Monday, December 10, 2012

Gathering my troops... continuation  Link to Jeannie Tidy and how she helped Petersburg, VA

Next I would hear about a woman from Petersburg, VA. Jeannie Tidy! She was a catalyst and power house in aiding restoration efforts there for their historic district. Jeannie had all kinds of ideas! Everything from workshops to creating Petersburg Landmarks, Inc. She and her husband came down to visit me one cold rainy day in January of 2005 for a meeting with the Mayor of Franklin! I was excited believing we were actually going to get somewhere with this project! MY project really. By that time I had already rounded up what few homeowners there were and created somewhat of an association of our own. Franklin's historic district had been taken over by many residents who became absentee owners. These absentee owners had apartment houses that were split into two, three, or sometimes more apartments depending on the size of the home. What became typical was the fact that when someone became ready to sell their property for whatever reason, another City of Franklin resident would purchase the property retaining it as a rental. These properties were not hitting the market or the MLS. And the ones that were, well, they were not being made known about the value. So, many people were coming in buying the homes that were fortunate to survive renters wrath, only to move again shortly there after. When I lived in the neighborhood, the city would take houses down for unpaid taxes rather than promote them, losing a substantial tax base. Investors saw Franklin as an opportunity to make money on these homes. I can't begin to tell you how many homes I watched being "renovated" within a matter of weeks and resold for three times or more than what they bought them for. In my opinion, not only did it take away the value of the property, it also swiped a chance for a new homeowner to be able to save money rather than buying a lemon. I have a few great examples of that.

Another problem we (homeowners) faced was the fact that this area (our neighborhood) has been zoned for apartments. Which meant any single family home could be turned into apartments with a new owner. We already had 70% rental properties in our neighborhood. Also I figured if these property owners had money to turn these homes into rental properties, why not restore them properly? But their way of thinking was that they could get more money out of turning a single family home into 2 or more apartments, and they had downtown business owners believing more rentals would bring more people to their shops. There were a lot of problems with that.

The rental property owners were allowed to rent until the houses became to blighted to rent, then once the houses became blighted the city could take them down, because who was going to buy a broken house? The city was not enforcing their own basic codes they had for the upkeep of properties.

Another issue was Churches. They were buying some of the most beautiful architectural and well constructed houses and tearing them down to create parking lots. I was appalled but remained headstrong in my battle.

Jeannie Tidy spent the entire day with me. We had lunch at Fred's then walked to the then Mayor's office to discuss the advantages with him. Mr. James P. Councill the III owned Financial Concepts in the almighty  Downtown Franklin. I say that a little facetiously because a lot of the same people who owned business's in the downtown and promote it as great place to shop also own a lot of the slum houses in the historic district and then complain about the crime... hmmm...

Jeannie, her husband, and I sat patiently in his office for 45 minutes before he came back from conveniently "being out." He had scheduled this appointment with us and I guess he was hoping we would forget. We talked, or rather Jeannie talked, to him for about an hour. After we walked out of there, her comment to me was, "You're Mayor has no interest in making this historic district what it could be." Those are very hard words to hear.

I gave Jeannie and her husband the Grand Driving Tour and she was just amazed with what we had. All of her ideas just started pouring out. I took many useful notes that day and would later incorporate them into useful ideas of my own. Her suggestion to me was, and still resonates through me to this day, "Be the water!" Thank you Jeannie Tidy for your encouragement! Jeannie Tidy, last I knew, moved back to her hometown, New Orleans, after Katrina to aid them in there time of need with preservation issues!