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Materials from East Tosa home salvaged for Habitat store

May 25, 2012

New stainless steel appliances, light fixtures with the tags still on them and a beautifully etched glass pantry door - sounds like the selling points for an East Tosa home that was recently remodeled and put on the market. Instead, it's some of the list of items Habitat for Humanity has removed from a home just off 69th Street and North Avenue and taken to its ReStore to resell.

The house has been purchased by the city and will be razed to make room for more off-street parking to serve the commercial district.

It will be several months before the two-story home is demolished, said Joseph Kroll, special projects engineer for the city. All utilities need to be disconnected and there needs to be some environmental testing because of the neighboring Voline auto service station, he said.

Meanwhile, the Police and Fire departments have been taken advantage of the empty house.

Officers already worked on searching for suspects and clearing rooms in the case of a tactical situation. In a couple of weeks the Fire Department will work with new recruits on search and rescue and ladder skills at the house.

"These opportunities don't come along too often," Police Lt. James Mastrocola said. "We're very grateful whenever we get the chance to use a building for training."

People who've seen the building's interior work comment on the extensive work that has been done. The couple who owned the house renovated it in hopes of flipping it to a new owner and the city came calling.

The city paid $159,900, about $10,000 less than the fair market value for the 1922 home on less than an acre.

Ed Haydin, board member of the East Tosa Alliance, called the deal "serendipitous."

The homeowners were looking to buy just as the city was looking to acquire property not only to add parking but to make the existing municipal parking lot across the street into a plaza.

The Common Council last summer adopted a master plan for the North Avenue commercial district between Wauwatosa Avenue (76th Street) and 60th Street.

"This was the first gesture," Haydin said. "It's a keystone project to make this block center of East Tosa."

He foresees evening concerts and neighborhood gatherings in the plaza and when it's not being used it can return to its parking lot use, he said.

Since the city won't need the materials, it made sense to have Habitat for Humanity come in and see if they could salvage items from the home for use on housing projects or to sell in the ReStore, 3015 N. 114th St., before the demolition starts, Kroll said.

Three days this week were spent removing everything from flooring, plumbing and light fixtures and decorative molding.

"The interior doors are amazing," said Mike Jones, deconstruction coordinator for the Restore. "You don't get a lot of that older woodwork and craftsmanship anymore."

With three bedrooms and two bathrooms, each with numerous closets, there were plenty of doors to take.

Jones pulled out a long white picket fence from the backyard that looks like wood but is made of plastic so it won't rot. Even the small number of plantings in front of the porch was taken because they could be reused.

The crew will come back closer to the demolition date to take exterior doors and windows so neighbors won't have to look at a boarded up home, Kroll said.

Both bathrooms and the kitchen had been remodeled so the salvage crew hit a jackpot of new toilets, sinks, cabinetry, a granite countertop window blinds and Frigidaire appliances.

Jones counts the East Tosa home in top 5 percent of properties he's salvaged. He expected the items to hit the ReStore sales floor the same day he delivered them and estimated the new items would be priced at about 50 percent off the original purchase price.

As for the older materials, the store staff have to take more of an educated guess based on what's popular among customers, Jones said.

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