A community development professional tries his hand at renovating a house.
Tom Stone knew precisely the type of house he needed for his first home rehabilitation investment project, a hidden gem with solid potential. And he knew just where to find it – the Cuyahoga Land Bank. “I worked closely with the Land Bank through the years,” says Stone, who served for over 22 years as the Executive Director of Mt. Pleasant NOW Development Corporation, addressing housing needs on Cleveland’s east side before forming his own economic and community development consulting company in 2018. “I knew I could get a house for a fairly low cost so I could invest more on a quality renovation.”
Stone found the perfect three-bedroom, one-bath Colonial in Cleveland’s North Collinwood neighborhood. He purchased the home through the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s Deed-in-Escrow program, in which purchasers must renovate properties to mutually agreed-upon standards and specifications. The deed to the property is kept in escrow until the renovation is satisfactorily completed. In Stone’s case, there was much work to be done.
He removed a wall to create an open floor plan, completely gutted the kitchen and bathroom, replaced all the electrical and HVAC systems, installed new windows, and added fresh paint and carpet throughout the home. “The entire interior is basically like a new house,” he says. “I wanted to ensure the new owners don’t have to worry about any major systems for many years.”
With plans to buy, renovate and sell more homes, Stone, who was born and raised in Cleveland, also sees an opportunity to give back. “We will introduce an employment training component with the next project,” he says. Through the pilot training program called Nehemiah, participants will learn many hard and soft skills that will allow them to prepare for jobs in property maintenance and renovation work. “Participants will not be learning a trade like an electrician or plumber but will learn a lot about finishing work – hanging drywall, mounting light fixtures, and installing windows. These are significant skills that can help individuals get better jobs that pay a living wage. We will also teach soft skills like the importance of showing up on time, a proper work ethic and how to handle conflict. Not only will we be able to return these properties to productive use, but also help people gain employable skills and a higher income.” Gus Frangos, President of the Land Bank said “Tom is just the kind of socially conscious investor we are looking for. We look forward to Tom’s next project.”
Stone will be keeping an eye on the Land Bank’s inventory for his next project. “This renovation was a learning experience for me,” admits Stone. “It was very beneficial to start with a realistic “spec” plan of renovations to be made, and the rehabilitation specialist at the Cuyahoga Land Bank was available to make recommendations or steer me in the right direction if I had a challenge. Our goals are the same. We want to create good-quality housing opportunities.”
Here are some before and after photos of Stone’s renovation project.