It was the holy grail of downtown living that first caught the eyes of Eric and Roxanne McRoberts.
A brick garage, and one on Walnut Street, was for sale.
The McRobertses did some digging and learned the garage had enough space to park not just one but three vehicles. However, the efficiency apartment upstairs left little room for living.
The couple saw the property’s potential and bought it. After two years of renovations, many of which they did themselves, the McRobertses just moved in. In their fifth home rehab, they tackled projects like digging out the basement bucket by bucket and hauling free pavers rescued from construction sites.
The McRobertses will share more about their home in Lancaster Lebanon Habitat for Humanity’s Renovators’ Home Tour. The annual event usually sends DIYers into renovated homes on a walkable tour. In its fifth year, the tour will go virtual, Saturday, Aug. 29, to help the nonprofit in its work to bring affordable home ownership opportunities to local families.
Beyond new construction
While many may think of Habitat volunteers building new homes, the nonprofit also renovates homes throughout Lancaster and Lebanon counties. This summer, construction crews put the finishing touches on a home renovation in the 300 block of South Christian Street. Work just started on a home renovation in the 400 block of East Strawberry Street, says Amy Balestier, director of communications for the local affiliate.
These homes will be sold to families who meet income guidelines and other qualifications. Once accepted, a couple must spend 400 hours of sweat equity working on Habitat homes, as well as take financial education and home-maintenance classes.
The annual tour is a way to explore building and design beyond the Habitat construction projects, Balestier says. It also brings in money for the nonprofits’ work.
Going virtual for 2020 keeps the tradition going while staying safe. Habitat recruited four homeowners to show off their homes.
The tour will have the McRoberts’ home plus the home of John and Mara McGrann, owners of Penn Stone. There are also homes designed by David Lyall Home & Design and Capstone Design + Build.
3-car garage to a 2-bedroom home
The McRobertses purchased their home a few years ago. They quickly renovated two rental properties there and found tenants, giving them time and money to work on the garage. Eric McRoberts is co-owner of RLPS Architecture and Roxanne McRoberts was the Weekend Projects Editor for LNP | LancasterOnline.
On nights and weekends, the couple spent time on demolition, framing, painting and more. They hired help for some of the tasks, like installing hardwood floors, drywall and the roof.
They rescued some materials from local construction sites.
When the brick sidewalks next to Lancaster Central Market were replaced, the couple learned the pavers were going to be dumped at a landfill, Eric says. They offered to take the bricks and loaded their truck several times with the pavers.
The same thing happened on the construction site of Long Home property, where an old flagstone sidewalk was removed to build a senior apartment complex.
Instead of going to the landfill, the McRobertses brought both to their new home. They preserved pieces of the city's history and have a new patio.
After selling their house in the West End, they moved into their newly renovated home just in time for the camera crew to capture their work.
One challenge with a virtual tour was capturing it on video. It helps that Habitat ReStore manager Ben Mathus has background in film. He was part of the camera crew on the TV show “Gossip Girl” and the film “The Fault in Our Stars.”
To broadcast the show online, Habitat partnered with Station One Center for the Arts, a group that has hosted live events on social media. On the day of the event, Saturday, Aug. 29, the tour will go live on RenovatorsHomeTour.com with a mix of livestreams and video.
Going virtual also opened up the chance of safely adding an under-construction Habitat home to the tour, Balestier says. Viewers will be able to see the work on Cumberland Street in Lebanon. Three homes badly damaged by fire were gutted and are now under renovation.
Instead of selling tickets during a pandemic, the tour will be free.
Donations will be accepted through Text to Give and other options during the tour.
Donations will go to one Lancaster project, at 530 Howard Ave. The property will be acquired through the Lancaster City Land Bank and soon undergo yet another renovation.