Historic Preservation Commission to Review Teardown Application
On Tuesday, May 5, at 8:30 a.m., the Durham Historic Preservation Commission will consider the request to demolish the historic Williams-Muse house at 2308 W. Club Blvd. in the Watts-Hillandale historic district. The owners, who purchased the 1453sf house in August of last year for $385,000, plan to build a much larger new house on the lot.
Both the Watts-Hillandale Neighborhood Association and Preservation Durham oppose the demolition. Under current statute all the Historic Preservation Commission can do is postpone demolition of the structure for 365 days, while we try to press the owners to accept other alternatives.
Why this Matters:
At the heart of the issue, tear-downs are about losing historic architecture, but the phenomenon is also about community character, smart growth, affordable housing, environmental sustainability, economic and demographic shifts, and ever-changing real estate market
- Loss of Community Character – historic neighborhoods will lose the identity that drew residents to put down roots in the first place.
- Loss of Diversity – Community economic and social diversity is reduced as new, more expensive homes, often referred to as “McMansions,” replace affordable and entry-level, starter homes.
- Domino Effect – Incrementally, as the number of teardowns increases, the overall character and charm of a historic neighborhood begins to disappear, replaced by a hodgepodge of boxy new houses and forlorn-looking older homes.
Property Values -In most studies that have been conducted around the country, property values within historic districts tend to have rates of appreciation greater than the overall local market. This is attributable not just to the quality of the housing stock, but also the owner confidence that the character of the neighborhood will be protected through a historic preservation ordinance. Real estate values come largely not from within the boundaries of a single property, but from the larger context within which the individual property exists (hence the old cliché of location, location, location.). A local historic district protects the context of the neighborhood, thus protecting the major source of the value for an individual property.
In Durham, local historic districts and the 365 day delay the Historic Preservation Commission can impose on demolition of buildings in those districts are the main tools we have to prevent teardowns in our historic neighborhoods.
What you can do: A large turnout at the hearing before the Historic Preservation Commission will not only persuade the commission to resist the teardown, but will also show the new owners how deeply their future neighbors and other Durhamites care about the historic homes and streetscape along Club Boulevard. We still hope to convince them that there are reasonable alternatives to the demolition of an historic home.
The hearing will be held Tuesday, May 5th, beginning at 8:30a.m. in the Durham County Government Administrative Complex, 2nd floor, Commissioners’ Meeting Room, 200 East Main Street.