Extreme makeover: Riverside

By Desiree Perez

The houses on Olivewood stand on blocks waiting for crews to move them to their new locations on Twogood Lane. (Christopher Dietrich)

By Desiree Perez

Now you see them, soon you won’t. Eight of the oldest houses in the city of Riverside are going to be relocated within the next couple weeks.

The city has requested that these restored homes be sold as owner occupied residences. This measure will help to elevate the value of the neighborhood to which they are relocated and will ensure better preservation of the buildings.

Councilman Dom Betro insists that the move will “improve two neighborhoods.” Even so, the project to renovate and relocate these iconic homes has stirred up a wave of controversy.

The relocation will aid the new neighborhood, but many are complaining about the relocation. Residents are up in arms to keep this neighborhood intact. Let’s face it: It’s hard to get a handle on historic significance with the 91 freeway in your backyard.

Some argue that removing the homes will bring down the value of the neighborhood. Still, with the city closing in all around, the ancient houses will depreciate in value one way or another. Holding on to the properties until there’s a McDonald’s next door and a mini mall around the corner just doesn’t make any sense. It is better to sell now, and let the city restore these homes to their original splendor.

While stubborn owners insist that developers butt out of their neighborhood, others can see the potential for benefit.

“Do I hate the city? No, not at all,” one resident said. The resident, who asked not to be identified, continued, “You know, it’s like in life. You try to do things for people and a lot of people get fixated on things, and they’re afraid of progress. Even though this is the oldest neighborhood, you’ve got to have progress.”

What will eventually become of the lot on Olivewood Avenue is still unknown. That project is now entirely in the hands of the city.

These houses were built near the turn of the century. They are part of the original Twogood Orange Grove housing tract, one of the first residential neighborhoods in the city. Four of the bungalows are located on Olivewood Avenue and Prospect Avenue. The other four stand directly behind them, on Prospect Avenue and Mulberry Street.

Most students have probably passed the houses countless times. Many of the homes face Olivewood, across from Riverside City College’s Cosmetology program. What students may not have noticed is that many of these homes are standing on blocks awaiting relocation. One home has already been moved.

Relocation began on the morning of Feb. 9. Moving for each home will take place between midnight and 4 a.m. In this way, workers will not be holding up traffic. The entire transportation will take around two weeks.

The homes will travel 2.7 miles to their new location. An existing alleyway between Orange Street and Lime Street, just north of First and Hewitt will be their final destination. According to developer Scott Ross, the alley will be converted into a new street to be named “Twogood Lane,” in honor of the houses’ historic origins.

Ross and his company MFR Developers LLC were able to purchase each home for just $1. Even though Ross intends to sell the homes for between $400,000 and $500,000, the margin of profit will be slim.

An estimated $150,000 will be spent on renovations in each home. Each bungalow must be rewired, and new plumbing must be installed. In addition to the modern features, the city has insisted that the homes retain as much historical accuracy as possible. They hope to retrofit the homes within a four-to five-month period. By keeping with the style and color palette of the period, the city hopes to retain the cultural heritage of old Riverside.

Ross and his company will be purchasing architectural artifacts from this period to complete the homes. These artifacts will largely be coming from other homes of the period that have already been demolished, or that had been destroyed from fires.

In addition to the extra money spent acquiring these historical ornaments, the developers will also be funding the establishment of Twogood Lane. Water mains, gas mains, electrical and streetlights, new gutters, and gratings will all chalk up the costs. “I’m hoping there’s enough money left for drinks once this is done,” Ross said. This revitalization of our city’s heritage will be a great cause for celebration.