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Historic Homes Parade Down Raleigh Streets

In a parade of homes in downtown Raleigh, the houses were mobile, lifted from their foundations and placed on wheels, and people sat on the streetside to watch the spectacle.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Downtown Raleigh saw a parade of homes on Saturday. But the historic houses were mobile, lifted from their foundations and placed on wheels, and people sat on the street side to watch the spectacle.

LNR Properties moved two historic homes 800 feet from Peace Street, where they were built in 1904, to Person Street as part of its Blount Street Commons project. One house weighed 275 tons.

"Ain't that something, how they get under that house," said Diana Erving, who watched the parade along with other apartment dwellers on Peace Street. "Oh my God, if that house ever came off there."

"We're moving them as part of the redevelopment of the six blocks and 21 acres that we're buying from the state of North Carolina," Doug Redford, of LNR, said.

By 2010, 495 townhouses, row houses, urban lofts and ground-floor retail stores will go up in 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. Construction will begin in February 2008.

The historic houses will return to use as single-family homes, after being used as office space by the state since the 1960s. North Carolina acquired the properties then for a development project that never happened.

Redford said some work will be done on the homes, particularly on the exteriors, but most restoration will be up to the buyer. Homeowners get tax breaks for such restoration work.

"The state took out kitchens. The state took out most of the bathrooms," he said. "They didn't need them for office buildings, so whoever buys them will have to put kitchens and bathrooms back into them."

"The people that decide to come in and undertake the labor of love to restore these homes are going to be undertaking a long process to get the homes back into residential living," Redford said when LNR won the contract in March 2006.

Downtown residents welcomed the development and expressed hope it will revitalize the Blount Street neighborhood, which was Raleigh's premier address during its heyday from the Civil War until the early 1900s.

"It gives people an opportunity to love where they work, which I think is really important," resident Sheri Seiferheld said.

Erving said she’d love to be able to move into one of the historic homes, but laughed, saying, “I don’t got the money.”

A few weeks before moving the first houses, Redford described the task of redeveloping the Blount Street neighborhood – which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places – as "complicated." The city spent nearly four years detailing plans, since any work must meet rigorous historic zoning standards.

"We're going to try to make a neighborhood that makes sense with the history that was here," Redford 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."


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