Friday, May 31, 2013

In which there will be bar-b-que!

We finally got the barn pull-down scheduled...Monday June 10th!  Yikes, 10 days until we change the face of downtown Belfast by doing away with the blight portion of Slum and Blight! 

I was chatting with someone yesterday who asked me where our latest project was and I told her, using my usual landmarks "You know, the building with the totems out front"  When her face lit up with recognition I told her that we had just gotten approval to remove the barn...she said, as most people do...I never noticed the barn.  REALLY???
How can one look at this building and not notice the 40 foot long pimple off the side?  
Well, come Monday, the pimple gets squeezed!  It will most likely take all day to take the building down and another day or two to haul it away.  Personally, I have moved passed the mourning phase for the barn and just want it gone.  Then we can focus all of our energies into the slum portion of Slum and Blight.  Which, when looking at the image below, seems less daunting a project.  

We met last night with our favorite contractor to go over a schedule with him for work on the building.  Things are moving forward again.  We are still working like dogs on other businesses right now, but as soon as the cottages open up for the season next week, I won't be able to tweak them too much, and will be working on the building for most of the summer...until August when the auction season ramps up again.  Lately, I have wasted a good amount of time traveling to look at furniture and paintings that look great in photos and descriptions, but are sadly lacking in person.  

Attending the Main Street Conference today in Belfast.  I look forward to hearing from Maine people about historic preservation of our Main Streets.  

Oh, and Greg wants you all to know that we will have our grill out for the barn demo party. Burgers and Dogs and watching big machines demo a huge building.....what could be better!  See you on Main Street on Monday the 10th.  

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

In which we make a new body of water in Belfast

Our efforts in digging and digging have been successful, we may just put a natural spring fed pool in the basement and charge admission!

In which I constantly think to myself "I love living here!"

I know, you are all tired of hearing about anything but the on-going work on Slum and Blight, but Greg is trying to get the floor plans done and I am working on opening the cottages for the season, which starts on Friday.  Yikes...figures that it would rain all this week, putting a damper on my last minute painting plans.  

So, with the weather still cold, I decided to bite the bullet and replace the Vermont Castings gas stove at our Arts and Crafts Cottage, Little Bohemia.  I was told at the end of the 2011 season that the stove was obsolete and impossible to fix.  I decided that for 2012, I would leave the stove alone and not rent the house into the fall season.  

I took myself down to Maine Energy and told them the situation and that I wanted to know what they had on sale.  The manager asked me if, "Bob," one of their techs, had examined the stove and told me to get a new one.  I said I didn't remember.  He then looked up the service record and indeed, "Bob" had looked at the stove.  "We had problems with "Bob,"" said the manager.  "He doesn't work here anymore.  Let's have Clayton look at it."  Apparently, "Bob"  didn't know how to fix stuff and just told people that their heating units needed to be replaced. 

So, hopefully when Clayton looks at the stove tomorrow, he can fix it, which will save me all sorts of money and hassle.  I applaud Maine Energy for admitting that one of their employees went rogue and was cheating their customers.  I was happy to ask the manager to come down to Slum and Blight and give me an estimate on what it might cost to install heating units on all the floors. 

By the way, dear readers, Little Bohemia is for sale.  

Saturday, May 18, 2013

In which I forget that I have other work to do.

I suddenly realized that my first renters are arriving next week for the cottages.  So, this weekend, I am attempting to paint as many porches as possible.  It helps that we use all the same colors at each cottage.  So yesterday, I put the first coat of Majolica Green on the porch at Little Bohemia.  I have two more porches to do there.  And then, of course, I will want to paint the whole house...something I don't have time to do, but should since the house is for sale.

Next week finds me road tripping to New Hampshire and Vermont for auctions.  Some good stuff that seems to have clients interested.  The auctions take place over Memorial Day weekend, but I would rather preview early and bid by phone if I need.

Greg has been working like a madman on our house.  We have a load of family and friends arriving in August to celebrate Greg's birthday.  Every cottage is filled and we had to rent another house for the spillover and so he is doing all those projects that needed to get done, like rebuilding the porch railing.  Last year we almost had the porch fall down on us, bringing the second floor with it!  Ahhh life in decrepitude in Maine!!!  Gotta love it!

Oh, and the In Town Design Review Committee approve us tearing down the barn!  Onward!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

We are taking a few days to ready cottages for the cottage rental season.  We have two gorgeous cottages on the coast of Maine, about three miles from Belfast that still have some early and late summer openings.

