So when assigned to cover this event, I decided to start where I live, Awbrey Butte, my chic locale for the past few weeks. Mind you, I don't actually live on the Butte, rather in a '79 Ford RV named Harrietta Ambages, and the notion of "home" is a parking space with shade, an electrical outlet and the occasional shower.
Stoking Harrietta and rounding another street that goes nowhere but up. I finally found a "High Desert Garden." The single-story home is standard Bend but the garden is utter United Nations with each part echoing a different country-Mexico, Greece, North Korea (an unfertile plot with a single statue).
I didn't get the garden's builder/owner/seller's name because we were interrupted by, "Where's your ticket?"
"Your ticket," insisted the graying lady in elastic grandma denim, "If you don't buy a ticket you have to leave."
So I did. Adios Awbrey.
You won't find Rob's home on any COBA tour. He isn't here to show off but to sell. Of course he could replace the missing shingles on the façade and maybe drain the algae experiment in his deck's water receptacles, which could incite a young family to make an offer. One major upgrade Rob did do, however, is what he took away-12 tall plants growing in the upstairs bedroom, bright lights and reflecting walls. The house reeked of bud for weeks after the plants were removed (all medical, mind you) and the realtor and browsers at last came in.
Rob set me straight, so I went back to the scene of the crime along Riverside and Drake, where my friends Susan and Paul own a straw-bale house made mostly of reclaimed lumber. Solar-paneled and efficient, imagine their bliss when Pacific Power informed them that all of their energy savings(a nominal check instead of bill each month) and modest generation went to low income consumers.
Tetherow (Clackamas Indian for "You will weep here") is a barren development perfect for late-night biking. I'm sure it will be a sublime golf-luxury community but presently resembles my last RV park. Sewage and electric hookups springing from the earth, this place is praying for McMansions to magically fall from the sky. Yet Judy McCombs, a broker with Cushman & Tebbs, hinted at signs of life in the local high-end market.
At Pointswest, a new development near Seventh Mountain, several build-ready lots are speckled with "SOLD" signs. Sixty-two new homes will be built here, Judy explained, and the model townhouse we toured together is listed for $595,000-Which she readily admits would have been $100K higher a year or so ago.
If the high-end sprawl that came to epitomize Bend a few years ago is starting to regain steam, how about downtown? For insights, I hit number 33 on the COBA Tour: 406 NW Lava Road, on the corner of Georgia. Many know this place right behind McMenamins both for its unending construction and weeks of blasting away lava rock. In my humble opinion (take it as you will, living in an RV and all) 406 NW Lava Road is the most impressive address to be toured. Two duplexes, which are actually triplexes (including the garages and laundry rooms) that husband/wife team Jim Guild and Nunzie Gould have poured their sweat and savings into since March of 2007.
"A lot of people felt we took too much time," explains Jim with an air of defensiveness, undeserved after seeing what he and Nunzie have created on two narrow lots, "But I've described this as the poster-child for developing the downtown inner core. We didn't intend to make it this fancy," continues Jim with a grin, "but my wife had something to do with that."
The details are so thoughtfully considered that many are nearly missed: An antique pedestal bathroom sink, five fabulous red doorknobs (they couldn't locate more), ironing boards sunken into the walls of both duplexes' master bedrooms, pocket-doors and custom tile work, even a hidden yoga room, making duplex #2 really a quad-plex.
Revitalizing downtown Bend is the vision and the reason why Jim and Nunzie went to such lengths. "The proximity to downtown was everything. From here you can walk wherever you want."
The lengths they went to can be measured in yards-of lava rock removed from the site. "We hammered for three weeks straight," recalls Jim with a sigh-and an apology to neighbors, "1,600 total yards of rock." So much lava rock came with a reward: $.50 credit per each yard for other materials.
Ironically, in order to have the home available for COBA's Tour of Homes, Jim and Nunzie had to put it on the market. But that isn't their intent; instead they would prefer long-term leases for the two du-tri-quad-plexes. They've simply put too much into this Lava Road home to fully part with it.
I can relate. After touring such a breadth of homes in Bend, I returned to Harrietta and looked about.
Pair of shoes put in the storage space below the bed, dirty boxers bagged and an old spaghetti stain wiped off the counter, my home is now perfect. COBA will be calling me anytime now for a tour.