Raleigh, N.C. — Historic houses in downtown Raleigh are getting ready to move in the name of progress.
The Blount Street Commons project is designed to revitalize the neighborhood bounded by Peace Street on the north, Lane Street on the south, Wilmington Street on the west and Person Street on the east.
The 21-acre project, being conducted in four phases over the next three years, involves moving eight Victorian houses to make room for 495 condominiums, townhouses, row houses and carriage houses. The existing houses will be shifted to lots in the neighborhood now occupied by parking.
"Moving the houses has to happen first because there's going to be a building built where one of the houses stood," said Doug Redford, project manager for developer LNR Properties. "We've been going through a long planning process to get to this point."
The city has been working on the redevelopment for more than four years. Much of the delay in accomplishing it is because the development had to meet rigorous historic zoning standards.
"The city has never done this before. The developer has never done this before. So, we're building a relationship on the fly," Raleigh Planning Manager Dan Becker said.
The neighborhood is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, having flourished from the Civil War until the early 1900s.
"Blount street over 100 years ago was the place to live in Raleigh," resident Sarah Lofton said.
But state offices have occupied many of the historic buildings in the neighborhood in recent years. The state bought homes in the 1960s for a development project that never happened.
Redford said LNR, which bought the properties from the state this year, for $20 million plan to put the relocated houses on the market once they are on their new foundations – the first couple houses are expected to move in the next few weeks. The developer hopes the purchasers will refurbish them as single-family homes, he said.
"We're going to try to make a neighborhood that makes sense with the history that was here," he said. "It's taken a little bit longer than we liked, but it's a complicated project. I think, in the end, it's going to be an interesting neighborhood to live in."
Lofton said work is occurring on both sides of her home.
"I'm surrounded by the goings on. It's great. It's noisy," she said. "I think it's exciting, very exciting. It's something we've been waiting for."
City officials and the developer said they want to return Blount Street to its roots as a destination neighborhood for residents.
"What we've seen so far is going to create a place for the city no one has ever seen before," Becker said.