Tonight is our meeting in front of the In-town Design Review Committee to get permission to tear the barn down...keep your fingers crossed!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

In which we work all day to put an information packet together

I spent the last few days writing a narrative, complete with photos, for the In-house Design Review Committee of Belfast.  Greg spent the last few days drafting the elevations for the North West and South sides of the building as we envision them. We are going before the committee armed with all this information as well as three letters of agreement from the architect, the contractor, and the engineer about pulling the barn down.  Of course this is not something we want to do, but pretty much have to do in order to keep on with the project.  The plans came out really well and we have some renewed enthusiasm going this week. It was really exciting to work on these aspects of the project rather than the cement digging aspects of the project. (which I have to get back to doing today) It was also very gratifying to see some of our ideas and discussions about the project unfold on the page.  We talked about putting in another column of windows at the back end of the building and I am happy to see them in the elevation.  When Greg was drafting a couple of things wouldn't come together, including the dormers.  We opted for single large dormers with one large window rather than two windows. The pitch of the dormer roofs is important to me, and he couldn't obtain proper pitch and keep a long connector window between the two dormers.  Other things that he found while drafting???  The first floor windows were originally longer than the windows upstairs on the second floor, which is something I really never noticed in the period photo.  Currently, the windows on the first floor are half the size they are on the second floor.  The placement of the door on the basement level moved around a bit, and landed where it is now because you can see it from Main Street really well.  Things may change again....looking at the drawing now, I see big square windows, like Greg has in the dormers, working well at the basement level as well.

What we didn't include is the terrace with tables and chairs that could be scattered around the windows here.  Great place for some sort of cafe, or small eatery.  

The south facade is the side where the barn is currently attached.  We will have to make a stair to access the top floors, so we decided to gable out a stair /elevator tower at the rear of the building.  We can't afford the elevator right now, but when we attach a second building, the elevator will be an import access point for both buildings.  The top of the gable addition adds a nice sunny space for the top  floor, kind of an entry gallery.

My favorite elevation is probably the West one.  Nothing changes to the front of the building save for the door on the second floor getting unsealed and the portico, which Greg didn't show in this view.  I think it will be hard to see the addition at the rear from Main Street given the way the building is angled. We get a lot of room added on the top floor.  

Friday, May 10, 2013

In which we power dig...dig...dig...and get down to concrete...again.

So, after spending several hours on Wednesday digging around and pick-axing out the granite ledge at the front of the basement, I was tired!  Greg came down to help after a few hours and I told him I needed a break, so we had an early lunch at Good N' You Street Food where I had the special fiddlehead burrito..yum!  

Upon our return, I told Greg that I thought we should start at the front of the basement where there wasn't any granite ledge and move our way back.  Greg looked at me skeptically, since he is a type A and needs to finish what was started in the same manner with no deviation.  Too bad he married me then, cause I am type scatter brain and flit from one thing to another in a random way!  We huffed and puffed and moved about forty wheel barrows full of dirt in about 90 minutes and were making good progress, digging down to what we thought was a smooth granite ledge about 8 inches under the clay and dirt. We were considering stopping for the day when a friend showed up in his car with a shovel announcing he was here to help.  He explained that he had three or four months with nothing to do and so he thought he would come down and help....WOW!! Needless to say we enthusiastically endorsed the idea and went back to digging.  We uncovered an area about 25 feet long by 12 feet wide, roughly a quarter of the basement in one day.  It had taken us about four days to do the same work at the front of the basement due to the huge granite ledge there.   This section was all smooth though, and we kept wondering whether it was granite or cement.  

But why would there be another 4 inches of cement under 8 inches of soil, which was under 4 inches of concrete??

We have raised the height in the basement by about a foot, by now.  So standing on the freshly dug ground gives us about 8'3" head clearance.  When we finished digging out, we found that indeed, the ground is covered with 4" of cement...taking that up will give us a ceiling height of 8'7" before pouring a new floor.  There is a silver lining!  The space is not so claustrophobic anymore and I can see a full height retail space in here with windows all around, making it light and sunny and a popular rental space in a town that usually only has ground floor rental spaces with one big window facing the street.  (Is it obvious that I am trying to rent the space while we work on it??)

This is the next section to go, we have two old furnaces sitting side by side, hooked together by a heat exchanger.  The one furnace is just scrap, having no burner attached. Once we get the wooden walls out, it will be easy to haul them away, Dan Waldron.
But the above photos show you where we are with this.  All I can say is "ouch."

What we did love about Wednesday were all the visitors we had who came down to make sure we were ok!!  Thanks for the visits and come by any time!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

If you want to see older posts, click on the title of the blog in the upper left hand corner....that is the way blogs the title to get to the home page.  


In which we bring in the big boy toys and get down to business

After waving good-bye to our in-house design department at the airport, we went back to our back-breaking project of digging out the basement at Slum and Blight.  Just as we were about to take our third break in an hour, our favorite contractor showed up with his big boy shovel and said that he could work for about an hour.  In that hour, he removed about a third of the concrete debris that we piled up for him and placed it in his truck for relocation.

