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Home tours to open doors, imaginations

Use your imagination.

That's what organizers hope you'll do on today's free tours of homes in seven neighborhoods. (See the box and map on Page 3 for details about the neighborhoods and locations where you can pick up maps of the homes open for tours.)

This is Homecoming Weekend, when homeowners will open their houses for tours designed to show visitors what the city's neighborhoods and older homes have to offer. These homes aren't for sale, but they can give tourgoers an idea of what renovation and loving care can do. Some have been completely remodeled; others are works in progress _ and you may see some homeowners busy with saws and paintbrushes this afternoon.

At the same time, real estate agents will hold open houses in those neighborhoods of homes that are for sale. Some of those homes are in good condition. Others need renovation.

And that's the goal of the neighborhood tours. They're an opportunity "for people to see what can happen in those older homes," said Mike Dove, the city's neighborhood partnership director.

"It's hard to walk into those older homes and have a vision of what it will look like six months or a year down the road with a little tender, loving care provided by the owner," Dove said. Seeing houses in various stages of rehab may make that easier.

Take the cottage at 755 19th Ave. S in the Bartlett Park neighborhood that has been undergoing a makeover the last few weeks. By 1 p.m. today, when the tours begin, the new paint should be dry inside and out, the construction debris swept up and a new sink installed in the bathroom. New countertops were installed Thursday.

The mint-green carpet, to match the exterior paint, won't be in yet. Neither will the kitchen appliances. But the gaping holes in the living room ceiling have been patched. The rotten floorboards under the old kitchen sink have been repaired and new floor covering installed there.

Before-and-after pictures will be posted at that house to give tourgoers an idea of what it looked like a few months ago, when it was a rotting, boarded-up neighborhood eyesore. The cottage is owned by the non-profit Neighborhood Housing Services, which expects to sell it for less than $50,000.

"It gives people a sense of how it can be made into something modern if they're not afraid of what it looks like now," said Tim Rhode, an architect and contractor whose Florida Property Consultants is doing the work on the house. He is also one of the organizers of Homecoming Weekend, which started Saturday with workshops on buying and remodeling older homes. "You can get a real bargain if you have the vision to see what it can become."

Here's what organizers hope visitors will discover as they tour the neighborhoods: the bungalows of Kenwood; the cottages of Bartlett Park; the North Shore homes built in the teens and '20s; the Queen Annes and prairie-style homes in the Old Southeast; the ranches and the wood and masonry cottages of Childs Park; Uptown's wood bungalows, Art Deco architecture and brick homes; and the mix of Craftsman, Mediterranean Revival and ranch houses in Crescent Lake.

All these neighborhoods center on parks, have brick streets lined with shade trees and are near restaurants and shopping. All offer housing in wide price ranges.

The primary point of the tours, said Mike Dove, is to give visitors "an idea of what the neighborhoods look like, give them an opportunity to see the housing in the area and the finished product and how to get to the finished product. It's not as difficult as many people think."