A new face for 128-year-old house in Jones Home Historic District

Tucked away at 3105 Woodbridge Avenue in the Clark-Fulton neighborhood sits a little house with a long history. Built in 1887 by Lewis Herman, the three-bedroom, 1,375-square-foot home remained in the Herman family for nearly 120 years.
120 years!
The last Herman, Lois Herman-Mitrovich, moved from the property in 2005 to an assisted living facility. After that, hard times fell on 3105.
"The house became vacant," says Anthony Bango, housing development coordinator for the Stockyard, Clark-Fulton & Brooklyn Centre (SCFBC) Community Development Office. "It got vandalized. There were a lot of people going in there doing illegal activities."
The residents of the surrounding Jones Home Historic District weren't having it. A grassroots effort ensued courtesy of those highly engaged residents, the SCFBC Office and Ward 14 Councilman Brian Cummins.
"We got together and cleaned out the house," says Bango, adding that they also secured the property and added it to the Single Family Rehabilitation Program (SFRP), which, save for the efforts of community development employees like Bango, is privately funded.
Then came the process of untangling the legal and financial trouble surrounding 3105.
"A big part of what I do is work with banks to get them to release liens on properties," says Bango. "I essentially make an appeal to the bank that holding onto this property is damaging to the community and that they'll never get the mortgage back." After he convinces the bank, the property owner can donate it to the land bank. "The land bank works with the county to make sure it's lien free." When the property is financially clean, he goes to work vetting potential buyers and contractors.
So it went with 3105 and in October 2014, John Pasternak and Audrey Schnell, whom Bango describes as community-minded people that enjoy historic rehabilitation projects, took ownership of the property and began the arduous task of bringing it back to life.
"This property was missing its windows. There was a giant hole in the foundation. There wasn’t a scrap of paint left on the thing," says Bango. "Today, there is a new garage. The foundation's been repaired and the house is painted with a historically accurate color palate. John made a point to keep all of the historic woodwork on the exterior of the property. He's done a tremendous amount of work."
Completed in February, the restoration was funded by private dollars and a Heritage Home Loan from the Cleveland Restoration Society, which is made possible via a partnership with Key Bank and First Federal of Lakewood. Pasternak and Schnell plan to sell the home, but may lease it first.
But does one loving restoration make a difference?
Since 2011, the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization (of which SCFBC is a division) has assisted in the rehabilitation of 176 formerly vacant and abandoned homes as part of the SFRP. The total estimated investment stands at $6.8 million—about $68,500 per home. Considering an average demolition costs $10,000; that adds up to an estimated $1.7 million in savings to the City of Cleveland.
"Rehabbed homes stabilize the community," notes Bango, "Last year alone, our office did 27 rehabs and 11 went to owner occupants.
"We would like to do more of these homes—as many as possible."
On Friday, April 10 at 12 p.m., the Stockyard, Clark-Fulton & Brooklyn Centre Community Development Office will host a ribbon cutting at 3105 Woodbridge Avenue to introduce the newly renovated home to the community. This free event is open to the public and will feature speakers, refreshments and property tours.

Read more articles by Erin O'Brien.

Erin O'Brien's eclectic features and essays have appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and others. The sixth generation northeast Ohioan is also author of The Irish Hungarian Guide to the Domestic Arts. Visit erinobrien.us for complete profile information.
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