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Revitalize Brockport: House by House

Another home rescued, restored and ready for a family by Carol Hannan. 

Trustee Carol Hannan is leading a group of volunteers in a plan to revive the Village of Brockport's neighborhoods by reclaiming abandoned and vacant homes. The following article from Westside News was featured on 11/11/12.  

Revitalize Brockport House-by-House

We have copied the article for your convenience. The article can be found in their on line archives:

Vacant village home focus of unique reclamation project

by Kristina Gabalski

This house in Brockport village dates to 1842. A "reclamation" project will make the building into a showcase single family village residence.It’s a serious issue that is faced by every community: abandoned and vacant properties and the Village of Brockport is no exception. But Village Trustee Carol Hannan is spear-heading a project in her own community which presents a unique approach that may be a possible solution.

Noting that the northeast quadrant of the village has been most impacted by the problem, Hannan recently purchased a vacant house in the Fayette/Lyman St. area and plans to rehab the home (which dates to 1842), put it on the market, and sell it as a single-family residence.

“I hope to complete the project with a profit,” Hannan says, and, “if a partnership can be crafted with the Greater Brockport Development Corporation (GBDC), turn over the profit as seed money to start a volunteer organization to carry on this work.”

The GBDC has 501c3 status, Hannan notes. “It’s very important to have that status,” she explains, because “people who donate services and materials to the project receive a tax write-off for their contribution.”

Hannan has been working to find a suitable house for Habitat for Humanity to rehab, but all properties so far have not fallen within Habitat’s strict standards, she says.

The opportunity for her to purchase the “project house” came about, Hannan says, because the former owner “.... didn’t want his home to go rental, he grew up there. He didn’t want someone to come in and flip it and not do the rehab right. That’s why I got the house.”

Although Hannan says she has faced some criticism from “cynical people who don’t think one person can make a difference,” many community members have already stepped in to volunteer and help with jobs like yard clearing and interior demo work.

In true “Field of Dreams” fashion, “I have not had to ask one person,” Hannan says. “People came to me and said, ‘If you do this, we will help you,’ and they have.”

Valerie Ciciotti and Kevin McCarthy, neighbors who have experience rehabbing properties, have lent their expertise. “They said this is our neighborhood, we want to help our neighborhood,” Hannan says.

Brockport Police Chief Daniel Varrenti showed up at the house with a sledgehammer and chainsaw, Trustee Hannan says. “He helped demolish the kitchen and remove weed trees.”

Other trees in the backyard have been taken down by members of the Brockport Police Stetson Club and even Hannan’s lawyer gave a generous donation of a “greatly reduced fee” when she realized the reason her client was purchasing the property. Brockport resident Pam Ketchum has volunteered her gardening skills to help with landscape installation in the front yard of the house, Hannan adds.

According to Hannan, the project house has three possible outcomes: “I lose money and it’s my own financial loss; I break even; or I sell at a profit and donate the profit to GBDC - the best case scenario.”

Hannan emphasizes she will sell the house as a single family home and that she will work to continue the program even if an agreement with GBDC cannot be reached.

“The neighbors are ecstatic,” she notes, and says when the house is finished, it will be a “turn-key” property with a new roof, heat, insulation, new kitchen and bathrooms.

“I could never be a landlord,” she admits. “It’s a hard job.” Trustee Hannan says the rental market is down while the number of available rentals continues to increase, over-saturating the market.

She says there is a need for rental property, but the over-saturation of rentals puts a drain on the village.

“Brockport is sitting on a gold mine in these old houses,” Hannan says. “They are built to last forever and have character you can’t put in a new house.”

She points out the village offers families many perks not found in a subdivision - sidewalks, mature plantings and village amenities. “The village is very walkable,” she says.

“I’m not the future of the village,” she muses. “Young families are the future of the village.

“We need to convince people this is a family community. Fairport and Spencerport haven’t exploited their properties for profit,” Hannan continues, “and it has brought up the value of everything.”

She sees great potential for her project and also hopes service organizations at The College at Brockport will get involved.

Already the renovation/rehab work has turned up a few surprises - interesting artifacts that literally “fell out of a ceiling.”

The items include a pair of spectacles dating to the 1870s, various chair spindles and full-color illustrated fold out reaper pamphlets and catalogs. Hannan says she plans to donate them to the Emily L. Knapp Museum & Library of Local History along with old newspapers and photographs she “inherited” with ownership of the house.

Former owner Fran Welch worked as a correspondent and photographer for a Brockport newspaper as well as the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

The photos, dating back to the 1950s, show scenes of the village, people, social events and athletic events at the high school and college.

Renovation work is ahead of schedule, Hannan says. She hopes the property will be ready for the market before next spring.

Photographs by Kristina Gabalski