Que sera? What will this house become?

ASKING: $185,000

SIZE: 1840 fin. sq. ft./150 unfin.


ADDRESS: 700 Graves Street


CURB APPEAL: 5 out of a possible 10

LISTED BY: Roger Voisinet of RE/MAX Realty Specialists


First things first, this house needs work. We're not talking just a little spackling and sanding. "Major overhaul" is putting it mildly.

But that's not necessarily a bad thing. "Ridge View," as it's known, may be the closest Belmont home to the Downtown Mall. The current owners, Ken and Kali Girasek, had big plans for renovations, and they began in earnest when they purchased the house in 2000.

The exterior shows none of the recent interior changes and looks like many other Belmont homes. Bas-relief sculptures on the front walls and a small Buddha situated in the side yard epitomize the shabby chic style of this downtown renaissance area. A wraparound porch could be a real showpiece both for viewing and being viewed by Mall goers and comers.

The front door, located at one end of the porch (to maximize the outdoor seating space) opens to an almost grand foyer. High ceilings, dark wood paneling, and stained glass over the door give the place an air of baronial splendor. From here on in, though, it's anyone's guess as to what will happen.

The walls are stripped down to the barest necessary support beams without drywall or insulation and can be stepped through and weaved in and out of like a trippy fun house from the 1970s.

From the entrance hall, one large room to the right intended to be a living/dining combo stretches almost the length of the house. To the left is the kitchen that, like the rest of downstairs, is open and airy. An addition added along the back of the house provides room for a breakfast nook, pantry, and half bath. But here, as elsewhere, future owners will get to decide the exact use of the space.

Ken Girasek explains, "We stopped at a point where nothing is cast in stone, and no architectural details need to be undone."

Upstairs– and one of the reasons the major gutting downstairs can go on with relatively little inconvenience to residentsday-to-day living continues. When the house was reconfigured into a duplex years ago, the second floor got its own entrance onto the landing. Currently, the owners reside up here in three large rooms with a full bath and a complete kitchen as well.

It's an entity unto itself with all the comforts of home. Plans for the second floor are a duplicate of the first floor, keeping the original four-over-four farmhouse design intact. Removing the kitchen and bath as well as taking out non-bearing walls will be a massive job, but when completed will create quite an urban sanctuary.

Small cities do what they can to promote owner-occupied houses. Lynchburg, for example, sells neglected houses for one dollar. The only requirement is that the buyer must live in the house, after renovation, for at least five years.

Charlottesville also offers a renovation tax abatement which puts a seven-year hold on property taxes for approved upgrades for owner-occupied dwellings. Currently, the owners estimate it will cost $70,000 to bring this house to showcase level.

Okay. A lot of dirt and debris have already been brushed away, and the skeleton is clearly visible. What next? However you look at it, with the price being almost reasonable, the house is perfectly livable right now (with a little artistic allowance).

And, of course, there's Belmont in your backyard, Spudnuts next door, trendy restaurant Mas almost around the corner, and the Downtown Mall just a skip or two over the bridge.