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Willowick home to demonstrate port authority’s ‘Better Flip’

Andrew Cass | The News-Herald

Lake County Ohio Port and Economic Development Authority Director Mark Rantala will be doing his best Bob Vila impersonation in 2018.

At its most recent meeting, the port authority board approved a resolution allowing the donation of a Willowick home from the Lake County Land Bank to be used as a demonstration for the “Better Flip” initiative.

“Better Flip” is aimed at making homes on the county’s west end more attractive to prospective millennial homeowners.

There are about 15,000 bungalows and ranches built between 1948 and 1955 in Willowick, Wickliffe, Eastlake and Willoughby, Rantala said. Many have the same or similar floor plans.

The port authority is hoping to use the donated home at 557 E. 305th St. as an example of what can be done to upgrade the homes.

“The idea is the items that made those homes attractive — they were close to schools, neighborhood parks, sidewalk shopping, churches and so forth — are still the things people are looking for,” Rantala said. “But they didn’t have the master bedroom, the master bath, the walk-in closet and the open concept kitchen. So by doing all those improvements and then showing it to the community and showing it to builders, we’ll have an opportunity with handouts of DVDs and thumb drives to take the idea into the community.”

Rantala said they hope to hold three months of open houses. The hope is to start construction by April and to start having open houses in July or August.

At the end they’re also hoping to auction the home to cover the expenses of renovating. The house itself is being donated to the port authority for free. Rantala said the home next door has been renovated and has an asking price of $150,000 “and they haven’t done half the stuff we’re planning to do.”

Rantala said they want to demonstrate the real cost of each step.

“The list we’re going to have for the people who go through it is going to start with building permits, architectural design, every step of the way with each of the individual trades because people who have never done this scale remodeling don’t know where to start,” he said. “We’re going to try to take them through the whole process.”

“Better Flip” was identified as a goal going forward by Rantala as the port authority turned 10 years old in February. The port authority was working with a group at Auburn Career Center’s architectural program who are creating concept drawings for homebuilders and remodelers.

During an interview in February, Rantala said he thinks that as more of the front edge of the millennial generation starts families, they’re going to be looking for houses because they’re “not going to be raising families in downtown Cleveland apartments.”

“The things that are going on downtown are wonderful, but (millennials) are not going to be staying there forever,” Rantala said. “We’re going to try to find a way to make that housing more attractive by showing a new vision for what those houses could become.”

The port authority will be working with Willoughby-based ThenDesign Architecture on the project. Rantala noted the architect the firm is assigning to the project is a millennial.

With the open houses, they’re hoping to attract a mix of potential home owners as well as current home owners who can see what they can do with their homes.

“We’re not getting into the house flipping business, we’re marketing Lake County as place to live,” he said.