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New home filling hole on Vine Street

New home filling hole on Vine Street

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The new hole in the ground at 2430 Vine St. doesn’t smell like the old hole -- like the scorched shirts and soaked socks and phone books and plastic bags and everything else that had filled a bungalow from floor to ceiling before it burned late last April.

And it isn’t surrounded by a mountain of even more charred debris, scooped out by firefighters searching for bodies.

The new hole is lined with 8-inch concrete, clean and smooth, and topped with plywood sheeting. Walls will rise this week, the rest of a house will go up this summer and, by late September, a family of six will make it a home.

And when that happens, a longtime problem on Vine Street will be solved, and another nuisance property transformed.

“The ultimate goal is we want people to live in them again,” said Shawn Ryba, CEO of NeighborWorks Lincoln. “We want to get them in the hands of folks who invest in them, live in them and take care of them.”

Nobody had lived in, or cared for, the house at 2430 Vine for years. Early last year, the city’s Problem Resolution Team, which deals with the worst problem properties, put the house on its radar screen because of its overgrown weeds, structural decay, abandoned cars and garbage-strewn yard. It red-tagged the house as a dangerous building.

NeighborWorks already was negotiating a sale with the owner when the house burned April 26.

Firefighters didn’t risk going inside to fight the flames. There was too much stuff inside, too much danger they’d get trapped in what they later described as a hoarder house.

They let it burn while preventing the fire from spreading. They knew the owner wasn’t living there, but they also knew it had a history of attracting trespassers and transients. So they excavated, heaping the remains in the yard.

“We still needed to verify there wasn’t a body in there,” said fire investigator Don Gross.

NeighborWorks ultimately bought the property -- and the mess -- which kept growing.

“There were lots and lots of people dumping stuff in there,” Ryba said. “It got really out of hand. It was pretty crazy.”

The nonprofit spent almost $20,000 clearing and cleaning the property, more than it had expected.

“We assumed it would be a lot cheaper because there was a fire and there was less to remove,” he said. “But that was not the case.”

The group builds and sells up to a dozen homes a year in Lincoln’s oldest neighborhoods, with a goal to increase single-family homeownership.

For the lot at 2430 Vine St., it chose a 1,500-square-foot vinyl-sided home with a broad front porch, a garage on the alley and a $135,000 price tag.

And then a family that moved here from Iraq in 2013 chose the house.

Like all potential buyers, they had to qualify for the financing, meet income eligibility requirements and take more than 10 hours of homeownership classes, said Bill Porn, homeownership program coordinator for NeighborWorks.

“This will be their first home,” he said. “They’re quite eager.”

Reach the writer at 402-473-7254 or

On Twitter @LJSPeterSalter.


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