics, but the program could include rebates, building permits, or other special services, such as having a single building inspector assigned to your project.
DeGrande said they're trying to give homeowners the "extra little kick they would need to bump them over the fence" on development projects.
They also might begin a home tour, showcasing what homeowners themselves have done to remodel.
"I hope the city of Coon Rapids can continue with the program," Fulwider said. "It's just such a fantastic idea."
Bryna Godar is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.
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