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732 Gaines Street Davenport IA 52802


Starting to HAPPEN

Vacant homes get new life under city program

By Alma Gaul
Photos by Larry Fisher/QUAD-CITY TIMES A year ago there were gaping holes in the roof of this house at 822 Gaines St. Today, the roof is water-tight and there is framing for new rooms. The project was spearheaded by Jack Haberman, representing the Gateway Redevelopment Group, a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving historic structures in Davenport's Gold Coast.

Jack Haberman readily admits that the long-abandoned house at Davenport’s 8th and Gaines streets was so far gone that the most reasonable course of action would have been to tear it down.

But being reasonable would have left an empty space along a heavily traveled street, and no one ever would have built a new house to replace it, Haberman says. That would have been detrimental to the historic Gold Coast neighborhood that Haberman calls home.

“We don’t need another empty lot; we need a family,” he says. “We had to save it.”

So when the city of Davenport launched a new program to tackle the problem of abandoned or vacant housing by making money available for rehabilitation, a nonprofit group that Haberman helped organize applied for funding.

Today the house at 822 Gaines St. is looking better than it has in years — as are several other homes in a targeted area that were approved for the first round of HAPPEN (Housing Assistance to Protect and Preserve Established Neighborhoods) funding about a year ago.

The fund contained $400,000 from the city’s capital improvement fund, and the city agreed to pay up to 40 percent, or a maximum of $30,000, for repair work on each approved house. That amount was intended to cover the gap between what it would cost to rehab the houses and what they might be sold for.

Of the six approved in the first round of funding, one has been completed and four are well on their way. Susanne Knutsen, housing renewal coordinator, is hopeful that the sixth property will still come through.

Haberman says the Gaines Street home might be farther along now, too, but it took until April for the Gateway Redevelopment Group to get clear title to the 1876 home.

Haberman is a retired engineer who devotes his time to building up the Gold Coast neighborhood, generally that area between 5th, 9th, Ripley and Vine streets.

Gateway received the home for free from Scott County, which had taken title after tax leins were not paid.

Neighborhood volunteers put in about 300 hours gutting the home and removing a beyond-hope addition to the back and dilapidated, 1900s embellishments on the front.

With about $10,000 from individual members of Gateway  and $30,000 from the nonprofit Quad-Cities Housing Cluster, Gateway hired Mark Kellenberger of Mark Construction, Davenport, to begin reconstruction. (The $40,000 is loaned money that is expected to be paid back when the home is sold.)

Kellenberger replaced all flooring and framing on the first floor, all flooring and half the framing on the second floor, all of the roof and three-fourths of the foundation sill. Luckily, the foundation was sturdy and plumb and needed little work.

“The roof is what’s amazing,” says Jo Souder Vandecar, of the city’s Abandoned Housing Task Force that proposed the HAPPEN program. “It was such a caved-in mess. Now you drive by and it’s ‘Oh my gosh.’ It’s such discernable progress.”

Drywall and the installation of mechanical systems — plumbing, heating and cooling and electrical — will come next. Haberman says he might get volunteers to help install the 250 or so sheets of drywall that will be required, and the mechanical contractors have agreed to wait for payment until the house is finished and sold.

Replacement windows will be another big project. When finished, the 2,300-square-foot home will have a master suite with sitting area, plus two secondary bedrooms and a common bath on the second floor, and a kitchen, dining room, two parlors and laundry on the first floor. It also will have attractive architectural features, including a salvaged oak staircase, wood exterior doors and interior pocket doors.

Haberman expects the rehab will cost $100,000 to $110,000, and that the house will bring $70,000 to $80,000 when sold. Without the anticipated $30,000 from HAPPEN, the project would not have been possible.

“The HAPPEN program gave us the opportunity to save this house,” he says. “It wouldn’t have happened otherwise.”

Alma Gaul can be contacted at (563) 383-2324 or agaul@qctimes.com.


The deadline for the third round of HAPPEN housing rehabilitation funding is at the end of December.

Although the first round was confined to a targeted area — Locust Street south to 5th Street and Marquette Street east to Jersey Ridge Road — the program is now open citywide.

Addresses and pictures of eligible homes are on the city’s Web site at  http://www.cityofdavenportiowa.com/ced/houserehab/renewaban.htm.

The site will be updated shortly for the next round.

Susanne Knutsen, housing renewal coordinator, can be reached at (563) 888-3380.


Gateway Redevelopment Group, Davenport, Iowa