Greg has been quietly figuring out in his head how we can get one of these beauties for our very own.  I mean really, look at that reach!  Larry can get about 12 feet into the space and pull out the concrete like it was styrofoam.  He ripped out the 8' x 2' granite sill under the garage door frame with little or no effort.  This pile of concrete was gone in 45 minutes.  

While Larry and Greg worked at that, I dug out the old cast iron sewer pipe that ran under the concrete floor.  Lester, our resident scrap iron scavenger will be extremely happy tomorrow when he comes around on his regular rounds.  

Meanwhile, the hand digging and the pick-axing continue.  I have been able to break up a lot of the ledge that we encounter, it is shale-like, and a couple of good whacks with the pick axe can usually fracture a nice chunk of granite off the ledge.  We have been able to dig down about a foot in most places.  While kind of a pain in the ass, the project is certainly working on my physique!  My granny-arms are slowly going away....which is a feat in itself!! 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

In which we get our act together and get some plans.

Dormers, dormers, dormers!

We have spent the better part of the last three days deciding on dormers for the third floor of Slum and Blight.  We don't want them too small for fear that we won't have maximum view potential, we don't want them too big for fear of overwhelming the building.  I want them to match the very geometric aspect of the building and Greg wants to make sure I can stand up on the third floor.  We drove around and took photos of lots of dormers, drove around Belfast to see what others who came before us had done.  After three days we, together with the very talented Pegi Miller, figured it out.  

While we wait for the meatloaf to cook for tonight's dinner, Pegi busily drafts a "final" version of the layout for all four floors of Slum and Blight.  It is nice to have our own in-house drafting department of sorts!  Greg and Pegi went to college together where they both learned to draft in the architecture school.  Greg saved a lot of time by measuring the space and drafting blue prints of the shell for the building. After all talking about what we wanted over drinks, food, more drinks and then some cocktails, she went to work.  Our living room is covered in pieces of tracing paper, photos, ideas on scraps of paper, a totally cool electric eraser, and protractors!  
She is now at the kitchen table doing a final draft before she flies back to Los Angeles tomorrow. So engrossed is she in her work that when I pulled out a blueberry/ pineapple upside down cake out of the oven, she asked me when I had made it...I asked if she didn't notice that I was cooking while she was drafting..."no" was the reply I got before she put her eyes back to her work.  

It all hinged on the dormers!

Friday, May 3, 2013

In which we fly our space planner in from LA...she is that good!

Spent the day yesterday salvaging a paintings deal between two clients.  I seem to work three times as hard for half the pay these days in my art-based business.  Luckily, after several hours on the phone, I got both parties to agree to terms. But in the end, I never did get my work hours in at the building.  Though the day before, I tempted Greg to abandon work to come with me to an auction preview in Augusta, we did get back in time to haul about 10 wheelbarrows full of dirt out from under the building.  So, Greg and I were, again, taken away from the work at hand by our jobs.  Greg is working on a benefit fashion show next weekend in Rockland and so he spent the day amid a flurry of emails and texts to try and get the show to come together.  Local folks, if you can make it, Fashion's Night Out should prove to be a wonderful event and benefits local area LGBT youths who need a safe place to gather and be themselves.  

In more exciting news, our friend, the talented Pegi Miller, arrives from Los Angeles today ready for a weekend of space planning for Slum and Blight.  Pegi helped us tremendously when she stepped in at the beginning of our work on Sunny Side, an 1885 Modern Gothic house in the village of Bayside, Maine.

The house looked like this when we bought it, this photo makes it look nice, but we could have pushed it down ourselves.  The gingerbread ornament on the first floor was fiberglass.

Oh my gosh, I haven't looked at the above photo for about 3 years!  We are nuts!
Anyway, Pegi helped with bathroom and kitchen layout and helped us achieve a fantastic look for the house.
Note that the clock on the wall and the fridge in both photos are in the same location.

Needless to say, we are very excited to have her come look at our newest project as she brings fresh eyes and ideas for us to work off.  She will help with measured drawings in exchange wine and good home cooked food and a few servings of fresh Maine seafood and vodka!
Let the fun begin!  I am cooking now while Greg shuffles off to Portland to pick her up.  I plan to go shovel some dirt later today. We did get about a quarter of the basement shoveled out and have  lowered the floor by a good 15" in places where there isn't a granite ledge to contend with!!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Click on the link above to see a very nice article about us written by Abby Curtis for the Bangor Daily News.

No photos for the near future as I washed my phone yesterday in my rush to get my dirty and sweaty clothes in the dryer.  The insurance company has a back order on my phone, so it will be a few days.  

Nothing much new going on, just digging, digging, digging.