I use a mark of question rather than one of exclamation at Green Ink Development's renovation of 124-126 Warren Street. This formerly grand three-story white house has grieved the neighborhood since before I moved to Roxbury in 2005. So obvious is the owner's lack of concern, or lack of ability, to maintain the structure, it cast a pall over everything from Dudley Square up to Martin Luther King Blvd.
For seven years, I've seen renovations start, stutter, and stop. In 2010, one side of the building was painted. At that rate, the renovations will be complete just before our sun goes supernova.
I do understand that sometimes an owner isn't able to make necessary repairs in a timely fashion. I had a 60 foot tree die in my backyard last year, and I had to leave the barren thing teetering precariously while I saved up the $1,500 to have it removed. Still...one side painted in seven years?
I am also loathe to invite the neighborhood to pass judgments on the aesthetics of any particular house, whatever the reason. When I first started house hunting, I viewed some homes in gated communities (I was looking at everything in my price range) that had restrictions on the color of paint you could use on your house, and even the kinds of flowers you could grow in front!
But there is a line. There comes a point when a building, so potentially useful and convenient, degrades into blight, and poisons everything around it. I loudly celebrate the news that the renovation of this sad domicile into office/retail space will be moving ahead at a faster pace.
My open question is this: how much better for the owner of the property, for the city of Roxbury, for everyone that wants to enjoy this neighborhood, would it have been if the owner donated the building space for a period of 5 to 7 years to a worthy community-based organization who, in lieu of paying rent, would spend that money on renovation to the building?
A perfect example, a housing cooperative agrees to assume responsibility for 124-126 Warren Street. They will pay for property taxes, utilities, etc. from the point they take control. They guarantee $1200 in materials, or other improvements, per month for 5 years. You don't think a dozen communities wouldn't jump at that? And at the end of 5 years, the owner has a building worth three to four times what it would be had it remained vacant.