Time line for restoration of Volney Moore house remains in flux

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The restoration of an "endangered" historic Waukesha home has stalled without explanation, and the end of the project may not be near, but the city may soon take measures to end the inaction.

Various sources said they had no knowledge of a time line for when work on the Volney Moore house at 307 E. Main St. would conclude. The project, when it was proposed, was expected to take five years – a timetable that remains in flux. Meanwhile, a historic property sits vacant and in need of repair in a neighborhood experiencing some growth.

Stephen Green, a local real estate investor, bought the Moore house in May 2013 and several months later proposed to rehabilitate the property. The project was approved in the latter half of 2013, and the building has seemingly been under construction ever since.

About a year after the city's landmarks commission endorsed the restoration work, Green spoke to the commission again – this time about stabilizing the home's three-story tower and refastening original bricks to it.

That work appears to be ongoing. There has been scaffolding standing outside the home for about two years, and a large portion of the north face of the tower is still bare.

Unexplained delays

Green said in 2014 that renovation of the building's interior would have to wait until work on the tower wrapped up. He did not respond before press time to requests for comment on the project.

However, Green told Waukesha Now earlier this year that he originally planned for the tower to be complete by spring 2015. It wasn't, and he said at the time he could not explain the delays.

"Why it's taking so long I don't understand, but things happen," he said.

The Italianate cream city brick building was constructed in 1877 by Moore, a physician, for $4,500, according to the Wisconsin Historical Society. The home is on the National Register of Historic Places and has been vacant since 2004.

The home stands about a block north of the land that will house a massive expansion for La Casa de Esperanza's charter school.

The building is currently designed to house either two businesses, two residences or one business and one residence. The first and second floors both have a kitchen, two bathrooms and six additional rooms. The third floor is open but currently inaccessible.

Green has said he plans to either sell the property or turn it into office space.

'Extreme disrepair'

According to minutes from a September 2013 landmarks commission meeting (when the project was first proposed), the home was, and perhaps still is, in "extreme disrepair," and virtually every aspect of the property needs work.

Then-Commissioner Kathleen Cummings said at the time the Moore house was "probably one of the most endangered homes in the city."

Commissioner Andrea Nemecek, who according to the minutes had toured the home, said it was in "dire straits."

Due to its poor condition, volunteers with the Waukesha Preservation Alliance tried to stabilize the home's tower and cleaned and monitored the building for a time before Green bought it, according to Mary Emery, the organization's president.

But the group hasn't performed any additional work since then, Emery said.

The extensive rehab work on the building was scheduled to be performed in multiple phases, according to the meeting minutes, many of them requiring additional landmarks commission oversight. The work was projected to be complete by October 2018.

It is unclear if that date is still realistic.

'An eyesore'

The project has not appeared on a landmarks commission agenda in at least 18 months, and current and former commission members said they were unaware of a time line for the project.

They directed questions about it to Community Development Specialist Jeff Fortin, the city's representative on the commission.

"It doesn't appear (work on the project) is coming along at all," Fortin said during a Sept. 1 phone interview, adding that there hasn't been any work done on the house in at least several months, possibly since the beginning of this year.

The next city inspection on the home's exterior is scheduled for Sept. 9.

After that, if the building is not up to code – Fortin said he expects it won't be – the city could begin performing bi-weekly checks on the property and could also issue fines or inspection fees for continued delays.

"It's at the point where we have to do something with this," Fortin added.  "We'd like to see that property fixed. It's a bit of an eyesore right now."

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