OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Dousman Street house Daren Olson bought, gutted and refinished had no value beyond the lot on which it sat, when he purchased it from the City of Milwaukee in late 2012 in an open bid process. It was under a condemnation order; the City had plans to demolish it.
At its highest assessment, the home and lot were assessed at $82,500. By 2012, after the owners vacated and the City foreclosed, the assessment had dropped to $0. The 2013 assessment already was back up to $53,800. And that valuation was done while Olson still had lots of work to do on the house.
Olson already owned a home in Cedarburg, but he was very attracted to the Riverwest neighborhood because of its strong sense of community.
He heard about the Dousman property from a friend. It also was a friend of a friend who put him in touch with Community Warehouse. That has proved to be a key, cost-saving factor in the extensive work he’s done on his home.
“Community Warehouse offers high-quality products for a very reasonable price,” Olson says. He bought an electric toilet from the Warehouse that he has priced in retail stores, at $5,000. The price he paid at Community Warehouse? Eighty bucks.
He also has purchased interior and exterior doors, floor tile, Styrofoam for insulation, other bathroom fixtures in addition to the toilet, and an entire pallet of concrete board siding from Community Warehouse, Olson reports.
Originally from northern Wisconsin, Olson has lived in the greater Milwaukee area since 1992. He went to Haiti for a few years after the earthquake in 2010, first working for an aid organization and then doing development work. While in Haiti, he learned a lot about solar power, knowledge he has been able to apply to his home in Riverwest through the Solar Riverwest initiative. That program is co-sponsored by the Riverwest Cooperative Alliance, the City’s Office of Environmental Sustainability through its Milwaukee Shines program, and the Midwest Renewable Energy Association.
In fact, the solar panels Olson installed on the roof of his house are so productive, he’s already getting credits on his monthly utility bill from We Energies.
Olson also has worked with the Focus on Energy program and the City’s Me2 effort to help him install his hot-water heating system, which also is solar-powered, in the floor of his house.
“Milwaukee is the beneficiary of a lot of phenomenal programs,” Olson says, “including Community Warehouse.”
Much like the solar connection, Olson’s current job in the construction industry has figured into his ability to take a soon-to-be-demolished structure and turn it into a pleasant, livable, energy-saving home. The interior walls are a deep yellow color, “the sun theme,” as Olson puts it. And Olson painted the outdoor siding he bought at Community Warehouse a lighter shade of yellow. The former grey, asphalt siding on the house paled by comparison.
“Everything fell into place,” Olson says, of the path he took to owning and almost totally rebuilding the Dousman Street home.
The roof was the first thing to go because of its horrible condition. Next, Olson gutted the entire structure, leaving only the frame. He “sistered” every supporting stud in the frame, putting a new stud right next to each original one, creating greater structural support.
“Gutting the house also provided the opportunity to install really good insulation,” Olson says, “about R-38 or R-40.”
Olson’s commitment to helping others is one that’s shared by Steve Lied, Operations Manager at Community Warehouse. The two have become good friends since Olson’s first visit to the Warehouse on S. 9th St.
In the interest of full disclosure, Olson reported that he did have to evict the then-current residents of the home after he bought it – a family of raccoons.
Olson is looking ahead to planting a garden at the rear of his east-facing house, another way to take advantage of the abundant sunlight that falls on the property. And he’s eager to get more involved in the Riverwest community.