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Oakwood home spurs discussion over Raleigh's historic districts

Posted September 22, 2014

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— It was the pink elephant in the room that brought over 100 people to a meeting at the Raleigh Convention Center Monday night to discuss the city’s historic preservation guidelines.

But they were asked not to talk about it.

You know, the home that divided a historic downtown Raleigh neighborhood.

“There is a conversation going on in our community right now about do the guidelines do what they are intended to do in terms of preserving historic districts, but also allowing there to be diversity and flexibility,” said Mary Dillon, who lives in the Historic Oakwood neighborhood.

The legal battle over the home spurred a number of questions that were asked at Monday’s meeting, including what community values should be represented in historic preservation guidelines, do the current guidelines reflect those values and what would historic neighborhoods look like if drastic changes are made.

“Our concern is that with those changes, you're going to see a great watering down of the classic look across the neighborhood or the feel of the neighborhood,” said Mary Iverson with the Oak City Preservation Alliance.

Some believe change may be good for historic neighborhoods.

“Many residents of Historic Oakwood and other historic districts believe that historic structures should be protected, but that these neighborhoods should not be frozen in time,” read a statement signed by over 80 Oakwood residents in support of the home. “They believe that contemporary infill, thoughtfully regulated by the Raleigh Historic Development Commission (RHDC), can be compatible with the historic character of our local historic neighborhoods.”

Most people at Monday’s meeting agreed that historic neighborhoods add value to a community, but the answer they wanted was what defines ‘historic.’ Notes from the meeting will be used to make recommendations to the RHDC and Raleigh City Council.

“I think there are passions on both sides of the issue and that's great because I think at the core of it, everybody feels very proud of their neighborhood and strong about it,” Dillon, the Oakwood resident, said.

Passions for and against the home played out in city meetings and in court as neighbors disputed over whether an Oakwood residence's modern design clashed with the neighborhood’s character.

The home’s owners, Marsha Gordon and Louis Cherry, were granted the necessary permits to build the contemporary home at 516 Euclid St., including a certificate of appropriateness from the RHDC.

Neighbors against the home filed a complaint, which led the city's Board of Adjustment to reverse the certificate, thus suspending construction on the home.

City officials, along with Gordon and Cherry, appealed the Board of Adjustment decision to Superior Court. A judge ruled in their favor earlier this month.

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  • stacey3 Sep 23, 2014

    The thing that has hurt Oakwood's property value most is the public hostility between existing residents and new residents trying to move there. As someone whose family history in North Carolina dates back to Joel Lane era, I can tell you I would avoid buying in Oakwood simply because of the litigation-minded nature of its current residents. That this story has played out in the media to the degree that it has will have far lasting consequences regarding anyone's decision to want to buy a home there. And that is far more damaging to property value than any individual home's architectural design.

  • archmaker Sep 23, 2014

    the most wonderful think about Oakwood and most downtown places is that they are full of architectural styles. there are 80 years of different architectural styles in the neighborhood and all of those Oakwood houses were "contemporary" when they were built.
    and unlike the suburbs, the whole neighborhood is not going to look run down and outdated all at the same time.

  • Doug Hanthorn Sep 23, 2014
    user avatar

    View quoted thread


    Wrong. The home across the street owned by the woman who whined about the modern house is no more historic that the cars parked on the street. The contemporary house fits in nicely and is a nice addition to the neighborhood. Mt. Pleasant, SC has allowed some tasteful contemporary houses in their historic district and nobody seems to complain. If all you want is bland and boring sameness, go to some new cookie cutter development and leave the artistic stuff ot others.

  • archmaker Sep 23, 2014

    View quoted thread



    even the people who wrote the guidelines for historical districts in North Carolina agree that this house meets the rules.

    what is selfish is a neighbor who thinks her property rights extend across the street onto her neighbor's property.

  • baldchip Sep 23, 2014

    Contemporary home should NEVER have been built. That selfish act ruins the who neighborhood. It looks like an apple in the middle of a bushel of oranges.

    I'm so glad Raleigh's planning dept. does not work in Clayton where we live!! They'd be FIRED!!

  • Imma Annoid Sep 23, 2014
    user avatar

    What is usually the case with "historical districts" is they turn into "hysterical districts".

    Clearly the case in this situation.

  • archmaker Sep 23, 2014

    Oak City Preservation Alliance has no credibility among professionals in the preservation field and has stooped to fear mongering with their brochures that photoshop modern houses (out of their original scale) against older houses and telling people that this could happen under the rules (it can't).

  • Ron Kemp Sep 23, 2014
    user avatar

    Building "replica" historic look-alikes is not the way to go. The Gordon-Cherry house, in a few years, will be a valued addition to the neighborhood. Just MHO.