Man Fixing Up Century-Old House Despite City’s Efforts to Tear It Down

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- A century-old piece of history will soon vanish from Des Moines' east side despite a homeowner's efforts to save it.

Jim Bell has deep ties to the east side.

“I’ve been in this neighborhood since I was 12. I’ve seen it change over and over, and I think it is making another turn around to the good side and I want to be around for the ride,” Bell said.

But the city of Des Moines wants him removed from the driver’s seat of the renovations of a home built in 1905 at 2119 East Grand Ave.

“He agreed in 2013 that he would do the repairs and bring it up to code. We did a review of properties that needed to be demolished, and this one appeared on the list as being a long term nuisance with no work done it,” said SueAnn Donavan, the neighborhood's inspection and zoning administrator.

Bell has been granted two separate extensions to have renovations done on the vacant home, which he failed to meet.

“The last court extension told him he had until May 27 of 2016 to have the entire property complete,” Donavan said.

“I just can’t snap my fingers and make this happen. I wish I could but I can’t,” Bell said.

But he’s trying. In the last 30 days, he’s spent nearly $30,000.

“Utilize a little common sense, show a little courtesy and maybe drive by and take a look,” Bell said.

Unfortunately for Bell, the city says they judge a book by more than the cover.

“Mr. Bell has done some exterior work. He has not done any of the interior work. He’s pulled no permits for the interior. The extension has expired and we’ve moved on to demolition,” Donavan said.

But much like the east side neighborhood he says is rebounding, Bell won’t quit despite what seems to be inevitable.

“I just went to the hardware store and picked up the last of the windows that need replacing,” he said. “We need structures occupied by people that are vibrant parts of the community that take pride of the ownership of that house to stabilize our neighborhood."

The demolition is scheduled for July and will cost the city about $30,000. The money will come out of a federal grant earmarked for demolitions.

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