Editor's note: Check out the finished product here.
Redoing a house from top to bottom was a learning experience that three Creighton University students pursued outside the classroom.
There were tests along the way, like when they bought vinyl windows for the entire house, and then learned they couldn’t be used in a renovation in the landmarked Bemis Park neighborhood.
But they had many more successes.
“We just saw a great opportunity,” says Blake Uhing of Blackboard Design Build, a company he formed while a finance major at Creighton.
Uhing, Johnny Duggan and Rob Maxwell did their homework before buying the house in foreclosure for $102,500 in September 2017 as college juniors. They pitched their renovation plan to investors and raised the capital they needed.
“The bones of the house were great. The foundation was in incredible shape, the woodwork was stunning, and original hardware was everywhere.” Uhing says. “When we saw it, we knew it was the right project. You just can’t build houses today like they did 100 years ago. We could do the extensive restoration ... and still have room for profit.”
The house took about $200,000 to restore. It sold for $360,000 after eight months of work that included rewiring, replumbing, adding central air and refinishing every surface.
Uhing says working with the City of Omaha on a landmarked property was the biggest lesson of all. Everything done to the exterior had to be documented and tracked to get the city to OK changes.
“When rebuilding the front porch banisters and steps, we had to draw each detail of the railings, how many spindles each section had, and match each cove and cut exactly.”
When the wood floors in the foyer couldn’t be salvaged, replacement pieces were custom milled. The same with many of the baseboards, crown molding and door casements, especially after turning one bedroom into a master bathroom.
Uhing, who is from Norfolk, Nebraska, came into the project with an interest in real estate and home design, especially historic buildings. This project went so well that he’s now doing it full time at age 23.
“It’s a lot of fun,” he says. “Every old building has a story. I take pride in helping to tell it.”
Photos: A walk through the Bemis Park neighborhood
The Bemis Land Company laid out this subdivision in 1889, two years after it became a part of Omaha. Its streets were the first in Omaha to be laid out according to topography rather than the grid pattern used in the rest of the city. It has a mix of styles. George Bemis donated the park in the neighborhood. Judy Alderman once told The World-Herald, "It's like a small town. I think a lot of why people like it here is they do know everybody. They know they can trust their neighbors, and they know they can count on their neighbors.''