Four years after moving his family to Olde Town, Rick Keuroglian is on a mission to expand revitalization efforts in the neighborhood
To bring change to an area that has a perception of being high in crime and drug activity, his mission is two-fold: give the houses a face lift and mentor neighborhood children.
“I believe in our church’s mission, which is restoring people and restoring places, and you can’t really have one without the other,” said Keuroglian, the director of evangelism and community development at First Presbyterian Church of Augusta.
Keuroglian also serves as the director of Hope for Augusta, a nonprofit organization that mentors children through weekly Bible studies, job skills training and tutoring. A weekly community dinner and Bible study began in his home four years ago before it needed room to expand. It now serves 110 children.
His two children attend Heritage Academy, a private school a block from his home that provides tuition assistance for low-income families. Raising children in a diverse environment was something Keuroglian and his wife wanted.
“As we’re being connected in our community, you can’t help but want to restore the community. I think homes very much plays a part in it,” he said.
Keuroglian has invested about $25,000 restoring his four-bedroom prairie-style home on Greene Street. He and his wife, who moved to Augusta from Lexington, S.C., received one of eight awards for historic preservation from Historic Augusta.
Home restoration in Olde Town could be an extension of the renaissance in the downtown commercial district, said Erick Montgomery, the executive director of Historic Augusta.
“It’s not as hot a neighborhood as Summerville, but it is coming along. There is interest,” he said. “We need owner-occupied infusion into the downtown area to help stabilize it and restore it.”
Keuroglian never had an interest in preserving historic homes, but he jumped at the opportunity to transform his block.
“I’ve seen the neglect and such a strong need for this downtown. We thought, ‘Why not?’” Keuroglian said.
Lots of people, including their real estate agent, tried to steer them away from purchasing downtown. The home, rebuilt in 1917 after a fire that wiped out the area, was in fairly good condition.
Previous owners had begun restoration efforts. Keuroglian repaired termite damage, added a bathroom and renovated others, rewired the home and tore out a balcony.
He recognizes that revitalization can raise home values and tax assessments for low-income people nearby.
“I don’t want to push out poor people. We want to help empower poor people. It’s a fine, delicate line that we are trying to help,” Keuroglian said.
The neighborhood is changing quickly but still has ways to go, he said. More people are buying homes, and low-income people are fixing them up in small ways.
“It’s been so neat to see a community rise back up,” he said.