News from the Tennessee Valley State, Local and National news
SUNDAY, APRIL 15, 2007

Delano Park revamp prompts interest in neighborhood homes

By Chris Paschenko · 340-2442

On the outskirts of downtown, a Decatur park is undergoing a major revitalization that has area residents and investors taking notice of residential properties.

Through donations, federal grants and city funds, volunteers are transforming Delano Park into a showcase of serenity. They planted trees, rebuilt a rose garden, completed a splash pad. They are forming a history trail and have plans for a boundless playground with access for children with disabilities.

Residents and real estate agents say the beautification effort to return the park to its historic glory should increase property values and encourage investors to snap up empty lots and renovate once-vacant homes in the area.

One Decatur couple converted a duplex on Prospect Drive Southeast into their two-story dream home.

Richard and Dara Cobb said that last year’s completion of the $9 million Banks-Caddell Elementary School and park renovations by Friends of Delano made their decision to move into their investment home an easy one.

“We were married three years ago and decided to sell my house in Point Mallard,” Dara Cobb said. “We remodeled the house in January a year ago, because it’s so close to the school and park. We knew it would raise the property value. The house is 100 years old, and we love it.”

Richard Cobb said he bought the home about six years ago, strictly as an investment property.

“We did a major renovation,” Cobb said. “It had all these small rooms. We completely stripped the inside, tore the entire second floor out and put it back. We brought in 100 tons of dirt, because we wanted everything sloping away from the house.”

Cobb said he saw the home’s potential from day one.

“It was strange when I drove by and saw a sign sitting out in front,” he said. “I called the real estate agent, who had just put the sign up two hours ago. I said, ‘Well, take it down.’ ”

Sue Anna Foote, a Decatur real estate agent, snapped up another home on Prospect Drive, which has been under renovation for about a year.

“I knew it was a good investment,” Foote said. “It’s a beautiful, undiscovered area. I think it’s bringing back the old fashion style of living ... back to Decatur.”

Bonus from school

Foote said the architectural design of Banks-Caddell school was a delightful surprise.

“They’ve thrown up some makeshift schools that looked like prisons,” Foote said. “I’m glad they put something back that represents a beautiful school.”

She’ll list the two-bedroom, two-bathroom home with heart pine floors and a breakfast area for about $129,000, she said.

“The park is most definitely a bonus,” Foote said. “But a (nearby) hospital, school, everything factored into the decision.”

According to a March 2004 article by Sarah Nicholls in National Recreation and Parks Association, measuring the effect of parks on property values isn’t an exact science.

Nicholls said homes that have a straight view and are within 1,500 feet of parks could have a 1 to 3 percent increase in property value. Another analysis found homes within 800 feet of parks could realize a 2 to 3 percent increase.

Lise Sundrla, director of the Savannah, Ga., Development and Renewal Authority, said the city’s 21 squares have created vibrant neighborhoods within downtown communities. Asked if the squares have increased property values, she answered with a “resounding yes.”

‘Vibrant downtown’

“It’s critical to having a vibrant downtown area,” Sundrla said. “The structure works well with mixed use development. Homes, churches, schools, government offices and commercial businesses, have all popped up around squares. It’s all melded together with the downtown fabric. It makes it more vibrant over a 24-hour period, preventing everything from closing at 5 p.m.”

Decatur officials also created mixed-use zones, which ease zoning restrictions while encouraging development in the city’s redevelopment district near Delano Park and Sixth Avenue Southeast.

Melinda Dunn, the city’s coordinator of the Old State Bank and liaison to the Historic Preservation Commission, said the trend in America is “livable, walkable communities, where you can walk to work, church and the store.”

“It’s like Providence in Huntsville,” Dunn said. “For the properties that border Delano, everything you need is within a few blocks. It’s coming back to that people don’t want to live that far away.”

The Cobbs agree, saying their home is much more convenient.

“Friends stop by all the time,” Dara Cobb said. “With what they’re doing to the park, we’ll be in this home forever.”

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