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How To Build Your Own Block

So what do you do if the dream house you were eying suddenly falls out of reach when the economy tanks? The banks aren’t lending and you’ve already sold your house to put up collateral? To make it worse, your dream house is in jeopardy of being a victim of demolition by neglect.

That’s the scenario that Scott Washburn and John Crawford were in when they made the leap of faith and moved forward with their plans to rescue and renovate a three-storey brick structure on Rhode Island (see story). “We decided to come up with a new plan,” Scott told me. “We needed to find a way to push forward. While we were waiting to take possession of the brick structure, John and I picked up a couple of neighboring houses at auction, cheap. Now the plan is to fix up the blue one first. Then we’ll live there while we fix up the white one. Once we move into the white one, we’ll sell that blue house to a responsible owner. Eventually we’ll sell the white one and pool all of the money in order to get to work on the brick structure.”

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If you think that this is a ten-year plan, then think again. Scott and John are seasoned pros when it comes to manipulating interiors – even distressed ones. Already they have stripped down the blue house to the bare bones. And guess what? A house that many though would never add to the significance of the neighborhood is going to someday be an anchor… I kid you not. When you see what these two do to this house, you’re not going to believe it. I’m betting that one day the garden will make it into the Garden Walk book (second edition). The house that they just sold on Breckenridge Avenue was the one featured on the cover. Plus, the interior renovation is going to be unreal. They are ripping out sections of the floor to loft the kitchen. The rear bedroom will have a small balcony where guests can sip a cup of coffee while observing activity down below. The mid nineteenth century house will possess claw foot tubs, walk in closets, trap doors, skylights, open spaces, frosted glass cutouts – all while maintaining much of the home’s original character.

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By the time they are finished with these three buildings (and a couple lots), they will have purchased and rehabbed almost the entire short block of Rhode Island. The only other building is the one that houses Prime 490 – not a bad neighbor to have nearby! Other neighbors include Essex Pub, Big Orbit, Left Bank, Urban Roots, Five Points Bakery and 14th Street Tree Farm. Coming up I’m going to take you through a tour of the brick building… or what’s left of it. I still can’t believe that this project is moving forward due to creative financing on the part of these urban investors. Way to hang in there guys!

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