Fig Garden looks ripe
partners see potential for profit in Fresno renovations
July 30, 2006
Architect David Brown likens Old Fig Garden to St. Francis
Woods in San Francisco or Claremont Hills in Oakland, both
unique neighborhoods with a style that is universally popular.
"When Ron said, 'Come check it out,' I thought, 'Fresno?
You've got to be kidding me.' " But Brown put his doubts
aside, drove over from the Bay Area and discovered that his
friend and business partner, Ron Hodge, was on to something.
Old Fig Garden, they decided, is where they would make their
Hodge and Brown have bought four older houses in Old Fig
and, using Brown's architectural eye, plan to gut them, make
them over and then resell the properties.
Hodge lives in Fresno. Brown resides in Connecticut but
makes frequent trips to the central San Joaquin Valley. They
formed a corporation, The Fig Group, and plan to stamp a
design of a fig leaf and the year it was remodeled into the
concrete walkway of each house.
They are not typical real estate flippers. They say they
don't just install new carpeting, slap on a coat of paint,
make a few cosmetic improvements and sell the property in
a few weeks.
just not paint, powder and sell!" Hodge
said. "We want to take every consideration into detail
to keep the original flavor of the house. We want to put
in a new house that feels like it has always been in the
Hodge said he doesn't worry about the costs of carrying
a mortgage while remodeling. He figures the eventual sales
price will be more than enough.
His first project in the neighborhood was a 65-year-old,
2,000-square-foot home with a 1,000-square-foot guest house
at Wilson and Holland avenues.
He spent two years gutting, designing an expanded open floor
plan that appeals to today's buyers and creating a Santa
Barbara Mediterranean-style house that is almost twice the
size of the original.
The rooms were all reconfigured. The master bedroom is now
a family room. What was once an office is now the foyer,
complete with cutouts for safekeeping of car keys, high windows
that bring light in and a multilevel ceiling.
A 1,600-square-foot addition contains a new master bed!
room and bathroom, and two extra bedrooms. A three-car garage
was cons tructed with metal doors that were faux painted
to resemble wooden carriage doors.
Wood floors and doors were battered with chains and chisels
to give a distressed look. Adhering to the Santa Barbara
character, the house has two styles of stucco and 500 hand-cut
tails on the overhang of the roof.
Five sets of double French doors lead to a courtyard, and
four sets of double French double doors exit to patios. Hodge
said he tries to incorporate doors to a courtyard or the
outside in every remodel.
In the kitchen, he installed an eight-burner stove with
a pot filler for pasta-making.
and Brown tried to stay true to the character of the 1930s
and '40s, even incorporating skinny door jams typical of
that period. "It is a little detail that most people
don't notice," Hodge said.
He declined to reveal the purchase price or the cost of
the makeover, but a local attorney paid $1.5 million for
said Old Fig Garden is the only place in Fresno where
he can do the extensive makeovers and still make money.
Many of the houses are older, need work and sit on big leafy
lots. And the neighborhood is popular. Building on those
characteristics can lead to a nice profit, he said.
"You've got $400,000 houses a few doors down from million-dollar
houses," he said. "That tells me there could be
a $1 million house there."
said gutting a house to what Hodge calls "its
bones" and rebuilding is 30% to 40% more expensive than
simply tearing down and constructing a new house on the same
"But there is something that is kind of not right about
that," he said. "I personally like the old classics."