Sunday, April 4, 2010

Strong, Brave Atlas Pillar Gets A Much Deserved Makeover!

Cell phone photo by Brian Finstad, blog post by John Hoff

Regular readers of JNS blog have heard about the "Atlas Pillar," which was holding up the front porch of the house Connie Nompelis (Realtor, historic preservationist) bought for $7,900.

Tonight, word comes from...

...Brian Finstad that the Atlas Pillar--which has since been joined by reinforcements--got a "revitalization makeover" in the past few days. We in NoMi know revitalization is bustin' out all over, but highly-visible outward signs like this really give a boost to troop morale. Thanks for the great photo, Brian.


Emily said...

Way to go Brian! its a beautiful house... And with the morning glory's it will be soo classy looking!

Anonymous said...

Dyna notes:

BTW, I and many others have questioned the city's rehab cost estimates on historic buildings- they often seem way high. The city appears to be using software from RS Means to come up with their questionable estimates. The software costs $750 a year, but the have a free 7 day trial available at . I've been playing with it a bit and while it seems to work well for (and be designed for) new construction, particularily commercial buildings. I tried estimating costs for rehabbing my own house with it and it doesn't work very well.

So folks might want to use the free trial and see how well it works- I suspect we may come up with some ammunition to challenge some of the city's rehab costs estimates on historic buildings.

The Hawthorne Hawkman said...

Dyna (and others),

Here's an idea. I'd like to get a group of people together, maybe at Good Sports or perhaps somewhere outside of NoMi. But somewhere with either wifi or outlets next to the tables so I can plug in my laptop and mobile broadband card.

Then we try out this website with a few different properties that each of us are familiar with. If the site seems reliable and in contradiction to the city's numbers, we can video/blog about it.

Any takers?

MeganG. said...

So, um, today I was on my way to work and headed towards freeway. I glanced towards the direction of the Hawthorne Princess and saw a work truck sitting at the curb in front and in big colorful letters it read "Mister Spanky!!!"

I thought, Dear God, WHO would let Spanky Pete do ANY work on their house????

M. Clinton said...

Do we know they are using this software, or is it theorizing at this point? I would be game. It would be interesting to use this exact house as an example because it would not be theory - we coudl see what the program comes up with and I KNOW what the actual costs were. When you are doing a lot of the work yourself, the costs are much, much different (less) from what one might expect.

Ranty said...

The sight of these pillars painted makes me so happy I could cry.

And I'd definitely be interested in checking out that software with others...

Anonymous said...

Why not just use an industry standard like Timberline, or Xactimate?

Probably 75% of lite-commercial projects are estimated from a preliminary standpoint with Timberline and Xactimate is utilized on about 90% of all insurance claims (of loss) for residential/lite commercial payouts.

I can assure you however, that both software platforms will return estimates that are about 15-25% higher than what competitively bid and well-managed projects would cost to perform.

However, it's important to bear in-mind that projects never go as planned and change-orders, especially on rehabs of older buildings, are inevitable to bring the project(s) into code-compliance.

Moreover, the problem with a lay-person utilizing any of the software platforms to perform and estimate lies in their sphere of knowledge as it relates to what exactly it would take, to facillitate a rehab. Things very rarely as they appear.

M. Clinton said...

@ Megan - That truck was for Maples, not my house. And it said "Mr. Sparky," not "Mr. Spanky." However, when I pulled up this morning and saw that truck, I thought to myself "I don't think having your wiring sparking is what people are looking for in an electrician - I'd come up with a different name if I were them!" LOL

The Hawthorne Hawkman said...

@ Anon 5:03,

Can you explain more about what Timerline or Xactimate are?

And I agree with you about how much weight a bunch of neophytes playing with computer software might carry. That's why I'm glad to have Connie along since she's actually done a fair amount of housing rehab.

The premise of the discussion at hand would be this: The rehab estimates that the city uses as a primary factor in determining the disposition of a property are fundamentally flawed and significantly overpriced. When making this supposition, the first and most logical question should be "overpriced as opposed to what standard?"

So some of these programs or other sets of criteria could be used to measure the city's evaluation. Of course, real-world examples would be helpful too. There's also the chance that these exercises could prove the city's calculations to be accurate. But there is a growing belief that the time for widespread demolitions in NoMi has passed, and a meeting like this could help to shift the discussion more towards preservation as a viable alternative.

drawn to colors said...

Nice pillarz!

Anonymous said...

MCullen NE

MeganG. said...

Oh Darn! I was sure it said Mr Spanky!!! Just think of that business model!

But you are right about Mr. Sparky. That's like the OPPOSITE of some of John and my favorite business names - Steady Tattoo and Big Bottle Liquors, like, why go anywhere else.

Anonymous said...

Hawkman, much of the accuracy function of software platforms for estimating project feasibility is predicated upon the experience and knowledge of the individual estimator that's entering the data into the calculation.

Typically,(especially if government funds tied to them), projects are required to meet very stringent standards when it comes to hazardous material or mold abatement.

Past that point, General Contractors recognize the significant libility (and financial exposure) they have related to successfully completing a project, regardless of what the proposal's scope of work was in the beginning.

I'll give you a great example. about a dozen years ago, the City of Minneapolis hired a paving contractor to install in excess of 200,000 sf of exterior pavers at one of the municipal buildings downtown (I don't remember which one).

The work was completed to satisfaction and the contractor paid. However, over the next couple of years there were numerous incidents of slip & fall. It was dteermined that the paver surface was too slippery to be used in that location. Believe it or not, there was a very long process to determine exactly who was at fault. The contractor had used the paver that was specified by the City. So, it was eventually concluded that the City was at fault.

If my memory serves me correctly, I believe the City ended-up tearing-out the pavers and putting down a more skid-resistant type.

My point in telling you this is that if you involve the government in the process of feasibility studies then, the the "cost to salvage" will always be higher.

Probably the most cost-effective vehicle I ever saw in MPLS for rehabbing residential properties was NNHS. In hindsight, they have a good "blend" of being able to develop an appropriate scope of work, project oversight (especially from a legal and financial standpoint) and finding extremely cost-effective contractors.

Have you been able to obtain a complete report for a residence that is soon to be demolished? That would be a good place to start. If you're able to obtain the complete report, find a capable GC and/or public engineer and perform a walkthrough and see what they come-up with.

Anonymous said...

Dyna comments further:

I've seen RS Means estimates quoted in city reports and decisions on whether or not a property should be razed or rehabbed, so apparently they're using it. I haven't had a chance to get a lot of experience with the program- Minneapolis Wireless has let me down again (good subject for a blog post) so I can't use it on my home computer. The program requires a lot of screen real estate, so it doesn't work well on my laptop. But from my trials with the program I can see it's limitations, especially if the estimiator is a newby or in a hurry and makes assumptions instead of inputting thorough and accurate data. Another problem is the programs assumption that all work will be done at prevailing wage scale with new materials, etc.. It's possible to take into account that an owner may do lots of the labor intensive parts of the rehab themselves, get used materials at lower prices, etc.. But the city just assumes that you'll bring in a genderal contractor to do everything. As they say in the computer biz, "garbage in= garbage out"!