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Joy: ‘Extreme' edition

Alisha King even did a lap on her street after TV crews ‘move that bus' and reveal her remodeled home.

By Mark Washburn
TV/Radio Writer

When Alisha King got a look at her new house Monday, her reaction was appropriately extreme.

While she and her family were off to Puerto Rico on a gift vacation, “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” knocked down her old 1,900-square-foot home and replaced it with a 5,100-square-foot showcase that looks like it dropped straight from heaven into Charlotte's modest Windsor Park neighborhood.

King broke away from her family when she got a glimpse, and did a lap on Sudbury Road flailing her arms and hopping high.

More than 2,000 people turned out for the reveal for the ABC program, becoming part of the show themselves. Crew members directed the crowd to whoop it up for more than three hours and chant repeatedly “Move That Bus!” – a reference to the show's view-blocking travel bus at the curb – as videographers captured footage for the episode, which will likely air in October.

Weather was wilting – temperatures were in the 90s and the humidity thick. At least 20 people were treated on the scene by Medic for heat-related problems, including one who was taken to the hospital.

Finally, at 3:17 p.m., a stretch limousine pulled up beside the bus and the King family got out. Host Ty Pennington came over and, with four cameras hovering, waved his hands and chatted with the Kings about the experience about to unfold.

Seven minutes later – with one more round of chants, then a shushing of the crowd – the bus rumbled off.

Before the Kings was a two-story mini-mansion with porches upstairs and down, a two-car garage, cedar columns, and a handicapped-accessible ramp to a side door for their home day care.

Plopped in an elegant, close-in neighborhood like Myers Park, it would be worth $800,000 to $1 million, various real estate experts guessed. But putting a value on it Monday was impossible – there were no real estate comparisons in Windsor Park for properties anywhere near close.

When a tax valuation is placed on their new home, it will swell from the $112,000 valuation of their former home.

Organizers typically set aside money to ensure families can afford their gift homes. Community fundraisers help underwrite those accounts.

“Most family mortgages are paid off,” says Didiayer Snyder, one of the designers on the Charlotte build. Also, money is put in escrow for things such as taxes, power bills and other expenses. What's given to the King family won't be known until the show airs.

A surge of volunteerism

Charlotte's “Extreme Makeover” involved thousands of volunteers over the last week, brought hefty corporate donations and focused attention on the Kings' East Side neighborhood, a collection of mostly one-story brick homes built in the 1960s.

“East Side needed this push,” said Mayor Pat McCrory, who came out to have a peek for himself. “It helps build in momentum to revitalize the East Side … A few of these neighborhoods have felt ignored. Neighborhood organizations over here are fighting for their neighborhoods.”

Kirby Chitwood said he expects there to be an enduring pattern of volunteerism spurred by “Extreme Makeover.”

He's a division manager with Charlotte's Cox Schepp Construction Inc. – one of dozens of companies providing labor, materials and expertise to the project. Already, he said, executives in his firm are discussing organizing quarterly volunteer efforts, whether with Habitat for Humanity or through other groups.

Demolition to reveal

In all, it took 106 hours, from demolition Wednesday to the last inspection Sunday, to complete the house at 4214 Sudbury Road.

It took the efforts of thousands, most on six-hour shifts, working around the clock. “I didn't build the house; Charlotte built the house,” lead builder Rick Merlini said Monday.

Following the exterior reveal, the Kings were taken inside for several hours of filming. There they found a fully furnished, lavishly appointed homestead that ran the range from plasma televisions in leisure areas to cotton balls in the bathrooms. Their kitchen was brimming with goods and their day care was filled with toys and educational materials.

While the Kings' place sparkled, the rest of their block looked a little worn. Spectators had tromped a path on neighbors' yards and the street remained choked with production trucks. Today the fleet should begin clearing out, and producers say they will tend to the lawns and other dings from the filming.

Mark Washburn: 704-358-5007; mwashburn@charlotteobserver.com

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