When the city and absentee owners take no action on derelict vacant homes, one way to turn a building that is falling apart into an almost half-million-dollar investment is to do it yourself. In August 2008, when Truman Gilbert bought 2011 W. Girard Avenue for $38K, the structure was in disrepair. It had no doors and no windows for at least seven years prior. There was no roof, which caused rainwater to leak into Gilbert’s own home next door, at 2009 W. Girard Avenue. So to fix the problem, Gilbert, who has lived on the 2000 block of Girard Avenue for almost 20 years, purchased the “shell of a building.” He gutted what was left of the inside and rebuilt and redesigned the structure with the help of architect Paul Drzal.

The result is a modern style 2,000-square-foot home with 3 bedrooms, including a master suite, two-and-a-half baths, a finished basement and a downstairs family room area that sings with natural light in the afternoon. Gilbert, who has renovated his own homes before and studied Industrial Design at the University of the Arts, wanted “to design a house that was exciting and would take advantage of the light.” The three large windows on the first floor were designed specifically to maximize shade in the summertime and attract heat and light in the winter. Bamboo hardwood floors run throughout the house, including a stylish black-colored first floor. A roof deck looks one way out to Girard College and towards Center City in the other direction. But perhaps the most unique aspect of the thoughtful new design is a third-floor hallway that used to be covered by a roof and lead to a window that looked south over Girard Avenue. Gilbert and his team deemed that hallway to be pointless; they tore down the roof and turned the hallway into an outdoor walk that leads to a roof deck. (They also built the deck with Trex, made from recycled plastic and waste wood.) The spot for the old window remains, as a concrete outline, giving the aesthetic of something like an old stone house.

Gilbert said he’s coming close to the end of his budget. He plans to renovate the interior until it’s “walk-through ready,” but the kitchen is still not built. A potential buyer could invest their own money, and save money too, by building and designing their own kitchen. Right now, the home is in the $500K to $600K range, according to Gilbert. And FYI, the 2000 W. Girard block is home to a number of new modern homes. We hope to bring you an insider’s look at this transforming neighborhood in the upcoming weeks. —-Lou Mancinelli