Ori Feibush, Philadelphia Real Estate Developer, in Hot Water After Refurbishing City's Vacant Lot

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A Philadelphia businessman took $20,000 from his own pocket to transform a trash-filled city-owned lot overgrown with weeds into a beautiful outdoor mini-park. Long-frustrated neighbors sang his praises for his deed -- but the city calls him a trespasser and is threatening to take him to court, the Philadelphia Daily News reported.

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Ori Feibush, Philadelphia Real Estate Developer, in Hot Water After Refurbishing City's Vacant Lot

Photo courtesy of NakedPhilly.com

Photo courtesy of NakedPhilly.com

Photo courtesy of NakedPhilly.com

Photo courtesy of NakedPhilly.com

Photo courtesy of NakedPhilly.com

Photo courtesy of NakedPhilly.com

Photo courtesy of NakedPhilly.com

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Ori Feibush (pictured at left), a real estate developer, had tried to buy the neglected 1,600-square-foot lot for years, but the city wouldn't let him. According to ABC News, Feibush was preparing last month to open his own coffee shop adjacent to the rundown lot -- with its cracked and broken sidewalks -- and that's when he decided to take matters into his own hands.

"I didn't wake up one morning and spend tens of thousands of dollars to remove blight that was a danger to residents and customers," he told ABC News.

Feibush did go to the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority to reveal his plans for the space before initiating the $20,000 venture. He said that the agency told him that it would take care of cleaning the lot and that he did not have permission to enter it.

"They promised they would get around to it," Feibush said. "I did not believe I could open up a coffee shop when people couldn't traverse the sidewalk."

After getting frustrated when the lot was not tended to, Feibush used his money to clear out what he estimated to be 40 tons of debris, including removing weeds and trash. He also had a new sidewalk poured and brought in a bench and a picnic table. He said that families frequent the property now.

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Ori Feibush, Philadelphia Real Estate Developer, in Hot Water After Refurbishing City's Vacant Lot

Joe and Melissa P. saved this 1904 South Wayne, Wis., farmhouse with seven bedrooms -- but no indoor plumbing. The house had been abandoned since the 1970s, and the remodel took 13 months (including work done during their engagement and wedding plans).

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Source: This Old House

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The project included a new roof, new siding, new windows, and the restoration of three porches. Inside, of course, they added all-new plumbing (and two bathrooms) and finished all the rooms (they'd been previously occupied by raccoons, honeybees and other critters). The couple even restored all of the house's original trim and doors.

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Walt and Patricia Purcell saw this Petersburg, Va., cottage while visiting their son and daughter-in-law. The kids had bought the adjacent, larger house as a vacation getaway -- and potential retirement spot for their parents. The house wasn't much to look at, really. Abandoned for 20 years after a fire, the windows and doors were missing, charred or boarded up. There was no flooring downstairs, and its water-damaged plaster was crumbling. Squirrels ran in and out, and birds nested in the clawfoot tub. Yet there was a certain charm to the place. The old brick, dating from the 1850s, had wonderful color, the window lintels were solid granite, and the upstairs had heart-pine floors.

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With just four rooms, it seemed like it could be a cozy home. So in May 2006, Walt and Patricia moved into the main house. Patricia cried that first night and asked Walt if they were doing the right thing, taking on this rundown little house in a slowly revitalizing urban area. But by the next morning, that moment of doubt had passed. 

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Wendy G. in Westfield, N.Y., bought this house at auction in 2000. It had been empty for a number of years and was in deplorable condition, but the land was wonderful.

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The homeowner gutted it completely and tore off the two attached garages, raised the roof for a second story, and added two bedrooms and a full bath, a front porch, an entryway, and a sunroom on the first floor. It took five years to complete, and they tried to use as much salvaged material as possible in the renovation.

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Vic and Cindy Young never planned on ending up back in Ohio. But when their four children settled in the Midwest, coming home started to look like a pretty good idea. "We decided to find a place where they would all be able to come down in just one day to visit us," Vic says. But not just any place. They wanted a historic house in a historic town. And since Vic, a full-time restorer of old houses, was hankering for a new DIY project, it wouldn't hurt if the place was a fixer-upper.

