Takoma Park is a small town in suburban Maryland that has been quietly preserving itself and its building.
Straddling the Montgomery-Prince George's County line and Located across the upper Northeast border of the District, Takoma Park grew up around a railroad station where a new Metro stop is located. Because of the railroad, Takoma Park evolved into a bedroom community for government workers.
It is a community with a sense of place. Started in the late 19th Century, its construction continued through the 1930s and the architecture reflects those changing styles. There are large Queen Anne houses with towers, wide wrapround porches, and stained glass windows and there are small 1920s and '30-style bungalows.
Many of the houses had begun showing signs of neglect in the past decade, but Takoma Park has begun to turn around.
Town administrator Herb Gilsford says an influx of new buyers with initiative, ideas, and money is behind this reveral of decay. A group of recent new residents gave the city the idea for a protect that is returning a group of old houses to their original condition.
When housing was in short supply during World War II, some single-family houses in Takoma Park were converted to apartments. By the mid-1970s those houses were deteriorating.
The residents groupsuggested that the houses be purchases, rehabilitated and sold at cost as sigle-family dwellings and they urged the city to use federal Community Development Block Grant money to do the work. That program was created in the early 1970s to replace the many individual housing and urban renewal programs.
Takoma Park does not qualify as a city buit it is eligible for money from the allocations that go to Prince George's and Montgomery counties.
The city received the $65,000 in CDBG money for the project last August. A committee chaired by City Councilman Joseph Faulkenberg was formed to administer the program, named Operation Turnaround.
With the $65,000 the committee bought five houses to rehabilitate. The first house went on sale in April and the others are to be finished by the end of May. The money from the sales will be used to pay for the costs of the program and to buy additional properties to rehabilitate.
To be sure that five houses remain in good condition, the new owners are required to occupy the houses and not convert them to apartments.
The program was not without its problems. Tenant relocation took longer and cost $20,000 more than expected. But several of the tenants were able to use their relocation settlements as downpayments for houses of their own.
The city also used $125,000 from the federal block grant program to set up a low-interest revolving loan program for homeowners. More than 30 owners have received loans of $3,000 to $8,000 to make improvements or repairs.
In addition, the city spend $30,000 to put together a "tool library" from which residents can check outachain saw, drill, or other small tool using their library cards. Also offered was a home repair course on drywall construction, plumbing and carpentry. The course was quickly filled.
Beverly A. Reece is associated with the Preservation Resource Group, a local consulting firm that offers workshops for homeworkers.