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Tampa transplant reinvigorates neglected homes

Staff Writer

John Bichelmeyer eyed Tampa’s the old lumber building on Main St. and fell a little more in love with its potential every day he walked by.

A native of Kansas small towns, Bichelmeyer’s job building wind farm turbines with RES had him traveling from New York, to Canada, and the very bottom of Texas, until he blew into Tampa about year ago.

Not really intending to stay, Bichelmeyer surprised himself by buying the rundown structure, rescuing it, and moving in along with girlfriend Michelle Wilson.

Then things just snowballed and one property buy led to another until he ended up owning a city park.

“For next to nothing,” he explains, touring a garden he built in the back yard of his home at 302 Main St.

“Everything in Tampa is very inexpensive, nothing is worth that much money,” he said.

But first, he bought more homes to remodel. One at 318 Main St. is adjacent to the lot near the lumber yard building, the other at 602 S. Main he hopes will be a home for his parents.

“I won’t sell them,” he said as he recalled an earlier trade as a cabinet maker. “I have no intention of selling anything.”

Now the proud owner of three homes that are all works in progress, Bichelmeyer plans to turn the lot he purchased from the city into a community garden that will beautify a long neglected spot.

Longtime resident and county commissioner-elect David Mueller says residents are thrilled.

“We are so excited to have him in town,” he said. “The lumberyard building is so neat.

“He has found an area in town that needs attention and has worked to get it cleaned up. It makes the town look so much better.”

Cleanup of the vast park at the end of Main St. has been harder than Bichelmeyer thought it would be.

Trees at the lot’s edge were completely overgrown and had to be trimmed, trash cleaned up, and a section of fence started.

The old playground equipment will need to be moved, but Wilson says she and Bichelmeyer think it can be salvaged.

“We’re hoping it will stay together and we can relocate it to other parks in the community,” she said.

Bichelmeyer, who still is required to travel for his job, sometimes wonders what he has taken on even as someone who enjoys “piddling around in buildings and houses.”

Pretty much everything at the Main St. property had to be tended to — all of the electrical, plumbing, Sheetrock ceilings, and floors.

“It was really rough,” he said, adding he has made time for some painstakingly fun projects including a floor paved with pennies in the entryway.

The house at 602 Main is in even worse condition despite a new porch and a fresh coat of paint that hide that the building lacks a kitchen, carpet, floors, Sheetrock walls and heat.

However, Bichelmeyer after buying one of the town’s biggest lots, has decided that Tampa suits him.

“It is one of the cleanest small towns in Kansas,” he said. “Everything’s nice, it’s small and people get along.”

Last modified Nov. 12, 2020

 

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