Neighbors have a makeover ball

Absolutely smashing was the mechanical symphony in Windsor Park on Wednesday as excavators snorted, backing trucks sang meep-meep-meep and metal claws munched a house into a heap of rubble in less than two hours.

It was the first major din made by Charlotte's “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” as Curtis and Alisha King's three-bedroom, two-bath home came tumbling down. Only Monday the family learned they would be the stars of an October episode on the ABC series that builds new homes for deserving families.

Since then the neighborhood has been under siege. Roads are blocked off, production trailers clog the street, spectators stand in people's yards and all manner of construction trucks rumble through.

Think you'd hate it on your street? Neighbors on Sudbury Road say you should think again.

“I haven't heard anybody on the block complaining,” said Vertina Hunt, who for 17 years has lived across the street from the “Extreme Makeover” house.

“Just imagine – people from all over the city are coming to this neighborhood to see it. And we already live here.”

Hunt was sitting under a shady tree in her front yard Wednesday with her sister, Carol Cooper, watching film crews scuttle around as two excavators dipped up and down, snapping away chunks of the King house like twin Tyrannosaurs.

Cooper said the show brought excitement to the quiet, working-class neighborhood not far from Eastland Mall. Usually the only activity is the roar of school buses when nearby Windsor Park Elementary is in session.

Plus, she says, you hardly need to lock your house this week. “We've got security 24 hours,” she said, nodding at the guards and police attached to the project.

Michael Murphy, who has lived on the street for a year, said people got fliers on their doors notifying them that a team from the show would be coming through the neighborhood to talk to them. They told neighbors a family on the street might be selected for a makeover and asked if they'd mind the hassle.

Everybody went along with it, Murphy said, and signed forms making their yards available to the Hollywood production company, Lock and Key Productions.

Side benefit: catering

People on the block got passes so they could get their cars in and out. And one major benefit – they get free breakfast, lunch and dinner at the nearby food tent, which is catered by a variety of restaurants ranging from Capital Grille to Hungry Howie's Pizza.

Tonya Brown, a fan of the show who has lived on the block for a year, said she's enjoying watching the production come together. “We all watch ‘Extreme Makeover.' This is how it happens. This is real.”

Didiayer Snyder, a designer and first-year cast member, said she has found that the production tends to bring a neighborhood closer together. “It's an exciting thing to know something huge is about to happen in the neighborhood.”

On with the show

With more than a 100 spectators lining the street, the house fell in a dusty heap. Debris was scooped up and flumped into dump trucks for recycling.

“When we were kids, we'd get into trouble for breaking stuff up,” said lead builder Rick Merlini, watching the demolition. “Now we get paid for it.”

He doesn't get paid for this one, though. Like more than 70 other local companies, Merlini's American Heartland construction company is doing the work for free.

Merlini intends to have the framing up and the house substantially under roof by tonight and finished Sunday.

Originally, he planned to open the demolition phase with a dramatic flourish. He was going to drop the King family's old van on top of the house from a crane. A local dealer had volunteered to replace the family's old vehicle.

But show business is still a business, and that's where the plan went awry.

Ford is a big sponsor of the show and the new van was going to come from a Chevrolet dealer.

Producers put the brakes on the stunt, said Merlini.

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