He calls it the Dr. Seuss house.
Dan Honiker Sr. took a vacant, boarded-up house on NW 43 and made it a storybook example of how reviving a forlorn home can revive a block, how reviving a block can revive a neighborhood and, with a can-do spirit and some civic will, how reviving neighborhoods can energize a community.
It's an issue that weighs heavily on Oklahoma City, where an estimated 12,000 vacant and abandoned buildings are a drag on the economy. They cost taxpayers millions for police, fire and other services and rob the city of nearly $20 million in potential revenue each year.
Residents and businesses near blighted properties fare even worse, enduring an estimated $2.7 billion in reduced property values, according to a study delivered this summer to the Oklahoma City Council.
The study found that residents living near vacant and abandoned buildings feel less safe and secure. The cost of holding onto property while it deteriorates is so low that owners have little or no incentive to invest in maintenance, while the city lacks the tools to force owners to keep their buildings in usable condition.
The study's authors suggested remedies ranging from a registry of vacant and abandoned buildings to legislation giving the city greater authority to protect rights of neighbors who see their property values dragged down and quality of life compromised.
“We find ourselves essentially impotent in our capacity to solve this problem,” said Russell Claus, the city's planning director. “It's just not fair to property owners who are doing the right thing and maintaining their property.”
A modest cottage
The Dr. Seuss house, a modest cottage at NW 43 and Military Avenue with a garage apartment out back, caught Honiker's eye because of its roofline and its exterior, with its arched entryway and accents.
Honiker had rehabbed Military Court, a 1920s collection of stand-alone, three-room apartments just behind the Dr. Seuss house in the Helm's Farm neighborhood.
Honiker said the Dr. Seuss house “hadn't been opened up for twenty-something years” before he bought it about a year ago. He and his “crew” — supervisors in his janitorial business and weekend confederates in housing rehabilitation — spent about five months on it.
They tore it down to the studs, redid the electrical and plumbing, installed windows and drywall, and put in central heat and air. New lighting went in; concrete was poured for sidewalks and the driveway, an evergreen was planted out front. The crew installed a new roof, in black.
The garage and upstairs garage apartment got the same treatment. Renters were lined up even before the project was finished, Honiker said.
Bright yellow paint
The showstopper was the bright yellow paint with red OU trim.
“That's my guys,” Honiker said. “I give them the freedom to do what they want.”