On Saturday morning, a group of around 40 people, with masks on, gathered at Topeka’s Hi-Crest neighborhood to tour a home.
They weren’t there to consider buying it, but to support the community.
SENT Topeka, a nonprofit focused on improving and revitalizing neighborhoods in Shawnee County, opened up its first gut rehabilitated home.
“This one we took all the way down to the studs. We cut concrete, cut all the plumbing out,” said Johnathan Sublet, chairman of the nonprofit’s board. “New concrete, new patio, new fence, new stone mailbox, new appliances, new everything.”
The home is part of a project SENT does, where the group purchases and repairs houses in underserved areas to sell or rent out at affordable rates.
In this case, a small 3-bedroom, 1-bathroom house was converted to a 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom building with a master suite, a master bathroom, a walk-in closet and other amenities, Sublet said. Previously, the house was “knee-deep” in trash and other things, said construction manager Tim Vincent.
The budget for this project, with donations and partnerships from the community, was around $90,000, Sublet said, and the plan is to sell the house for $75,000.
This is not the first house SENT has worked on, having done work on houses nearby. The organization has 14 properties, including two to three rentals that were rehabbed and five properties obtained this summer as future projects.
The strength of what they do, Sublet said, is the community involvement and partnerships. For example, one project is involving Washburn Rural High School, whose school construction program is framing part of the house. It’s not just with organizations.
“We partnered with our neighbors to build a fence so we were able to get a better deal on the fence because we have good, strong relationships,” Sublet said.
Most of these housing projects have been in the Hi-Crest neighborhood. Part of the goal is with better houses and amenities, the community will reflect the people and be transformed into better places to live.
“I live here. Tim lives here. Jay lives here. This is our neighborhood,” said Sublet. “If you want to see the people transform, you have to transform the place.”
Wesley Reed, a member of Fellowship Bible Church in Hi-Crest, was there Saturday to show his support.
“I’ve been part of this neighborhood for a long time,” Reed said. “I’m glad to see it being improved and revitalized and that it’s important for Topeka that we’re taking care of the neighborhood.”
Many of the church members are also involved with the SENT organization, he said, and it was a naturally occurring relationship as they all felt they should feed into the neighborhood they’re part of.
If anything, the opening of the new home was symbolic of what the neighborhood represents, many at the event said.
“This house, it probably would have been easier just to tear down,” said Vincent. “But that’s not our goal. We don’t come in and tear down and start over. We see the value in what is there and that is something I see as a huge strength in this community.”