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HOPE, in 25th year, keeps building, renovating

New London - On Belden Street, HOPE has replaced blight.

Housing Opportunities for People, the city-based nonprofit developer, has been mainly responsible for transforming the Belden Street neighborhood over the past decade or so, turning vacant, sometimes condemned properties into affordable homes for first-time, low- to moderate-income buyers.

On Friday, HOPE Inc., in business for 25 years, hosted an open house at 33 Belden St., the 15th neighborhood property it's renovated or built - 13 on Belden Street and two on nearby West Coit Street. HOPE owns two other Belden Street properties and expects to acquire two more, all of which it intends to renovate or raze and replace over the next couple of years, Marilyn Graham, the organization's executive director, said Thursday.

"We've had an impact," Graham said.

That was the goal when HOPE elected to focus its efforts on a single neighborhood as opposed to scattered sites in southeastern Connecticut. In 2002 and 2003, the City of New London got things started, donating two blighted houses and a vacant lot on Belden Street.

The house at 33 Belden St. resembles many of those packed into the inner-city neighborhood. A two-family dwelling with 2,344 square feet of living space and a freestanding, two-car garage, it offers an ownership opportunity for a family whose income is less than 50 percent of the area's median income, $42,300 for a family of four.

The buyer would rent the second unit in the house to a family that would face similar income limits, Graham said.

HOPE, which purchased the house for $34,000 in a December 2012 foreclosure sale, will offer it for $120,000 early next month, though it likely would be appraised for considerably more. Several prospective buyers have expressed interest.

On Thursday, Graham led a tour of the house, pointing out granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances in kitchens renovated by General Woodcraft of New London, original hardwood floors and a staircase banister and new closets and bathroom furnishings. The house has a new roof, new windows and doors and new electrical service, heating and plumbing.

Eddie Fedorshak of Griswold was the general contractor for the project. Architect Peter Springsteel, a member of HOPE's board, designed it.

New London Landmarks, a nonprofit group that promotes the preservation and development of the city's urban environment, determined that the house was built in 1888. Its first owner, Florence A. Chappell, was also the first owner of the house next door at 29 Belden, built in 1889.

Over its 126-year history, the house was foreclosed on several times. In 1996, a bank sold it for $20,000. It sold for $169,000 in May 2006 and for $275,000 in November 2006.

"Then the bubble burst," Graham said, referring to the downturn in the U.S. housing market.

HOPE purchased the house with funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Neighborhood Stabilization Program, which the city administers. Support for the renovations came from funds Northeast Utilities contributed to the state Housing Tax Credit Contribution program and the city, which provided an $8,732 grant.


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