Local News

Home Makeover Construction Transforms Neighborhood for a Week

Posted December 7, 2006

Orange cones block off the streets, construction trucks fill the roads and gawking visitors -- most with digital cameras -- clog the sidewalks.

Welcome to Mordecai, the historic Raleigh neighborhood just outside downtown where ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" television show is replacing a family's deteriorated home. Their new house was revealed to them and the neighborhood Thursday.

The property has become a construction site and TV set all at once, teeming with construction workers, volunteers and onlookers curious about how a two-story house can be built in a week.

"It's a major event going on in our area, and it's probably a once-in-a-lifetime thing," said Fred Jones, who drove a half-hour from Durham for the second time this week to glimpse the house.

The reality show looks for families in need of a better home -- often because of a disability or financial burden -- and sends them on a trip for about a week while their home is completely redone.

This time, Linda and William Riggins and their three children were the beneficiaries. Linda has severe arthritis and William is legally blind. Still, for the past 15 years, the Rigginses have worked with Building Together Ministries mentoring disadvantaged parents and helping with after-school programs. The television team decided that was worthy of a new home.

Demolishing the old house, a 70-year-old, 2-bedroom, 1-bathroom bungalow, and building a new one would have normally taken months, but with hundreds of workers the job can be crammed into a week.

"You've got 10 times as many electricians, 10 times as many plumbers and framing crews, multiple carpet guys. Everybody is stacked on top of each other," said project leader Tom Quackenbush, who has overseen hundreds of home projects for Atlanta-based HomeLife Communities, the building company partnering with the show.

The 24-hour-a-day construction schedule means multiple work crews are needed for a single job. Drywall, which usually takes seven days to hang and finish, was done in 12 hours. One of the biggest challenges was lining up enough crews to install stones on the house's exterior -- a job that was done in about 24 hours instead of the typical 10 to 12 days, Quackenbush said.

Neighbors and others who walk by periodically to check on the house's progress said they're amazed by the quick transformation.

"I thought it was impossible to build a house in seven days," said Mohammed Islam who manages a store around the corner from the site. He said most of his customers are neighbors who are putting up with the short-term inconveniences. They've complained about the noise, traffic and blocked streets but are more passionate about being a part of helping those in need, he said.

"When everyone else is out there volunteering, why can't we sacrifice something?" Islam said.

Mary Catherine Hinds, who lives on one of the blocked-off streets, said she's disappointed the Riggins' old house was demolished instead of renovated. On the other hand, a new subdivision is being built just a few blocks away with houses being advertised in the $400,000 range.

"I'd like to think it'll be good for the neighborhood," Hinds said. "It hasn't been that long since this was not a very good neighborhood."

Officials work on logistics weeks beforehand to make sure a city's home inspectors and police officers will help make the project happen within the timeframe, said Milan Vasic, a location manager for "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."

Besides closing roads, a home project can involve rerouting school buses and setting up offsite parking, Vasic said. But as crews wrapped up work Wednesday, Vasic said people in Raleigh have rallied to support the Riggins family.

"The whole community has to make it happen," Vasic said, adding that the Riggins' home won't be the only thing to benefit. "You'll start to see other homes in the area clean up and improve. It's kind of a pay-it-forward effect."
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