Delray Beach, FL, November 12, 2010 --(PR.com
)-- On Delray Beach’s northwest side, an 86-year-old house is boarded-up and bee-infested. But the former home of a pioneering African-American family is a historic gem to local preservationists and redevelopment officials, who are trying to save aging landmarks before they are lost to demolition.
Thanks to a unique partnership between Delray Beach Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), Delray Beach Community Land Trust, and Stuart & Shelby Development, the original home of 1920s community leaders, Joe and Rosa Young, is being rebuilt at 120 Northwest Fourth Avenue, in the West Settlers Historic District off West Atlantic Avenue.
The plan is to use primarily donated labor and supplies to restore the long-vacant, crumbling, wood-framed building into a hurricane-resistant, three-bedroom home. Then, the goal is to sell the 1,240 square-foot house—called the Franklin House after the family that owned it and lived there from 1949 to 2000—to a first-time homeowner.
“You have to keep houses like this so our children know our history,” said Chuck Halberg, president of Stuart & Shelby Development in Delray Beach. “I love new houses, but we need history. That’s what sustains us.”
The house was at one time a candidate for demolition, after a structural engineering report concluded that it was virtually unsalvageable. The CRA, which purchased the structure in 2000, explored various approaches to renovating it but were concerned about the projected costs. Ultimately they issued a Request for Proposals in order to identify if there were any private individuals or nonprofit groups that would want to participate in the structure’s restoration. Stuart and Shelby Development put together a coalition that included the Land Trust and private individuals willing to loan funding or donate services to save the house.
The CRA is providing a $50,000 grant and a $75,000 loan to help with the restoration. Another private individual has agreed to loan funds for the renovations. Once the new home is complete, it will be given to the Land Trust, which will own the land but sell the building for an affordable price to an income-eligible homeowner. Part of the proceeds from the sale will be used to repay the CRA’s loan as well as the private loan.
“We certainly don’t like destroying history if we can avoid it,” said Elizabeth Butler, grants and marketing coordinator for the CRA. “Perhaps it would have made economic sense to demolish the building. But we wanted to do what we could to preserve this link to the past.”
The West Settlers District is a several-block area adjacent to Atlantic Grove and the Delray Beach Tennis Center. It’s designated on the Local Register of Historic Places for its significance as the place where the city’s first African-American families lived, worshipped and attended school. Over the years, many aging buildings have been demolished due to neglect.
“It’s a shame. Many of these owners built these homes with their own hands. There were few tools back then,” Halberg said.
Halberg assembled a crew of more than 20 roofers, carpenters, plumbers, cabinet makers and other contractors and suppliers to gut and rebuild the house, which may be ready for resale as early as next spring. Most of the contractors, including Halberg, are volunteering their time, tools, supplies and services.
“We get a lot from this community, and we’re happy to give back,” Halberg said.