Local News

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

Posted March 21, 2014 3:04 p.m. EDT
Updated March 21, 2014 7:29 p.m. EDT

— 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.