Real estate investor donates Norristown home to Habitat


Norristown -- It's not often that a successful businessman will take a nice house he intended to freshen up and flip will instead decide to donate the house to charity.

True, this wasn’t just any old house to Norristown native and former high school football star Lenny Bazemore.

The attractive row home with the inviting little porch happens to be located across the street from Bazemore’s childhood home, and where his longtime buddy Curt Henning grew up, and the memories fairly resonated off the walls for him.

Fate surely intervened the day Bazemore pulled a reversal on his investment strategy, called off construction and contacted Habitat for Humanity of Montgomery about a pre-Christmas gift of 52 W. Basin St. he had in mind.

Habitat executive director Marianne Lynch soon met with Bazemore at his Manayunk eatery The Juice Merchant, and the two developed a makeover plan for the house, nicely fueled by Bazemore’s generous donation of $50,000 toward the project.

“I knew right away that Lenny was a very special man, and his background in real estate gave him an understanding of what it would take to turn this house into an energy-efficient dwelling for a family,” Lynch said at a Thursday afternoon ribbon-cutting ceremony to announce that Habitat volunteers would soon be arriving with their tool boxes and ingenuity to fully transform the property.

So, what would have been another potential money maker for a savvy real estate investor will now serve as Habitat for Humanity’s 34th rehab in Norristown and the future home of a deserving family that otherwise probably never could have afforded to purchase the house, which Bazemore said had been appraised at $50,000.

Walk into the living room of 52 W. Basin Street and you’re greeted by the sight of near-mint polished hardwood floors and spiffy floor-to-ceiling paneling — perhaps not the less-than-pristine setting you might have anticipated.

“Habitat was very happy that the house was in this good condition,” Bazemore said after the ceremony. “They just need to do what they have to to bring it up to code.”

Bazemore, who donated the house through the Bazemore Family Foundation, the charitable arm of Bazemore Design Group and Bazemore Enterprises, admitted he didn’t exactly jump for joy when his boyhood friend initially asked him to buy the place.

“Curt’s parents had passed away, and he was out of a job and was going to lose the house and asked me to buy it,” he recalled. “I didn’t really want to because I had a bunch of other projects going on, but I didn’t want him to lose the house, so I purchased it for $45,000 and moved Curt into one of my apartments in Manayunk and gave him a job.”

The affable and unassuming Bazemore said he would love to see other investors follow suit in putting their faith and their dollars into Norristown’s residential future.

“I know a lot of people are doing good for Norristown already,” he noted, “but I would like other real estate investors and the people who’ve made a lot of money here renting properties to step up and try to help the community in a positive way.”