First of five deteriorated homes city sold to developers is fully renovated, goes on market

Nov. 22—First of five deteriorated homes city sold to developers fully renovated, goes on market

WATERTOWN — Michael A. Lumbis remembered last April when he stepped on an old bottle of sunscreen and other trash that covered much of a floor in a deteriorated house at 244 N. Rutland St.

The city's planning director also recalled the house had old drafty windows, outdated paneling, a newspaper from 1997 on the floor and a concern that an animal might come scurrying out from the garbage. One did — a cat, which startled him.

That century-old house looks totally different now.

On Tuesday, Lumbis and senior planner Jennifer Voss took their first tour of the single-family house since it underwent a total renovation.

"It looks fabulous," he said.

It was one of five homes that the city sold to developers and contractors to fix up. Before buying them, they had to explain their plans for the properties.

The 4-bedroom, 2 1/2-bath Rutland Street house is the first of five that has been completed.

During the tour, Dave Heinisch — a landlord who has bought, renovated and resold 20 houses in and around Watertown over the past 20 years — showed off the many amenities that he incorporated into the renovation to get exactly what he wanted.

"I want to get that 'wow,'" he said.

That's why Heinisch, who owns H20Town24/7properties LLC, installed custom molding in each of the rooms, a quartz kitchen counter, top quality appliances and other features, he said.

Starting in June, his team of contractors put in a lot of work — from top to bottom — into the house.

He's got it listed at $187,400. Now comes the wait — to see when it will be sold. It's tough putting a house on the market during the holidays, he said.

"You'd never know how much I put into this house," he said.

About 20 years ago, Heinisch, a packaging specialist from Long Island, discovered Watertown quite by chance following a fishing trip to Pulaski. He never thought he'd end up owning and redoing so much property from what he said is just "a side job."

Under the program, developers had to submit minimum purchase prices and were required to pay off the back taxes, penalties and interest owed to the city.

Heinisch bought the property from the city for $5,000.

The city planning department used a request for proposals process, or RFP, to seek interest from developers for the five houses that sold under the first phase of the city program.

The planning department used a rating system to select which developers would buy the properties.

It's the first time that the city used that method, a process normally used for commercial properties, to sell the homes.

Rather than holding a public auction as in past years, the City Council decided to use the RFP process to sell the houses, citing that the city had more control over what happened with them.

The other homes are: 135 N. Rutland St.; 427 Mullin St.; 703 Franklin St.; and 802 Franklin St. The other developers are still working on them, Lumbis said.

Heinisch put a bid in for the Mullin Street property but another developer got it.

"I was conservative," he said, adding that he wished that he had tried to buy more from the city.

He'd get involved in the city program again, Heinisch told the two city planners.

Under a second phase of the program, two other homes at 256 N. Pleasant St. and 219-221 W. Lynde St. were sold to developers a few months ago and will be rehabbed. The City Council on Monday night agreed to tear down another at 214 E. Hoard St. A fifth house also might be demolished, Lumbis said.

Calling it "a success," Lumbis believes the program has the potential to have a big impact on neighborhoods. It could spur other restoration projects in their neighborhoods.

"Just look at what was done with this one," he said.

He's excited to see what the others will look like when their renovations are completed.