Thursday, February 11, 2010

Questions About Bids and Plans

The big question that everyone who reads this blog keeps asking is, "How much is this all going to cost?"  Until today, we really had no idea.

When we bought the Cheney Cottage from the University, we had to give them the full purchase price ($17) plus a $50,000 deposit.  The deposit will be returned to us once we get the building off the University's land, so we have been hoping that moving the house would be less than $50K.

But we're also moving the Delaney House.  We have to first pull the Delaney House back toward the rear of the lot, and slide it over 4 feet or so.  Then the Cheney Cottage will go in on the front right side of the lot.   So we're moving not one but two houses.  The big question has been, how will we afford all this?

We talked to one house mover, and he gave us a tentative bid of $60,000 to move the Cheney Cottage. His plan did not involve removing the second floor and moving the two segments separately, so his bid included the costs of moving PG&E wires - which we have learned is incredibly expensive to do.

Today, Phil Joy gave us a bid for moving BOTH houses.  His bid to move both houses is $29,000!  This is great news for us - we can actually afford to do this, and might even be able to put a foundation under the houses.  Eric Angress, the contractor who will not only do the foundations but also help with the cutting and splicing of the Cheney Cottage, gave us an estimate of $5000 to $6000 to remove the second floor of the Cheney Cottage and then to put it back on.  We've worked with Eric before, on both the Parker Street houses, and Eric understands our hands-on approach.  

Obviously, Tom and I will be doing much of the work: all the fixing of holes in siding and plaster, the rewiring and replumbing of both houses, the painting, fixing windows, installing heating systems, etc.  But today, we're feeling that we can actually pull this off.

I also got a couple questions about the specifics of the plan - first, people wanted to know if we have an architect we're working with? Fortunately we do:  Andus Brandt of Blackbird Design.  For those of you who have been following our exploits over the years, Andus is the architect who designed the third floor addition of the Fulton Street House.  We like working with him because he is very sensitive to old houses - the addition on Fulton Street got wonderful reviews from neighbors and the City for how well it fit in to the 100 year old house.

And then I've been asked: "How are we going to put both houses on one lot?"  It's a complicated thing to determine, which is why working with an experienced architect (one who has built in Berkeley before) can be such a help. There are setback requirements for both houses, both from the back and front of the lot, but also from the sides.  We also have to provide two off-street parking spaces (one for each house).  And in Berkeley, the City likes to see green space surrounding buildings.  Plus, we are concerned with preserving not only the historic nature of the houses, but also ensuring that both houses fit on the lot, without crowding each other out. We want to make sure that the people who live in these houses for the 100 years feel comfortable and at home, not crowded in to a space where they don't have enough room.

Working with Andus, we figured it out. We made a scale drawing of our lot, and then cut out paper houses the size of each building, and played with them - how could they fit, where would they go?  Andus taught us about the setbacks and parking, and helped us figure out how to put the houses so they both can be seen and have ample yards.

The resulting plan gives the Delaney House a large front and back yard. The Cheney Cottage will be near the street, but the yard area behind it is very deep (and keeps the existing Meyer lemon tree).  It also enables us to do this without removing the large redwood trees at the front of the lot.  (We don't know if we'll end up keeping both trees, each of which are probably 80 feet high, but with everything else going on, we can't afford to remove them even if we wanted to.)

The most commonly asked question, however is, "What are you guys, nuts?"

The answer, of course, is yes.

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