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Remodeler has high hopes for Vine City, property rescued from foreclosure

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“Few people in Atlanta even know that single-family homes exist in Vine City because they never venture more than a block from the stadium.”

An aerial of Jame Doyle’s renovated Magnolia Street home.
An aerial of Jame Doyle’s renovated Magnolia Street home, a project he calls emblematic of Vine City’s optimism.
Before, after photos courtesy of Doyle

Veteran home remodeler and Vine City resident James Doyle is bullish on the short-term prospects of a neighborhood positioned a couple of first downs away from forthcoming Super Bowl LIII festivities.

Beyond the big game in early February, Doyle is confident the historic neighborhood will bounce back as a thriving community—eventually.

With Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s public-accessible backyard nearing completion, and the future $45 million Rodney Cook Sr. Park a massive construction site, Vine City is surrounded by city-altering changes.

This week, Doyle shared his insights and predictions on the neighborhood’s trajectory—as well as a progress report on his most recent renovation project, a mid-aughts traditional a few blocks from the stadium, which he was living in until last month.

Positioned on Magnolia Street, which Doyle calls among the most stable in Vine City with a higher rate of owner-occupancy, the property “has been a symbol of the area’s resurgence over the past two years,” Doyle wrote in an email. “Surrounding neighbors [are] taking notice and following suit with their own renovations.”

The home in “before” condition, 2016.

Speaking more generally, Doyle added: “Few people in Atlanta even know that single-family homes exist in Vine City because they never venture more than a block from the stadium. Currently there are only a handful of renovations going on in Historic Vine City close to the new Cook Park.”

Quick backstory:

As a new build, the Magnolia Street home originally sold in 2006—near the height of Atlanta’s real estate boom—for $239,000. As with so many houses in the area, it fell into foreclosure in 2012, the banks scooped it up, sold it to private homeowners for $73,000 in 2012, who then offloaded it to Doyle for $176,000 two years ago.

It marked Doyle’s fourth Vine City renovation.

The property today.

Doyle assumed an ailing, dated home with a long history of deferred maintenance—plus an infestation of carpenter bees and rotting porches and decks, he says. He subcontracted most labor himself, firing a number of workers and redoing some aspects two or three times.

“Atlanta is sure in short supply of quality tradespeople during this booming economy,” says Doyle. “After a lot of patience and love, I have gotten the home to this point.”

That point, he says, is about 85 percent completion, with plans to refurbish wood floors downstairs, add hardwoods upstairs, plus festive installations (party lights, a fire pit area) in the backyard.

Doyle moved out in June to capitalize on the property’s potential as an Airbnb rental, which he says “has worked out well” given the proximity to Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Following the Super Bowl rush, he hopes to rent the home for between $1,595 and $1,750.

Doyle intends on selling eventually, when the renovation can command at least the high $300,000s—or $100,000 more than what he feels it’s worth now.

“The area needs a transformative development like Edgewood [Retail District] to take off, like Edgewood did 12 years ago ... [and] the inner part of Vine City needs a lot of infill housing to piece back the feeling of a neighborhood,” Doyle says. “I’m afraid that we’re up against the end of a real estate cycle, with about a year or two left of the upswing. My prediction is that maybe in three to six years, Vine City will be at current Westview prices, but I would love to be surprised.”

The enlivened interiors.