The way Jim and Jodi Lee’s neighbors praise their new gardens, the Lees could almost be the new celebrities on the block.
But strutting isn’t their style. “We just want a place where we can relax with family and friends,” Jodi says of the space she describes as her “sanctuary. At about 7 o’clock on a summer morning, everything’s quiet,” she says. “It’s nice to sit out there and look at what you’ve done.”
What the couple has done transcends mere planting of flower beds and trees: in transforming the lot adjacent to their own from a condemned property to lush gardens, they may very well have rejuvenated their corner of Slavic Village.
The Lees were proactive from the beginning. After the abandoned, foreclosed house at 3648 East 47th Street was demolished, they went to www.cuyahogalandbank.org and, Jim says, they were “contacted within 72 hours…They told us what we had to do [to acquire the property], took us through it step by step.” The Lees purchased the lot for $100 and set about planning their new space.
This spring and summer, the work began. They built a pergola, erected a white picket fence, created a path, and planted pink dogwood and pink magnolia trees. Then they planted flowers-“lots of flowers,” Jim says. And their neighbors love the new look and the way it upgrades their surroundings.
“They all come over when we’re in the yard and ask how it became ours, what did it cost, how hard was it,” Jodi says. “And I tell them, `It was easy, the Land Bank makes it easy, just go online. You’ve got to go online and take the first step.'”
“They were very patient through the entire process,” says Kimberly Steigerwald, acquisitions manager for the Cuyahoga Land Bank, who assisted the Lees during the purchase. “They’re great people-anybody would be happy to live next door to them.”
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Jim sees the experience not only as a property and neighborhood enhancement, but also as a move that enriches their daily living. “Do you want to look out your window and worry about whether your neighbor is mowing their lawn, maintaining it-or would you rather see your garden growing, and your grandkids playing there, and you know it’s safe?
“It’s good to say, `This is my home.’ That’s the way we look at it.”
But the work is far from finished, Jodi says. “We’re still building flower beds in front-raised beds,” she’s careful to note, “so you can show them off through the fence.”
Even more importantly, she’s hoping to convince a neighbor to purchase another side yard that’s available on the street, and groom it as nicely as the Lees have landscaped theirs. “Go for it,” she tells friends who admire her new gardens. “Make the city look better. Take pride in your property. Bring back Slavic Village!”