Anti-Blight Program in Covington Leads to Eyesore's Transformation
The property at 1118 Lee Street suffered from years of neglect.
The roof and drop ceiling were falling in on the shotgun house. Shreds of an aluminum door hung at one of the entrances. The interior was beset by mold and graffiti.
The City of Covington took ownership of it, along with many other parcels across the city, and put up for proposals.
Tom Covert and his Rust Belt Properties won the property after submitting a proposal.
“It was pretty atrocious,” Covington Neighborhood Services Director Ken Smith said. “Just awful.”
Now, after Covert's work, the house is just weeks away from going on the market with an open floor plan, natural light from new skylights and windows, exposed rafter timbers, and a refinished wood floor.
The floor-to-ceiling kitchen cabinets are made from beadboard cladding recycled from the property's ceilings and walls.
It features expanded closets, wrought-iron fencing with a gate, a secluded backyard patio, and a garage that could hold two to four cars.
Other nearby homes are also being renovated.
“This is a perfect example of what we want to happen with the vacant, dilapidated, non-contributing buildings in our city,” Smith said. “When I walked through that house for the first time in 2019, I actually wondered whether anyone would even make an offer on it. I certainly never imagined that level of investment or the functionality of the new floorplan Tom designed.”
Covert said the project had started, as all renovations do, with demolition: the removal of everything from a mid-house chimney to the drop ceiling to the “extra” side door to a triangular “beak” at the top of the front façade that had given the building its “The Duck House” nickname.
He then put one end of the house on floor jacks to fix the foundation, replace floor joists, and add a sump pump. Along with the complete rehab of the interior, he built a new roof and installed energy-efficient windows. He also created a cozy backyard experience and completely rebuilt the large garage, which is accessed through an alley.
The goal was to do a “rehab with a sensitivity to the past,” he said.
“Fortunately my labor is free, because I’ve put a lot of it into this house,” Covert said. “It would have been more cost-efficient to have done a complete teardown and built something new. But then the character would have been lost.”
1118 Lee St. is one of the first to emerge from an ongoing city effort to return those properties to productive use, typically as single-family housing.
Others include 954 and 956 Philadelphia St., as renovated by Urban Community Developers Inc.
Eyeing development proposals one at a time, the city has sold or is taking steps to sell some 44 vacant homes or parcels of land.
“We expect to release some more requests for proposals soon,” Smith said. “Abandoned houses and vacant lots cost taxpayers money and drag down a community. The work on 1118 Lee shows how they can be transformed into something special that adds energy to the neighborhood.”