‘Build Up’ program revitalizing Ensley neighborhood

Published: Jun. 13, 2019 at 6:45 AM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Jomaree Davis and his mother Sharon are about to move from an apartment where he says mold is making the him sick to a house in Birmingham’s Ensley neighborhood that the 15 year old helped renovate and may eventually own.

“Hanging sheet rock is what I’m really good,” says Davis. He also “likes tearing stuff up” and plans to own a demolition company.

He learned his skilled through a non-profit called Build Up. It teaches academics and real estate while also getting Davis certified for entry-level construction work. Founder Mark Martin a plan to populate Ensley with more housing that his students can renovate and eventually buy.

Martin says he’s getting calls from people around the metro area, including Mountain Brook and Homewood, who want to donate smaller homes they’re about to demolish in order to build larger homes on the same lot.

“People have families that are growing up into teenagers,” says Martin. “Instead of a three bedroom they want a five bedroom, so they’re wiping them out to build their dream home.”

Martin and Greater Birmingham Homebuilders Association president Colt Byrom says donating keeps the older homes from going to landfills and provides the homeowner with a tax write-off that should cover the cost of moving it.

Todd Kirkpatrick says moving a house would take five days of prep and a couple of hours on the road.

“We can’t travel on the interstate and we’ll just zig-zag all our regular routes through town,” he said.

The idea is a hit with Ensley neighborhood president George McCall. The retired letter carrier says he once delivered mail to six homes in the 2700 block of Avenue I. They are now all gone.

“I’d prefer new construction,” McCall says. "But, if (Martin) can bring a home out here and put them on these vacant lots out here that will keep the grass down for one thing.”

So why not new construction? Byrom says the issue is cost, with a new construction costing roughly $150,000 in the area while moving a home would cost about $40,000.

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