Saving Springfield's Inner City
In the mid 1980’s, Leslie began buying and renovating abandoned homes in Springfield’s Maple Hill historic district. By 1985, with a crew of 12 tradespeople, she had renovated fourteen buildings into handsome multi-family properties which she then rented out and managed.
With sales agreements in hand to purchase eighteen additional apartments, Leslie structured a limited partnership whereby she raised $250,000 in private capital from investors who in exchange received significant investment tax credits and future tax deductions. Additional financing for the venture came from commercial loans and grant money from the City of Springfield.
The total cost of purchasing and renovating these buildings was $1,600,000. Because of the timing involved, the rehab work had to be done fast track --- within three months --- in order to insure that the limited partners would receive their tax credits before the tax laws changed in 1985. As general contractor, Leslie oversaw a crew of 25 tradespeople and met the required deadline.
The forty apartments within sixteen buildings, were rented up. The beauty of these restored apartments attracted market rate tenants who were willing to overlook the marginal character and reputation of the neighborhoods in which the units were located. At the time, the area was blighted, but there was the sense that things were under control. Other buildings were reasonably managed, and while there was drug activity on the streets, there was the sense of hope as properties throughout the area were being quickly bought up and done over. It seemed only a matter of time before all the blighted elements of the neighborhood would give way to brick sidewalks, fresh paint jobs and restored historic homes.
Once rented, the management was done by Leslie’s staff. The limited partnership had been structured whereby the partners continued to invest money over the first three years to offset operating expenses. These funds made a significant difference in keeping the units well maintained and expenses paid.
With the renovations of the buildings complete and units fully rented up, Leslie looked for new projects. There was the sense of urgency to finding new projects to keep her team working. At the time, real estate values were continuing to appreciate rapidly and banks were eager to lend money.
Before and After
IN THE PRESS
EVOLUTION OF A REHABBER
By Maria Stieglitz May/June 1988
How a frustrated college educated carpenter joined the rehab revolution
Before and After
Woman Turns Majestic Wreck into Dream Castle
Zedra Jurist Aranow
August 22, 1986
By Ray Kelly - Union News - August 27, 1986
A local developer claims ghostly voices persuaded her to restore a 100 year old home in the McKnight district of Springfield.
In my mid 20’s when all this was going on, I was dating an older wealthy man (president of Milton Bradley), and I realized that I had accumulated some enormous tax credits by way of having restored and registered on the National Registry of Historic Homes my collection of multi-family homes. I remember teasing him that my tax credits were a form of dowry and that if we got married, his high income could be sheltered by my tax credits.
But instead, I traded the tax credits for cash I needed to finish the project and for cashflow, and I created a limited partnership with a group of investors from Hartford, Connecticut.
I didn’t marry the executive after all, but I did enjoy some wonderful times with him. He encouraged me in my career, and at the tail end of our relationship, he advised me not to marry the wrong man from whom I’d obtained a proposal.