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    Rescued Hill Homes Up For Sale Again

    by Melissa Bailey | Aug 2, 2012 12:01 pm

    Jim Quish picked up a piece of paper in a trash-strewn

    room and uncovered a blueprint for abandoned rehab plans—plans the city is hoping someone like him will revive.

    Quish, who owns Integrated Building Services in Milford, joined a handful of developers Wednesday on Putnam Street, where the city held a walk-through for bidders interested in fixing up three blighted homes. The city is looking for a developer to rehabilitate 138, 181 and 197 Putnam so it can sell the homes to working-class families, according to Erik Johnson, director of Livable City Initiative (LCI), the city’s anti-blight agency.

    The city didn’t always seek to fix them up: It sought to tear them down, before historic preservationists stepped in and halted the demolition.

    The city on July 22 issued a request for proposals (RFP) seeking companies to perform a “historic rehabilitation” true to the buildings’ original character. One sits in the historic Trowbridge Square district; the others sit a block away across Howard Avenue.

    Bids are due back Aug. 28. The city aims to find a developer so it can sell the homes by the spring.

    The rehabs are part of a broader effort that includes demolishing 201 Putnam and building four new homes on that same street. The construction and rehab will be paid for by federal Neighborhood Stabilization money, Johnson said. All seven homes—three rehabbed and four new—would be sold to owner-occupiers making up to 120 percent of area median income.

    “This is intended to be workforce housing for people who want to live in the Hill close to the medical campus,” Johnson said. “The goal is to try to support and recreate the working-class neighborhood that that section of the Hill has always been.

    Quish arrived Wednesday morning to find LCI workers busy cleaning up its Putnam properties for visitors. Gary Larouche manned a rake outside 197 Putnam, an Italianate home built around 1870 that sits on the city’s Historic Resource Inventory. The house was damaged in a fire, according to Johnson

    ... and piles of trash.

    “Some of these doors are nailed shut,” he observed.

    “You think there’s bodies in here?” replied another visitor scoping out the rooms.

    Behind its peeling facade, the building showed signs of a significant rehab, including new wood floors and new windows. New slabs of sheetrock appeared to be installed with the wrong side facing out, one visitor noted.

    The work traces back to the now-defunct Hill Development Corporation (HDC). The not-for-profit housing agency launched the Hill Homeownership Project Phase II to fix up 11 homes in the Hill and sell them as affordable housing. HDC completed five of the homes and sold them, but went out of business before finishing the rest. The city acquired the remaining six homes through foreclosure in 2011, according to Johnson. That included the three on Putnam, which were about 85 percent complete.

    ...

    Behind its peeling facade, the building showed signs of a significant rehab, including new wood floors and new windows. New slabs of sheetrock appeared to be installed with the wrong side facing out, one visitor noted.

    The work traces back to the now-defunct Hill Development Corporation (HDC). The not-for-profit housing agency launched the Hill Homeownership Project Phase II to fix up 11 homes in the Hill and sell them as affordable housing. HDC completed five of the homes and sold them, but went out of business before finishing the rest. The city acquired the remaining six homes through foreclosure in 2011, according to Johnson. That included the three on Putnam, which were about 85 percent complete.

    Quish pondered that request as he headed to the second home on Putnam, number 181.

    “This home is designed to a much higher standard than any others on Putnam Street,” reads the RFP. “The ashlar stone foundation, unique window sash, filigree work on porch and window frames, complex porch pilasters, heavily molded arched entry surround [a] unique cupola with chamfered corners all point to this being an architect-designed building.”

    “Giant high ceilings!” said Quish as he scoped out the first floor.

    “It’s a beautiful building,” agreed Joe O’Donnell of Brownstone Contracting Company in Old Saybrook.

    Quish emerged moments later with a large piece of paper including drawings by Gary deWolf Architects of Peck Street. The plans for the old rehab! Quish asked the fellow visitors if they’d mind if he took it home.

    He traded cards with architect Robert Orr. Orr said depending on the type of rehab, the development team may or may not need an architect.

    O’Donnell said his company plans to submit a bid: “We’ll give them a price.”

    Quish said he hadn’t decided whether to submit.

    Wednesday was his second time taking a tour of the properties. The city issued an RFP earlier this summer that proved unsuccessful. Only one company, Westcarb Enterprises of Springfield, Mass., submitted a bid by the July 10 deadline, according to Shroeter.

    “Their bid wasn’t complete,” she said, so the city went back to square one.

    Westcarb also bid on a companion part of the project: To build four new two-family homes on vacant lots on Putnam. That bid will be reissued soon because Westcarb’s was the only bid, and it was incomplete as well, Shroeter said.

    The city plans to put one of those new homes at the spot where 138 Putnam now sits. That house would be moved east and rehabbed, so another two-family home could rise on the corner.

    Like the other two homes the city plans to rehab, 138 has been abandoned since about 2004, according to Shroeter.

    Neighborhood kids cracked them with rocks, according to neighbor Pablo Ortiz. He said people used to use 138 Putnam to do drugs and have parties. He said the cops have been doing a good job lately at shooing trouble away from that home, as well as another abandoned property across the street.

    A passerby named Eddie, who lives nearby in the “Jungle” (the Church Street South housing complex), said the three Putnam homes have all been used for drugs and illicit behavior. He looked up at 181 Putnam, which sits across the street from a memorial to homicide victim John-Claude James.

    “It would be good if they sold it and made it new,” he said.

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