Local News

Oakwood residents, homeowner draw battle lines in fight over modern house

Posted March 21, 2014

— Residents of Raleigh's historic Oakwood neighborhood and the owner of a home under construction there held dueling news conferences Friday as the battle over the type of construction allowed in Oakwood intensified.

Marsha Gordon and Louis Cherry were granted necessary permits to build the contemporary house at 516 Euclid St., including a certificate of appropriateness from the Raleigh Historic Development Commission.

Construction on the house irked neighbors, who argued that the house didn't fit with the character of Oakwood, and they filed a complaint over it. That led the city's Board of Adjustment to reverse the certificate, which could halt construction on the home.

City officials said Thursday that they would appeal the Board of Adjustment decision to Superior Court "because of concerns about procedural irregularities."

"(Oakwood) is not a museum stuck in time," Cherry, an architect, said at a news conference at the Euclid Street construction site.

Cherry and Gordon were backed by North Carolina Modernist Houses, a nonprofit group that documents, preserves and promotes modernist architecture.

"We don't want to give neighbors what is, essentially, the power of condemnation," said George Smart, chairman of the group, which is setting up a legal fund to help the owners of modern homes.

Four blocks away, neighbors expressed their dismay at the city's appeal of the Board of Adjustment ruling.

"We're very concerned. We're very disappointed and very disheartened," Will Hillebrinner said. "We're worried about the character and integrity of the district from this point forward."

Oakwood resident Mary Iverson said she likes the style of the Euclid Street house, but that doesn't mean it belongs in the historic neighborhood.

"Why did we, when we were protected for 40 years, why do we have a new interpretation? That's confusing to us," Iverson said.

The Raleigh Historic Development Commission’s building guidelines for historic areas allow new construction if plans reflect an “understanding of and a compatibility with the distinctive character of the district setting and buildings.”

The guidelines also say new construction in historic neighborhoods can enhance the district.


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  • Heath Hilliker Mar 24, 2014
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    I feel so bad for the Cherry/Gordon family. It would be awful to choose a neighborhood that you loved and wanted to make your home only to have the neighbors turn out to be so incredibly terrible. I wouldn't want to live among such animosity. Even if they win their case, at least for me, the dream of living in Oakwood would be ruined.

    There are funky, modern additions to many of the Oakwood homes. I just don't understand peoples distain for this one. It's lovely.

    You can't build an historic home and every home was modern at some point.

  • androiddj Mar 24, 2014

    This is such ridiculous argument, The Modernist Bauhaus movement was only 25 years after Victorian architecture. Which is now over 75 years old! But what else should we expect from revisionist North Carolinian's who believe in and perpetuate false and fake history. Build the new house, its 2014, there are hundreds of more modern looking houses that exist all over the triangle since the mid 60s!!

  • barbstillkickin Mar 24, 2014

    These residents are right in fighting for this home not to be allowed to be built in this beautiful neighborhood. It is a historical neighborhood not a modern little sub division. Raleigh is big enough for these people to move their little modern home to a regular neighborhood. I love driving through that area and thinking about all the history in those homes alone. Guess it will wind up to who greases the right hand on this one.

  • exudin Mar 21, 2014

    Perfect case of too much government !!
    One department does not know what the other is doing; however, Cherry will prevail here or the City of Raleigh will pay as it should.

  • archmaker Mar 21, 2014

    View quoted thread

    The commission approved the design, the city inspections department issued a permit. A permit legally grants you approval to build and grants vested rights per NC state law to be protected from zoning changes (the Board of Adjustment hears zoning appeals). A building permit doesn't say "build, but we can change our mind."

    They will win their case. That is why the City plans to defend them and overturn the Board of Adjustment.

  • glarg Mar 21, 2014

    a. not that historic
    b. ugly joint but then we dont have to live in it.
    c. You cant retroactively rescind approval once people are $100K into building

  • archmaker Mar 21, 2014

    View quoted thread

    A majority of commission members must have demonstrated special interest, experience, or education in history, architecture, archaeology, or related fields. Also, all members of the commission must reside within the city’s corporate limits or within its extraterritorial jurisdiction, and at least one-third of the commission’s membership must either reside or own property in a Raleigh Historic District.

  • Lightfoot3 Mar 21, 2014

    The builder KNEW the permits were being appealed and he could lose, so everything is on his dime. He decided to take the risk by going ahead with the construction. That said, this is very messed up system they have. They should have never granted the permits until all the appeals were over.

  • I Have a Discernible Chin Mar 21, 2014

    The plans were approved through all the proper channels which was a committee of architects like the owner and contractors who would like to work for him and other of his associates. I would like to see more about how the permits were granted.

  • msfogle Mar 21, 2014

    The folks in that neighborhood really don't have enough to do. The house was approved through all the appropriate channels. I hope the owners will keep fighting.