The building where I met him was a ramshackle, abandoned double at the end of (129) Ringgold St.  Speaking in broken English, sweating from a combination of the hot weather and the pace of his manual labor, he tried to explain his vision for this neglected property.

That was 1995 and he was remodeling one of the most challenging homes for the Huffman Historic Area’s Rehabarama project. As the renovation progressed, I stopped by on a regular basis and was astounded at the transformation.  It was during one of those visits that I met her.  She spoke fluent English and explained their vision of the finished product.

Juan and Carmen Urbieta were both partners in life and partners in business.  He the heart, she the soul.  Besides creating the most coveted of the Rehabarama homes, they brought a spirit and love for restoration to our neighborhood.  In fact the project won a national award.

In the fourteen years since, they have restored numerous properties in the neighborhood, each a shining jewel demonstrating Juan’s talent for reclaiming the original beauty of historic properties and at the same time including modern amenities. Their partnership and dedication to the Huffman neighborhood has changed many facades along E. Third St. from Linden to Beckel St with Juan the designer, and Carmen the businesswoman managing rentals and handling the myriad of paperwork involved in their business.

The neighborhood has grown to know and love them not just for what the do, but for who they are.  The last time I saw Carmen was at a neighborhood tour where she was showing off one of their apartments in their 1804-1814 E. Third St. project.  She was her usual cheerful, smiling self and so proud to show off yet another of Juan’s spectacular renovations.  It was not until the end of the tour that I heard that she had cancer.  Carmen battled hard but on Sunday, July 26, she succumbed to the disease.  She leaves to mourn her loving husband, Juan, her son, Angel and a grateful neighbors who will never forget her charm and commitment. Our prayers are with Juan and Angel.

The Neighborhood Mourns the Loss of a Treasure

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