by Michael R. Allen
On the weekend of October 21-22, 2006, Spanish Lake Development Company held an open house at Neighborhood Gardens to display the results of their two-year rehabilitation project. The event coincided with the annual Downtown Housing Tour. After a long period of rehab and an even longer period of decay, the buildings looked alive again!
The renovated buildings look much as they did when they opened over seventy years ago. The vision of Spanish Lake Development principals Jim and Dan Dalton was to restore the buildings to their true architectural qualities. Thus, they restored or rebuilt almost all of the original steel sash windows with new double glazing, retained exposed block walls and concrete floors in the stairwells and put ceramic tile over the floors rather than carpeting. The only real change to the buildings were the creation of larger apartments through doubling of the small original units. Mostly, the Daltons have kept the timeless qualities of the buildings — qualities created by durable materials that allowed the buildings to survive dereliction without major damage.
The project is nearing total completion, but some buildings are already ready for leasing. Unlike the proposed Bottle District across the street, the redevelopment of these buildings has happened on a short schedule, without the Mayor’s smiling support and without huge fanfare. The persistence of the Daltons has taught the city that even a troubled, iconic abandoned place is not too far gone if someone dares to bring it back to life. That someone need not be a famous developer, either — it can be two guys who care. May the “new” Neighborhood Gardens thrive.