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The worst house on R Street has floors that tilt in all directions, a gaping hole in the roof, crumbling ceilings, curling shingles and a rear addition that seems to be slowly slipping sideways.

“The best flipper, the best investor, would have never been able to flip this thing,” said Shawn Ryba, chief operating officer of NeighborWorks Lincoln. “It’s pretty crazy to see.”

And on Thursday, the public will get a chance to see 2912 R Street for itself.

NeighborWorks will host its first “Blight Fright” open house from noon to 1 p.m. and 5:30-6:30 p.m. to showcase the agency’s work. The nonprofit plans to have fun with the event -- handing out hardhats and Halloween candy -- but also wants to send a serious message.

“I think people need to understand there are these types of properties all over the city,” Ryba said. “We want people to understand these are the properties we buy, that they exist, and we need to keep investing in Lincoln.”

Each year, NeighborWorks introduces more than a dozen families to Lincoln’s oldest neighborhoods by buying problem properties, replacing them with new houses and training first-time homebuyers.

It typically buys homes that are dilapidated, abandoned and often red-tagged by housing inspectors. But the R Street house is different; it was occupied until the end of September, when NeighborWorks bought it.

“I’m not sure anybody would have been able to buy this house, so I have a feeling this would have been abandoned,” Ryba said. “We prevented this from sitting there for a long time.”

His staff started talking to the owners last year, he said, and then a neighbor alerted them recently the property was for sale. The purchase made sense for the nonprofit, which had already rehabbed or replaced several nearby homes on R Street.

And it was welcome news for Curt Donaldson, the Hartley Neighborhood Association president who owns the three houses west of 2912 R. He’s seen raccoons in the roof, its drooping rear addition, the fear that all of its problems will drag down surrounding property values.

“If you went all the way from Antelope Creek to Wyuka, it’s probably the worst house on R Street,” he said.

One of its oldest, too. The corner home was built around 1890 and had several addresses assigned to it in its early years, including 2904 R and 2888 R. Its wood frame was also fronted by a brick veneer that lasted until the 1980s.

But by the time NeighborWorks bought the 1,500-square-foot home, it was beyond saving. The floors were heaving and the walls were tilting and it lacked a solid foundation.

“You can’t rehab it,” Ryba said. “It’s going to be way cheaper to demo it and build a new house.”

His office is planning a home appropriate for the historic neighborhood -- two stories, a front porch, a price near $135,000.

Construction manager Danny Harkins hopes to tear it down and begin building this fall, so a new family can move in next year.

But first, Ryba wants the public to take a look. And he wants them to come back.

“We want them to see the before, and we want them to see the impact. In a year, we’re going to do the same thing -- have people come in and see the after.”

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7254 or

On Twitter @LJSPeterSalter.



Peter Salter is a reporter.

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