Friday, March 4, 2011

REI Member Valeria Alphin Gets Mountain View Neighborhood National Recognition

Our member Valeria Alphin got national regognition for Mountain View Neighborhood as being one of the best places in the United States to invest in property.

If you would like Valeria to show you a house in this neighborhood contact her at

Click here for a link to the This Old House Article on the Mountain View Neighborhood in Roanoke Virginia:

Click here for WFIR report

Here's the Roanoke Times Article on it:

Mountain View: New start for grand old Roanoke neighborhood

The area west of Wasena Park was honored with a magazine distinction.
By Mason Adams

Where many people might look on the dozens of vacant houses for sale on Chapman and Patterson avenues in Southwest Roanoke and despair, Gregg Ervin sees the future.

"As long as you don't have people in them doing things they shouldn't, I'm happy," Ervin said as he walked down the 1400 block of Chapman Avenue Southwest. "For me it's a good thing because it allows for change and turnover in the neighborhood. When you have a lot for sale, there's a lot of opportunity."

Ervin moved from Washington, D.C., to the neighborhood two years ago with the goal of buying and fixing up an old house. He purchased one in the 1200 block of Campbell Avenue and commenced renovation.

In October of 2009, Ervin contacted Jim Crawford, a neighborhood resident who'd lived near Memorial Bridge on 13th Street since 1978, with the intention of reviving the Mountain View Neighborhood Association.

"They started holding meetings, created bylaws, started inviting folks, established the group, started applying for neighborhood grants, got neighborhood gateway signs in place as a result of that, purchased Realtor thank-you-type signs and placed them in the yards of people who were rehabbing houses," said Bob Clement, Roanoke's neighborhood services coordinator. "All this has taken place in the space of two years."

The effort paid off this week when the Mountain View neighborhood was named as one of This Old House magazine's 64 best old-house neighborhoods. The magazine chose one neighborhood in each of the 50 states, Washington, D.C., 12 Canadian cities and one town in Puerto Rico.

According to a news release, "Mountain View was selected based on its impressive inventory of great homes, and the community spirit that supports them."

News of the award came as a surprise to at least one longtime resident, Mary Anne Fawcett.
"No, that's Old Southwest," Fawcett said, referring to the nearby neighborhood that last year won both a National Neighborhood of the Year award and a Virginia prize for Best Neighborhood Organization.

But no, this time it's Mountain View -- Old Southwest's neighbor to the west -- that won a prize. And that's not all.

Habitat for Humanity's Roanoke Valley organization is targeting Mountain View for a pilot program that includes construction of three new houses in the 1400 block of Campbell Avenue -- and help with renovations and repairs of at least seven more homes.

Mountain View is nestled within a larger community that once was referred to as "West End." That larger designation has since been broken down into smaller pieces: Hurt Park was considered its own neighborhood starting in the 1960s.

Mountain View is a much more recent neighborhood split, named after the Fishburn mansion on 13th Street. Roughly drawn, its boundaries include the south side of Patterson Ave., 10th Street Southwest, the Roanoke River and the industrial area between Boulevard and Bridge streets.

"The larger homes you see, like the Fishburn house and some of the homes across the street, spun off the railroad barons living on Patterson Avenue," said Erica Taylor, a city planner and agent for the Architectural Review Board. "Unfortunately the really, really amazing ones from 1895 are gone. Those were all tied into the railroad. Then the Fishburns bought a lot of it and started parceling it off: Those are the homes you see from the '20s and '30s."

Tom Collins moved to the neighborhood in 1992. Prior to that, he spent 11 years renovating a house on Day Avenue in Old Southwest. That neighborhood in the 1980s and '90s shared a lot of similarities with present-day Mountain View, he said.

"It was a little iffy when I first moved in, I have to admit," Collins said of Mountain View. "It's gone up and down, up and down over the years."

The last two years he's seen a lot of change for the positive, he said. Lately the police have been on the neighborhood "like a wet blanket," Collins said.

Ervin also credits the neighborhood's code enforcement officer for responding promptly to complaints, which he said has made a big difference.

Two years ago, Crawford -- who prior to the revival of the neighborhood association served as the city's contact point for the community -- tore down a dilapidated house on 13th Street and replaced it with a large garden.

"Someone's out there almost every day working and enjoying it, which means eyes outside," Crawford said. "That's part of the community aspect, people laying eyes on each other is a good thing."
And last fall, city officials opened Vic Thomas Park, which sits at the edge of the neighborhood by Memorial Bridge and which is linked to the Roanoke River Greenway.

Crawford remembered walking out his front door with his wife soon after the park opened: "We were just faced with the scene of a husband and wife and kids bicycling up by our house and across the other street, people bicycling down the other side. It was almost like we'd been transported to France."
All of this has only helped to create more momentum that neighborhood boosters hope will translate into more home sales and new businesses.

Valeria Alphin, a real estate agent with Long and Foster, bought a home on 12th Street in 2009. She renovated it and briefly considered flipping it -- a practice frowned on by many neighborhood residents-- but ended up deciding to stay and now is an active member of the association.
Alphin was the person who handled the paperwork to nominate Mountain View for the Best Old-House Neighborhood award.

The neighborhood has even seen a recent business expansion: Sokuntheary Chum moved her store, C&R Grocery Latino, across Patterson Avenue from a 500-square-foot rental space to a 12,000-square-foot building she now owns. She said the move to a larger and more visible location has increased her business by about 20 percent.

There's still plenty of risk in investing in a neighborhood with low property values and lots of vacant buildings. But again, neighborhood activists and pioneers don't necessarily see things the way they are now: They see them the way they can be.

"The synergy that has begun to build ... is putting this neighborhood in the spotlight," Clement said. "You've got the city activity taking place in Hurt Park, the Old Southwest activity on the east. You've got a stable Raleigh Court neighborhood to the west.

"Mountain View is poised. It's pretty cool stuff."


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