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History Rewritten for Downtown Raleigh Neighborhood

Posted November 12, 2007

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— 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.

22 Comments

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  • houdie1031 Nov 13, 2007

    Lorna, This is a good time to get vocal with Raleigh City leaders. Community Development and the City own lots of properties east of the Governor's Mansion and Oakwood. Look over in the Cooke St Area, areas east of Tarboro Road. There are deals to be had for the Urban Pioneers. Habitat for Humanity and St Augustine's are developing some very nice properites in the area. Hopefully there will be room for a lot of different kinds of people in the Downtown.

  • pleshy Nov 13, 2007

    Lorna - Well, sorry, I guess. You can have either a free market or socialism, but you can't have both. If the highest and best use is to put nice sized, though more expensive, houses on the property, then that is what will go there. If people get displaced, that is a social cost. If the displaced people failed to have ownership of the property being sold for the new houses, then they certainly cannot expect to reap any reward for merely being tenants, can they? No, the entrpeneur who owned the land, rented the housing and subsequently sold it to the new developer reaps the reward because he took the risk. The builder/developer also takes a risk and perhaps reaps a reward. A renter is taking no risk or very little risk, and so can expect no return. I am sorry if this makes you feel bad, but this is how the world works, generally. I for one hope this works.

  • lornadoone Nov 13, 2007

    pleshy... a lot of people would love to live downtown and can't afford it - what are they supposed to do? how is it necessarily their "fault" in every situation? it's also beneficial to people regulated on the bus line. our pathetic transportation system doesn't allow people without transportation to work outside the city limits - wouldn't this be one way to alleviate that problem? besides, builders are already moving out many poor folks from the downtown area to "revitalize" it (aka make it for wealthy folks). that's not right because those families have been there for years, but because they rent the houses, they have no say.

    why do we have to be so greedy to exclude middle and lower income families? why not give us a chance?

  • ncwebguy Nov 13, 2007

    The should in my previous comment was supposed to be in quote marks. Blount Street used to be Millionaires Row, before that moved to the Hayes/Barton area near Five Points. Is anyone going to ask the Carolina Country Club to add affordable housing? No.

    The idea is to create a place where cars are not necessary. Money saved by not spending it on car payments, gas, tires, oil changes, and other maintenance makes these units more affordable.

    Someone stuck in traffic on Capitol north of 540 or on 40 during rush hour might not understand this concept, but other people do.

    It is amazing how the same people who demand "property rights" will turn around and tell other people what the should/can do with other property. This isn't state property any more. The state sold it.

  • ncwebguy Nov 13, 2007

    Capitol Park has a mix of affordable houses (including 3 BR/2 bath), townhouses, apartments, and a senior living center. It sits on the former Halifax Court, partially paid for by HUD tax dollars. The redevelopment has increased the city's tax base and reduced the amout of police and other services required for the area. There are more cops at the Capitol Dunkin Donuts than Krispy Kreme.

    If you want an affordable single story 3 bedroom house, look east of downtown. It is safer but not *safe* right now, but it gets better every year. If you want a 3 BR house in a "safe" neighborhood right now, move to Knightdale or Clayton. They will be safe, until the adjustable mortgage rates kick in and the subdivisions are destroyed by foreclosures.

    Does anyone ask if anything is affordable in Cary? Wakefield? The Rex/Crabtree area? North Hills? Heck no. There is a double stanadard because cheap housing should be concentrated downtonw instead of spread across thea area.

  • pleshy Nov 13, 2007

    There are people who can afford these homes and people will buy them in order to be closer to work, nightlife, etc. If you are not one of the people who can afford these homes, why is that the buidler's problem? Because to me, it sounds like your problem. I don't complain that I can't afford a house on White Oak Road. I buy what I can afford in the best neighborhood available (in my opinion). I don't go around whining that there needs to be more affordable housing on White Oak, or MacGregor in Cary, or in Preston, or Wakefield Plantation. Demand for a certain product creates suppliers and these suppliers will determine what the price the market will support. If the market supports upsacle prices, that is what they will sell. If the units don't sell, the price will come down, but so will the quality of the product. Why? Because you cannot build a mansion and sell it for the price of the outhouse.

  • BUCKEYEnNC Nov 13, 2007

    It's something I'm learning over and over again. It's not necessarily unique to Raleigh. It seems that's how our governement likes to operate!

  • lornadoone Nov 13, 2007

    "Is this the best way to undertake such a project?"

    Haven't you learned that that's the way things operate around here? ;-)

  • BUCKEYEnNC Nov 13, 2007

    "Are the new homes, apartments, etc. going to be affordable?"

    I have to agree with that statement... What's the point of building new homes when nobody can afford them. Let's look a the real estate market. Homes are taking longer to sell. Banks are tightening (too late of you asked me) lending practices. With all of that going on, who has money for a new expensive home in downtown Raleigh?

    Don't get me wrong, I love the idea of revitalizing a neighborhood. We just need to be smart about it.

    One statement in the article that bothered me was "...we are building this relationship on the fly." Is this the best way to undertake such a project?

  • twc Nov 13, 2007

    Since they closed Halifax Court that area is really on the rebound. If the powers were to include about 10 more blocks eastward they could really make a positive impact. The city needs to give landlords in that area some kind of incentive to make improvements. The way it is now you can be in a "safe" area and two blocks later be in "real" danger!!

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