urban_renewal (2006-29)

Look to Parkridge for a rare discovery

1624 Jefferson Ave.

Finding a Fixer-upper

by Matt Edens

For today’s would-be downtown loft dweller, a two-bedroom, one-bath condo priced under a quarter-million bucks is pretty elusive quarry (although a few have recently been sighted lurking around the lower floors of the Burwell and Holston). Bargain hunters hoping that a little cash and a lot of sweat equity can add up to a sweet house are having to look a little harder, too.

Nowadays, in the historic ’hoods north of downtown, that nice little fixer-upper for under fifty-grand is a rare beast, hunted to extinction in Old North and Fourth and Gill. And even in more “transitional” places like Oakwood/Lincoln Park and Parkridge, such houses have become, like Sasquatch, rumored, but rarely sighted. A quick search of realtor.com reveals that, of the 249 houses currently for sale in the 37917 zip code that encompasses Fourth and Gill, Old North, Oakwood Lincoln Park and most of Mechanicsville and Parkridge, only 18 were priced at less than $50K (and, perhaps more surprising, over 100 were on the market for a hundred grand or more).

Now it wasn’t too long ago that the neighborhoods north of downtown were teeming with cheap houses. A similar sampling of the real estate site roughly four years ago turned up 80 priced under 50 grand (and only 22 priced at over 100). The dramatic increases in downtown’s residential real estate may have garnered most of the press, but downtown’s revival has made the neighborhoods around it more desirable, driving prices across much of the inner city higher, too.

Higher, but hardly unaffordable: This house on Jefferson Avenue in Parkridge, for instance, may cost more than 50 grand, but just barely. Priced at $62,900, this two-bedroom, one-bath craftsman cottage with brick piers framing its big front porch is probably one of the best fixer-

But unlike a lot of those houses you could pick up for under 50 grand five years ago, investing in this one hardly counts as going out on a limb. Half a dozen houses on the block are in the midst of or have recently completed extensive renovation, a mix of private and non-profit investment by Knox Housing Partnership. Another non-profit, Knox Heritage, is getting ready to rehab two George Barber-designed Victorians a block over on Washington (helped by a Restore America grant from HGTV and the National Trust) and, toward downtown, the community has millions of dollars worth of new recreational facilities, courtesy of Caswell Park and the brand-new Cansler YMCA—investments that, judging by the asking price on this place, are already generating a healthy return.

1624 Jefferson Ave.