by Paul Wolf
Cue the bass line. Now the drums. Add in the hammer and saw…
For Los Angeles musician, songwriter and producer Courtenay Green, the sweet sounds of building restoration bring music to her ears.
Arriving in Jackson last spring, Green left behind a fulfilling, yet unpredictable field to rehabilitate and revive properties.
Green, founder of Comeback Property Group, stumbled into real estate – oddly, she says – when she got involved with her best friend’s company, founded almost a decade ago, a company doing projects similar to hers now.
“[The work] intrigued and interested me and I loved the idea of it and wondered if it was something I could do,” Green says. “I like to see what the possibilities are – to turn damaged buildings into beautiful spaces.”
When her twins were born, Green and her wife, Larrison, made the “huge move” to Mississippi. “[It’s] one of those decisions you make to be closer to family,” she explains.
“Once we were here and decided to be in Fondren, I saw this similar phenomenon [I had seen in L.A.], an area where people enjoy bars, restaurants, shops and walkability, and thought I could [rehab properties] here.”
Green spent several months getting to know the area and its people. Eight months after her arrival, she purchased a four-plex at 3517 North State Street in Fondren’s overlay district.
The late 80s building, she says, had seen its better days. From foundation issues and water leaks to outdated fixtures and rot, the challenge was in acquiring the property at a reasonable price.
“It is hard to find properties that people are willing to part with at a price that makes sense given the condition of the building and the market here,” she says. “So it’s nice when you can find someone who wants to do that.”
Why this building? “I liked the unit size – around 700 square feet each – and the location” – a quarter of a mile from historic downtown Fondren – “and could sort of reimagine a different aesthetic for it where it could be something nice.”
Green calls the building unique, adding, “it doesn’t look like any other building along this stretch of street.” Her design aesthetic called for something modern, urban and, with the right finishes and fixtures, showed potential.
“If you take this wall out, then the kitchen is open. If the floors sag underfoot, you put hardwood down. By taking texture off the wall – those things go a long way. There’s so much you can do cosmetically.”
As if producing a musical track during a late night session, Green says she can almost hear the renovation taking shape.
“Most people aren’t thinking [with a song], ‘Oh that’s the bass line, that’s the synthesizer or the drums. But it’s where my mind goes,” she says, drawing parallels to her former career. “[Rehabbing a property is] oddly similar in that there are so many components that go into it – knobs, molding, paint, fixtures. A song is made of tiny parts that, if put together correctly, make something wonderful. Subconsciously, there are similarities I wouldn’t have expected between the two. It’s all just producing, a big picture with lots of little pictures.”
No note of this project has been left untuned. Clean and modern white walls, complemented by hickory hardwood floors, help to give Green’s apartments a bright and airy feel, a combination she calls “clean” and “timeless.”
Each of the four units features a stackable washer and dryer; stainless appliances; quartz counter tops with under mount stainless sinks, custom cabinets, a drop-leaf bar table and multiple USB ports, all in the galley style kitchen; subway tiled bathrooms with modern vanities, ceramic tile floors and cast iron tubs; ceiling fans in bedrooms; LED lighting and electronic thermostats controlling the brand new HVAC units; private, first floor back door walkouts; a common courtyard with seating area and lava garden, and private, secured gated parking.
While some property managers could see this level of detail as extreme, Green’s philosophy mirrors her own living requirements.
“The work I do is a reflection of myself,” she explains. “If I can’t say I would live here, or I would want this, I’m not going to choose it [for my tenants]. A lot of people are renters for all kinds of reasons. I don’t see them as instruments or blank faces. This building is not a robot that gives me checks every month.”
The same philosophy had to be shared by the people who worked on Green’s project, namely her general contractor, D+P Design Build’s Paul Purser.
“I talked to a lot of [contractors],” Green says. “And so many of them gave me the ‘Why would you do anything [that detailed]’ mentality. Anyone who said that, they were out. It implied, ‘It’s just a renter; let’s leave it on the verge of collapse.’”
Purser’s work complimented Green’s style. “We push toward high design,” he says. “It’s always thought that high design costs a lot, but this project proves it doesn’t have to. Courtenay has a great idea on how to take care of the people that live in her buildings, a place that serves them well and plays to their own sense of personal style.”
The thoughtfulness hasn’t been lost on the neighborhood. Fondren Renaissance Executive Director Jim Wilkirson, whose office pushes for revitalization as a core tenant of its mission, applauds Green.
“She’s coming in to renew a space, to stabilize an area,” he says. “At the same time, she’s looking at new construction, if needed, that maintains the integrity of the architecture of that block. She has such a good feel for the area and has researched her craft to stay true to the neighborhood.”
“For anyone who chooses to live here,” Green says, “it’s like living in a new building. That was the goal. People recycle everything else and buildings are the same way. [3517 North State] has a whole new lease on life. Stella’s got her groove back.” She laughs. “This building’s got its groove back.”