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Set atop a steep hillside overlooking the Ohio River in the town of Ripley, the 1840s Italianate had original double-hung windows crowned with drip lintels, columns flanking a wide front porch, and broad eaves supported by ornate brackets. "It looked so forlorn up there on the hill," Vic recalls of the house, which had stood abandoned for decades. "There were more majestic houses to be found, but this one spoke to both of us."

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In 2009, Aaron and Jade E. bought this rundown 1880s farmhouse in Punxsutawney, Pa. It needed a whole new roof and exterior siding, not to mention some landscaping to make the house look less ghostly.

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After a year of work, with a lot of help from friends, the couple had a new kitchen, an extra bedroom, a bathroom twice the size, and a house that looks like the ghosts are gone -- all for under $35,000.

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This Craftsman-style bungalow in Houston was built in 1910. It survived an extended economic downturn but suffered from a segregated floorplan, a severely outdated kitchen and bathroom, and a neglected yard. David S. wanted to add modern amenities while maintaining its historic character.

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The homeowner replaced all of the systems, opened up the floor plan, and added a bigger kitchen, a master bed and bath, a den, and a laundry room. He boosted the curb appeal by removing overgrowth, brightening up the paint job, and adding some colorful landscaping. David did all of the design work himself; with much help from This Old House, of course!

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This circa 1900 home in Marietta, Ga., had served as a rooming house for decades when Marion S. snapped it up. With help from a historic-home architect and a builder, Marion and her family sussed out the home's original layout and began work.

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After lifting the house, digging a new foundation, re-creating a porch, and refinishing all the doors and woodwork, the house was so beautiful that the architect won an award for the renovation from the local historical society.

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When Rick and Michelle D. saw this 1876 Italianate, the vegetation was overgrown, all the windows had been broken, the front porch was falling off, the roof had six layers of shingles, the interior was sagging, and it had been set on fire a few times. But it also had original tin ceilings, hardwood floors, 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and some beautiful carving on the front gable. So they bought it for $1.

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In a year and half, the family brought this house back to life, keeping costs down by reusing as much material as possible and salvaging parts from houses that were slated for demolition.

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Kara O'Brien wanted to buy this house from the first time she laid eyes on it. "It was just so sad looking. I thought, I need to fix it up." The 1911 bungalow was one of three vintage houses that sat in a row on the same block in the Kirkwood neighborhood of Atlanta, Georgia. While the area was starting to revitalize, the house bore the marks of its rough recent history: Iron bars secured the living room windows, and bullets were lodged in the siding. "Still, the solid heart-pine house had character and potential, even if its cedar shingles and roof were rotting from neglect. We desperately wanted to save it. But the owner, who showed up every three months to mow the lawn, refused to sell, though he rented it just once in five years."

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Kara settled for the house next door. But five years later, the owner changed his mind, and they leaped at their chance. They bought the house in 2005 and immediately began gutting the space -- but saved everything of value. A few weeks into the project, while on vacation in Puerto Rico, Kara got word that the third vintage house on our block had been set on fire, and the blaze threatened both the house she was working on and the one she was living in. Both homes survived with no structural damage, but it was a close call.

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Scott C. in Milford, N.H., picked up this eyesore on a main street. He managed to look beyond the surface and saw a solid building form with potential, nestled among Victorian, Colonial and Craftsman neighbors.

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The exterior work was completed with sustainability in mind -- all new insulated glass windows, recycling of old roofing, and prefinished HardiPlank fiber-cement siding.

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"This was a lot of garbage," resident Elaine McGrath told the Philadelphia Daily News, referring to the old, neglected lot. "Now it's gorgeous. I'm excited."

The city doesn't see it that way.

"Like any property owner, [the authority] does not permit unauthorized access to or alteration of its property," Paul D. Chrystie, director of communications at Philadelphia's Office of Housing and Community Development, told the Daily News in an email. "This is both on principle (no property owner knowingly allows trespassing) and to limit taxpayer liability."

Chrystie added that the agency is "actively reviewing its options at this time" against Feibush.

"They said we need to return it to the condition we found it in immediately," Feibush said. "They don't like nice things."

The city contends that the lot Feibush refurbished was one of many city-owned properties up for sale but that it has no record of Feibush's interest in buying the land. Feibush said that he has filed seven written requests and made 24 phone calls to the city to take over the property.

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