Restoring A Newburgh Hidden Gem
Mitzy approves of the refurbished fireplace!
Spring is the perfect time for home projects, including new home purchase projects.
Liz and Michael Lebron found one of Newburgh’s precious gems and have spent a year accomplishing a beautiful high-energy-efficient restoration! Michael is a frequent contributor to news about Newburgh in the Orange County Post.
How did you find Newburgh and what made you decide to move here?
Liz: Michael and I love the Hudson Valley and with friends we were looking for a place to build in a sustainable community that was walkable, historic, and with an edgy vibe. In April 29, 2016, Newburgh Restoration featured 284 Liberty St. Two months later, it was ours.
What kind of loan did you get, and how hard was it to find a lender?
Liz:,We needed funding to startup our company, dwellstead, which helps others with similar projects. Michael: We decided to fund from proceeds of the sale of our loft. This meant saying goodbye to 45+ years of life in Lower Manhattan. Historic Tax Credits are a key part of our financing. We got $36K back, driving net costs down by 15%. We’re doing tax credits as a service for those who find the process cumbersome.
What work had to be done to your building and what services did you use?
Michael: I was inspired by Passive House homes, designed to be “so energy-efficient you can heat them with a hair dryer”, but it was pricey. We wanted performance at a cost that Newburgh could bear. Our architect and business partner, C. B. Wayne, with experience in high-energy-conservation, said that what matters is hitting a HERS* rating of 20-40. Often, the goals of preservation and energy conservation clash. Since he also has a passion for preservation, he was the ideal partner.
Liz: The layouts of each floor had been carved up to maximize occupancy. We returned to the original floor plan. By removing a stairway, we could enlarge the bath and add a walk-in closet for the ground floor one-bedroom rental.We converted a bedroom into a master-bath and laundry.
Michael: All mechanicals are new. We added 5” of Rockwool Insulation in the walls and 17” under the roof. Rockwool is 3 times more fire-resistant than foam, a key consideration for an historic district. Liz restored the existing windows single-handedly. Storm windows were placed inside: this was a hard sell with the city’s compliance dept, but they proved easy enough to work with.
Liz finds a beautiful old door to reclaim
Liz: We like to recycle. Our bathroom vanity is made from a mid-century credenza that I found at a thrift store. The kitchen cabinets came from our old loft: we added Italian marble and butcher block for the counters.We had 6 plumbers, 5 carpenters, 2 electricians, a mason, a floor guy, a tile guy and a cranky plasterer.
What has your experience been like living on Liberty Street? How are the neighbors?
Michael: It’s quiet. To one side are a couple who are in arts/education. They love gardening. Across the street is a Boys and Girls Club. It’s nice to hear the sound of children playing.
Liz: This fall my sister’s previous tenant bought the house two doors north of us. He’s become like family. There’s bodega a block away – can’t beat that! Friends and family pop over and it’s like old times. Marino, our masonry guy, drops by with produce from his church pantry. If we’re away, he leaves it at the door. No one takes it.
Why is this your dream home?
Michael: We wanted to see if we could execute to a vision. Our first heating bill was 15% of buildings of this type/size average. We’ll likely hit a HERS rating of 30, and we did it at a price that’s right for Newburghers. My office and studio space is in the attic: the view out the east window is peaceful. I like being able to jump on my bike and be in the countryside in 5 minutes.
Liz: The house has soul. It’s cozy and unpretentious. We have a nice backyard for our dog Mitsy. And I LOVE that I can walk to my sister’s house in minutes!
What have been some of the perks and challenges of living in Newburgh?
Liz: I don’t need a car. Restaurants, cafes, parks, and stores are a walk, bus, cab or ferry ride away.
Michael: Hundreds of charming but distressed buildings wait to be turned back into beautiful homes, and yet there is a clamor for affordable housing. We see opportunity in this. That is why we started dwellstead.
What advice would you give others who are considering moving to Newburgh?
Plan carefully. Vet your trades as if your life depended on it. Give considerable thought to sustainability: fixing up these distressed buildings so that they consume as little energy as possible is your opportunity to help slow climate change. And take advantage of historic tax credits! We can help: call dwellstead at 917-628-8835.We will be having our next workshop soon at our Grit Works office at 115 Broadway.