For Angel Poventud, what began as a home renovation project in October 2011 has become a vision for a full-blown community revitalization effort in southwest Atlanta.
“I really believed that I would be living in the house within six, at most nine, months,” Poventud says after providing a tour of his ongoing project.
There are no walls or fixtures. The floor is uncovered and there are pieces of the house’s exterior siding stacked throughout the house. There’s still a lot of work to be done.
But a new roof, a new interior frame, new windows and doors, new front porch, new primary support beam, new electrical wiring, new central heat and air ducts, and many other completed jobs show real progress on a house that once could have been condemned.
“Mine was the worst house in the neighborhood,” Poventud says.
After purchasing the house for around $14,000, he envisioned the rebirth of an area hard hit by the mortgage crisis, perhaps turning Adair Park into the next hip neighborhood with plenty to improve.
Poventud wants his home to become a hub for the Radical Faeries and he plans to invite Living Walls, a collection of Atlanta street artists, to temporarily set up basecamp in the house once the second bedroom is finished.
Still, the reality of renovating a home in a historic neighborhood presented him with challenges he hadn’t expected. Red tape and financial restrictions have seen the project delayed to almost two full years. Yet somehow, throughout all of the trouble, Poventud has remained positive and never strayed from his ultimate vision of restoring a 90-year old Atlanta home.
Now hope of a completed project is finally on the horizon. Poventud says he’s about two months away from moving into his new home, a far cry from his situation last June, when a “Creative Loafing” feature on his project highlighted issues with code enforcement and delays with contractors that put the project off schedule and over-budget.
What a difference a year can make.
“We’re really far along in the process,” Poventud says. “The siding is going on this week. Next week is insulation and drywall. We’ve passed all of our rough inspections. The finishing of the electrical, plumbing, gas, HVAC, then the trim work is next.”
The next big job, Poventud says, will be a painting party — B.Y.O.P. (bring your own paint), of course. He hopes to have the entire house painted in a weekend.
After that, Poventud says, it’ll be time to move in and party.
Help from a few hundred friends
Early in the process, mortgage providers weren’t interested in lending out the full amount needed to restore Poventud’s house. Mortgage lenders believed that once the house was renovated, it would be worth $90,000, well short of the $140,000 estimate to complete the restoration.
This left him short more than $50,000.
He borrowed from his 401k. He used lines of credit. And in late 2012, he turned to indiegogo.com, a crowd sourcing fundraising platform, to help fill the gap between the loans and personal finances and the end cost of the renovation.
“Long ago, my public and private lives merged,” Poventud says. “I wasn’t planning on being as public as I’ve been, but once trouble started that was the most effective way to get help. There has been so much involvement and outreach.”
More than 250 people donated to his campaign but Poventud claimed just over half of his $20,000 goal. Others have donated cash or have helped with hands-on work at the house.
In total, Poventud says that perhaps as many as 500 people have helped him during the process through donations of time or money.
“A lot of people had assumed all was doomed,” Poventud says. “This wouldn’t have happened without the entire city stepping in to help out.”
‘This guy is legit’
When Poventud isn’t working at his railroad job at CSX or on his house, he is active with Atlanta’s Radical Faeries and regularly appears at LGBT events in his trademark lime green dress and rollerblades.
He’s also a regular volunteer with Trees Atlanta and an outspoken advocate for the Atlanta Beltline, a redevelopment project that’s turning an abandoned railway corridor into a multi-purpose trail that when completed will connect many of the city’s neighborhoods, including Poventud ‘s new home in Adair Park.
Because of his visibility in the community, word on Poventud’s story gets around.
When Sarah Balter walked into Poventud’s house Monday, Feb. 18, she was meeting him for the very first time but she already considered him a friend.
“I felt like I had one of those one-way friendships,” she says. “I’ve been wanting to come for a long time. So I finally had a day when I had nothing to do. I just got up and I went.”
Balter first became aware of Poventud’s story through a friend’s post on Facebook about five or six months ago, she says. His invitations for help have been answered by people just like Balter during the project.
“When I found out about it, I researched everything I could about him,” Balter says. “Angel’s house, who is this? Is this a person or a cause?”
Sarah says she was drawn to his story and appreciates his vision for a revitalized Adair Park.
“He wants to benefit the area and benefit the people. He has an overwhelmingly positive way to be like that,” she says. “I’ve already volunteered to help paint. I’ll be trying to stay involved as much as I can. I feel like I made a friend with Angel.”
Angel Poventud says he is entering the final leg of an epic restoration project of a 1923 Adair Park home and hopes to move in to the home before summer. (Photos by Bo Shell)