Restoring Downtown Dixon, One Home at a TimeOct 07, 2020 12:00AM ● By By Debra Dingman
Adam Ascher of Ascher Properties just finished this dark royal blue house, restoring the downtown Dixon neighborhood to its original style. Photo by Debra Dingman
DIXON, CA (MPG) - In a neighborhood established 100 years ago, many homes have been renovated to look brand new by Adam Ascher, 40, of Ascher Properties and his small crew of two or three men. The latest one is a dark royal blue with a sharp, chartreuse green front door and it is adorning the corner of 2nd and East Mayes Streets--just across from an entire block of Adam's projects that have been completed in the last couple years.
Inside is the popular contemporary open floor plan with rustic light fixtures and an etched glass pantry door in the kitchen. They just finished the 'umpteenth' Dixon renovation that is transforming the downtown Dixon neighborhood one home at a time.
"I've lost count of how many homes," said the tall, tan man wearing shorts and T-shirt with laced-up work boots in the summer sun; a sign of his trade. He stood on the home's expansive porch just across from St. Peter's Catholic Church social hall. The 'For Sale' sign already propped in the dark wood chipped yard dotted with pretty green plants. It sold immediately with a cash offer and a planned close of escrow within a couple weeks.
Adam's Dad, Bruno Ascher, worked as a maintenance man at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco and was very good with his money and invested in rental properties. He bought the building now used by Community Medical Center in 1991 when Adam was two years from graduating from high school. Naturally, Adam would go help his Dad with maintaining it.
It may have been an unplanned bonding experience for the two with Bruno teaching Adam a construction trade that would ignite a new passion and establish the younger man's career.
"Before building, it was my 1965 Ford Mustang," Adam said in a way a young man remembers his first love. "This is my passion now. It's seeing something come from old and dilapidated--and knowing we changed this whole neighborhood," he said as he gestured down the block of three more newly renovated, cheery Craftsman-style homes on Mayes Street.
Younger Adam took drafting in high school (and still uses those skills) before attending UC Davis to major in Ag Economics and where he met his future wife as they both swam for the swim team. But, he did take a year to drive a truck for Lowrie Trucking to save up enough money to buy two Dixon duplexes. This was Adam's first investment and he kept them as rentals, using the money to save up and buy two four-plexes.
"That was huge," he said. "That's when I could see that this could work. There was enough income to support us."
In 1999, he purchased a 4,000 sq.ft. burned out commercial building, rebuilt it, and sold it with enough earnings to buy five more rentals. Soon after, in 2002, he married his college sweetheart.
"My wife does all the approvals of colors," he said, and she's always there when he needs support as no project ever runs completely smoothly. Yes, he sometimes goes home and is burned out.
Working the Plan
"I draw up all the plans by hand," he said earnestly. "That sets me apart and because it's all original, I am able to improve on the spot. There are always two or three guys on the site and we do everything ourselves," he said.
"It's just me and my crew and it feels good to have control. A project usually takes two and a half to three months which is really quick. But, we also go above and beyond on every project because it has my name on it." Then he added, "I'm kind of a perfectionist."
Unlike most projects of renovating, the Mayes and 2nd Street home was built from the ground up. It is a Craftsman style which has become Adam's favorite.
"I want these homes to look like they've been here for a long time," he explained as he took this writer on a tour of the 3-bedroom, 2-bath home complete with patio, backyard, and 2-car detached garage.
"This one was more challenging because it was a tiny lot compared to the typical larger lots of downtown," he said. Craftsman style became popular at the end of the Victorian Era as the Industrial Revolution began in America.
Its sturdy look with a covered front porch supported by tapered columns quickly became the desired style created in the 1860s by William Morris. Only the wealthy in society could acquire art and craft productions but the design was simple, intelligent, and clean with no ornamentation.
Adam's homes cater to entry-level home buyers and almost all have been purchased by young couples or young families.
"I chose Dixon [for renovations and building] because I found my first opportunities here and just chose to stay in one town. I really love Dixon," he said. "I can make more of an impact here." Adam was one of a team that had originally bid in 2007 to build on the Pardi Market site and worked with the community extensively to create a town-center feel with retail on the bottom and apartments on the top with a central front that included a water fountain.
But, then the recession hit and the state confiscated Redevelopment Agency assets which included that site. Although, many in town believed there was animosity between the then-City Manager and one of the developers. The project never came to fruition and the team lost thousands of dollars on the preliminary work.
Adam says that there are no more homes to buy downtown that he can work on. City of Dixon permits have tripled now costing about $50,000 plus requirements have also increased. Interestingly, and unlike other cities, there is no difference in fees between building a brand new home and renovating an older one (considered "in-fill") despite that sewer, water, sidewalks, driveways already exist for the older home.
"I'd love to slow it down," this father of three said. "But, there's no stopping yet. First, I have to renovate the medical building and I'm excited about that."
Adam also built the 2-story commercial building next to the Dixon Tribune that has apartments on the top floor and retail on the bottom. But on that property, he was basically given the blueprint by the City of Dixon to match the design of other buildings nearby so he felt a little short-changed in that design process.
"Then, because of all this experience I've learned in building, I want to build for myself," he said. "I want to build something really cool for downtown Dixon. Downtown Dixon has a lot of potential."
If anyone remembers the original plan for the Pardi Market site, or checks out the building across from Dixon Florist, one can only imagine what Adam is capable of dreaming of for our downtown.