VALPARAISO — When Dave and Beth Walden began looking for a place to relocate five years ago, they wanted a home that was centrally located for their children, who are scattered around the country, to visit and closer to their vacation cabin in Michigan. Valparaiso had everything they wanted.
Except the house.
Dave Walden said he and his wife were looking to downsize their living accommodations and start preparing for retirement. Dave Walden, a consulting engineer with his own company Sysnovation, and Beth lived in Shakopee, Minnesota, near the Twin Cities, but both of them and their three children were Valparaiso University graduates.
They spent three years looking over existing houses without finding anything that met all the requirements they were seeking, including space for an office/library where Dave could operate his business. It took a fire to solve the problem.
The fire extensively damaged a duplex at 603 Indiana Ave., which is near the university, another desire the couple had. The city had tried to redevelop the site and initial plans for converting the structure into a bed and breakfast were approved. When that never came to fruition, the building sat vacant and ugly, attracting problems and complaints from the neighborhood.
Area residents approached the city’s Redevelopment Commission for help. The commission studied its options and agreed to buy the property for $55,000 and spent another $16,800 to have the duplex demolished. Then it sought proposals for the site, stipulating only that it be a single-family home that blend in with the neighborhood.
The only proposal was from Charlson Custom Homes, of Valparaiso, which bought the lot for $60,000. The company already had been in contact with the Waldens, and, after a brief consultation, the couple and Charlson worked together to design the home.
The family was present Thursday, along with representatives of Charlson, the RDC, the city administration and a couple of neighbors, when the city held a ribbon cutting (minus the actual ribbon or any cutting) to celebrate the completion of the project. The Waldens were scheduled to close on the sale Friday and begin moving in.
RDC President Rob Thorgren said, “We’re looking forward to doing more of these projects in the future.”
Mayor Matt Murphy, who initiated the project as a member of the RDC, described the burned-out duplex as “the worst in the city and a cancer on the rest of the block and the whole neighborhood.” He said he was “blown away” by the end result.
The vacant building had been valued at $42,000, but Assistant RDC Director Lauren Orchard said the replacement is estimated to be valued at $400,000.
Dave Walden said, “We’re very excited to be a part of the community,” and added everyone was welcome to come back to help with the moving.