Leg chairman takes neighborhood revitalization into his own hands

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 9 September 2013 at 12:00 am

David Callard is buying houses and fixing them up

Photos by Tom Rivers – Nelda Callard paints the trim above the side door of a house she and her husband David Callard are working to restore on Temperance Street in Albion.

David and Nelda Callard have worked more than a year fixing up this house on Temperance Street. The house dates back to the 1840s. It was badly rundown.

Jill Bower of Holley, co-owner of Erie Way Tree Farm, on Friday plants a pink dogwood in the front yard on house acquired by David Callard.

ALBION – David Callard is in the home stretch of an ambitious project, reclaiming a house left to die on Temperance Street in the village.

Callard, the Orleans County Legislature chairman, bought the distressed property in August 2012, paying $12,000 for the house and the back taxes. The building seemed destined to be torn down. It took several truckloads to remove a lot of the junk inside. Two layers of shingles were taken off and new siding was put on.

The crumbling foundation was put back together with fresh mortar. Callard removed old carpet and linoleum and discovered red oak floors underneath. Callard put in a new gas heating system and had the house insulated.

“This is a way for me to give back,” he said Friday at the house. His wife Nelda was outside painting the trim above the side door. “We’re bringing a house back and having an impact on a neighborhood.”

The 900-square-foot house was built in the 1840s, and wasn’t perfectly square. That has made it a little tricky to put on new siding and make other improvements. Callard said the entire project has been a learning experience. But he is more determined to take on more of them.

He has since acquired other houses that need work, and now owns eight properties altogether.

Callard, a retired banking executive, enjoys working with his hands, and seeing the turnaround with the houses. He also noticed other home owners near the house in Albion have tackled projects.

“There are four or five others that have done landscaping and other improvements,” he said. “It’s fun to watch if anything else perks along the street.”

The house is a short walk from the Legislature chambers at the corner of East Park and Main streets. Callard said he still has some finishing touches with the property. He may rent, sell or do a lease-to-own with the property.

He doesn’t expect the project will be a money-maker, but he believes it will be a lift for a neighborhood.

Callard has met many Albion residents and other people who buy beat-up houses through the project in Albion. They share frustrations about many abandoned houses, sites that were foreclosed by banks. Many of those bank-owned properties don’t have a clear owner, and the houses just sit with no maintenance, dragging down neighborhoods, Callard said.

The county has joined an effort across the state calling on state legislators and the governor to pass a law requiring ownership of houses to be clearly stated and for those owners to keep up the sites.

“The banks are letting unoccupied houses sit vacant for years,” Callard said. “The banks need to assume some responsibility for the maintenance. This has become a state and national issue.”