Naked Philly: Project Rehab Helps Fix Up a Blighted West Philly Home

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

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by Lou Mancinelli

As early as last year, 4923 Osage Ave. was a vacant, debris-filled mess with its rear wall caving in. Now it's an entirely renovated home that’s listed on the market for $349,900. The turnaround was facilitated by Project Rehab, an initiative launched in 2011 by the forward-thinking innovative group at University City District that brought us The Porch, 30th's Street Station’s colorful and vibrant concrete enclave.

“Project Rehab is born out of the community,” said Ryan Spak, of UCD. The project serves as a guide that helps owners that otherwise might not have been able to sell or revamp distressed properties. Many of the properties its staff helped revitalize in the past few years were first identified by neighbors. What’s particularly interesting about Project Rehab is that its staff in no way contributes finances. Instead, staff members spend time if necessary doing research to track down absent owners of homes that could be revitalized. Its end serves both the UCD's mission and improves the community. Sometimes a home is saved and rehabilitated instead of being demolished by the City with the cost being paid by taxpayers.

At this property, neighbors contacted UCD about a rear wall caving in around October of 2012. Eventually, Spak found the owner when he noticed the deed had twice been transferred through the family of the former owner after her death. When he entered the property “it was a pretty sad state of affairs,” Spak said. There was trash everywhere. Piles were as tall as a man and as wide as a hedge. The former tenant hit a rough patch and walked away- and left everything behind without coming back. This may be strong move for getting over one's ill fate, but a poor move in terms of real estate.

Once the owner had been contacted, Project Rehab, via Spak and staff, helped the owner determine his options. They were to renovate, which the owner wanted, or to sell. Project Rehab connected the owner with various contractors, but the owner realized that the needed repairs were beyond his resources and wants. “You can think of it almost like a free consultation,” said Spak.

When the owner decided he wanted to sell, Project Rehab connected him with six different realtors. The owner in turned interviewed the realtors and chose one. But before an investor was chosen for a final sale, the realtor confirmed for UCD that said investor had sufficient financial capability to cover the completion of the project.

The buyer, Ji Shui Zheng, purchased the property in June 2013 for $150K. Now, as we said at the start, the property is on the market for just under $350K. It marks a run as vacant trash filled home to someone's new beginning in a little more than a year once Project Rehab got involved. As such, Project Rehab represents a force of good in the world of revitalizing neighborhoods.