MOUNT VERNON — When the Knox County Land Bank acquired the condemned house at 304 E. Ohio Ave. in August 2019, the consensus was that it would probably be demolished.
Eli Miller of Bargain Homes LLC bought the property in November 2019 and transformed it into a beautiful, airy home that's now on the market looking for an owner-occupant.
“This just shows you what you can do,” said County Commissioner and Land Bank board member Teresa Bemiller after seeing the completed work on Tuesday afternoon.
Miller said the project included stripping everything down to the basics so that his crew could reinsulate, rewire, and put in new plumbing.
“We were able to work through all of the challenges,” he said. “I don't think any of the walls are where they were when we started.”
The three-bedroom house became a four-bedroom, 2 1/2-bath home. A back bedroom became the living room, the kitchen became the master bedroom with walk-in closet, and the front room became a contemporary kitchen. A new HVAC system was installed, including air conditioning.
Skylights high on the west wall provide natural light. Carpeting in the bedrooms complements hardwood floors in the kitchen/living room. A new two-car garage and fenced-in backyard enhance the restoration efforts, which took about six months to complete.
“This is a big win for the land bank,” said County Prosecutor Chip McConville. “This is what we envisioned when we started all of this.”
McConville said that prior to the house being boarded up, it served as a repository for stolen items.
“Our goal was to take something and make it nice,” said Miller. "Luckily, we've been able to get some improvement next door. Hopefully it will have a ripple effect in the neighborhood.”
By September, the house at 302 E. Ohio Ave. will have a new roof and exterior paint job, thanks to a ReHHUP grant through the Knox County Landmarks Foundation. ReHHUP (Reinvesting in Historic Homes Update Program) “provides residents of target neighborhoods with grants, loans, and other assistance to encourage them to maintain the character and community of Mount Vernon's historic districts.”
The parcels are part of the Roundhouse District, an area bordered on the west by South Gay Street, the east by Center Run, the north by East Gambier Street, and the south by the Kokosing River.
Sam Filkins, vice president of the Area Development Foundation, said the ADF will be partnering with Knox County Habitat for Humanity to coordinate a neighborhood cleanup.
Lucas Kreuzer, a senior at Kenyon College and intern at the ADF, presented a blueprint for revitalizing the district to members of the land bank in February. A “neighborhood conversation” slated for March 16 was canceled due to COVID-19.
“Now that I'm in my fourth week [at the Area Development Foundation], my priority is to take Lucas' project and make it a reality because he did really great work,” said Filkins. “We'll be sending out a survey to the residents of the Roundhouse District to see what type of programs they would want to do and see what their needs as a community are. We'll base our next steps on that.
“Although we wanted that [conversation] to be in person, we can't do that,” he added.
304 E. Ohio Ave. is the first home to be rehabbed in the district. The land bank bought the house at 504 E. Ohio Ave. and demolished it earlier this year. No decision has been made as to the ultimate use of the property.
“The land bank is still identifying properties in that area and trying to focus on properties in that area that could be rehabbed,” said Filkins.