East Meets West: The Twin Cities

St. Paul art near Rice ParkI just returned from the National Trust for Historic Preservation Annual Conference in St. Paul, Minnesota.  Learned a bit about the history and rivalry shared by St. Paul and Minneapolis.  Heard both Mayors speak.  Enjoyed a somewhat dour but humorous keynote address delivered by Garrison Keillor.  Listened to some great music by Peter Ostroushko, the best mandolin player on ‘neither’ side of the Mississippi.  Toured 11 magnificent homes in the Ramsey Hill neighborhood (including Mr. Keillor’s).  Explored downtown on foot but did not find a way to get close to the Mississippi.  And, of course, attended plenty of educational sessions.  This year there was a focus on how the ‘Green Building’ movement and Historic Preservation can cohabitate.  More to follow.

Landmark Center in St. PaulI also enjoyed meeting a fellow real estate agent who lives and works in St. Paul.  Teresa Boardman took time out of her busy day to chat with me over breakfast at the Downtowner restaurant.  Teresa had just been named one of the 25 most influential real estate bloggers of 2007 by Inman News.  Thanks and Congratulations Teresa.

Birthplace of Raleigh – Joel Lane House

Warning:  History Content (but real estate related).

Joel Lane House, Raleigh NCRaleigh still has a house from colonial times.  The Joel Lane House was built in the early 1770’s.  Keep in mind that was prior to the Revolutionary War (1775-1783), prior to the Declaration of Independence (1776) and prior to the founding of Raleigh (1792).  By today’s McMansion standards this is a very modest home.  In the 1700’s it was one of the finest homes around.

Joel Lane was instrumental in the founding of Wake County.  He was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Revolutionary War and served in several public offices, including a decade or so as State Senator.  In 1792, he sold 1000 acres of land to the State of North Carolina for the purpose of establishing the City of Raleigh.  One of Raleigh’s main streets bears his name.

Amazingly his house has survived.  In 1927 it was moved a short distance from its original location to where it stands now on the corner of St. Marys and Hargett Streets.  The Joel Lane House is preserved as a museum and is open to the public.  The tour is short but interesting.  If you visit, ask the curator to point out evidence that it once served a dual purpose as both tavern and home – The Ultimate Multi-Family House.

As you can imagine, it is now surrounded by modern residential development such as St Mary’s Townhomes and the presently unfinished Bloomsbury Estates condos.

There’s an interesting connection between the Joel Lane House and Boylan Heights which I’ll save for a future post.

Highly Endangered – Historic Paschal House

Paschal House Exterior ViewHere’s a great new opportunity that is not presently found in MLS.

Preservation North Carolina is trying to find a buyer for the historic Paschal House.  Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and situated on 3 acres overlooking a park in a very desirable ‘Inside The Beltline’ Raleigh neighborhood, this important modernist house is in danger of being sacrificed to development.

Paschal House Interior PhotoThe Paschal House was designed by James Fitzgibbon, who was a professor at North Carolina State University School of Design, partner of Buckminster Fuller, and part of a group that designed many radical modernist structures in North Carolina in the 1950s and 1960s.

Paschal House Fireplace PhotoThe property is priced at $2,500,000 to $5,750,000.  This wide price window allows flexibility for buyers.  The layout of the property may allow for 2 to 4 lots to be divided off leaving the house on approximately 1.3 acres.  PNC believes this could be done without sacrificing the integrity of the site.

It’s also eligible for a 30% North Carolina rehabilitation tax credit as well as a possible easement deduction and a property tax reduction.

This house is very cool.  Check it out on PNC’s website.

Death By A Thousand Cuts: Teardowns

Photo of house being torn down.  Source - National Trust for Historic Preservation website.  House not located in Raleigh.‘Teardown’ refers to the practice of destroying one house in order to build another.  This important issue has been prominent in the local Raleigh news this week.

1. WRAL TV hosted a discussion on ‘Headline Saturday’ yesterday.

2. The N&Ohas printed articles on teardowns, including one in today’s Sunday edition.

3. Raleigh’s 4th annual Neighborhood Exchange this weekend had a breakout session called ‘Infill! Refill! Overfill?’.

4. The City of Raleigh recently announced completion of the first phase of its analysis of neighborhood infill.  Spring of this year the City Council recognized the issue warranted attention and authorized a study.  Completion is scheduled for Summer 2008.  As I obtain details of the study, I’ll post them.

Tearing down a house is not always a bad thing, but the practice has grown into a significant problem.  Perfectly good homes are being destroyed.  However, the larger concern is many of them were historic, architecturally significant and irreplaceable.

All too often, the decision to tear down and replace a home is based purely on short-term financial gain.  Immediate consequences for the neighbors and long-term consequences for the neighborhood are ignored.  Sensitivity to neighborhood character and lifestyle is rare as the replacement houses are typically much larger and of different style than the surrounding homes.  Often they are spec houses built by developers who don’t live in the neighborhood.

The teardown trend has become epidemic on a national scale.  Raleigh’s historic neighborhoods (and perhaps a neighborhood near you) are threatened with extinction.  Death of one historic home at a time ultimately leads to death of the historic neighborhood which in turn affects the health of the city.

Raleigh was founded in 1792.  It’s one of the few cities in the US with interesting historic neighborhoods seamlessly blending into the downtown core.  Do we want future visitors to feel Raleigh was instead founded in 1972?  If so, keep tearing down historic homes, but don’t expect those visitors to come back a second time.

Obvious social, political, environmental and financial issues are woven into the teardown problem.  This topic will be revisited.

A Taste of Downtown Raleigh: Heilig-Levine Building

Heilig Levine Building in Downtown RaleighTomorrow (September 5th) Preservation North Carolina is hosting a reception which will include a preview of the Heilig-Levine Building in Downtown Raleigh.  Registration and reception will be held at the Raleigh City Museum in the Historic Briggs Hardware Building on Fayetteville Street (just downstairs from PNC’s office).  The Heilig-Levine Building is just a block away and will be open for tours.

This will be PNC’s 2nd annual ‘A Taste of Downtown Raleigh’ event.  Last year’s event showcased The Hudson, a condominium development on the site of the old Hudson Belk Department Store on Fayetteville Street.

Heilig-Levine Building in Downtown RaleighThe Heilig-Levine Building, built in 1870, is undergoing Raleigh’s first historic LEED certified renovation.  Developer Empire Properties worked with Cherokee Investment Partners to achieve the certification for their new headquarters office in the building.  More than 50% of the interior has been constructed with recycled wood and 75% of construction waste will be recycled.  A number of energy-saving features are also incorporated into the space including motion detecting lights, faucets that turn off by themselves, and bicycle racks and showers that encourage employees to drive less.  The Heilig-Levine renovation is the first effort in North Carolina to combine historic character with a state-of-the-art space.

Cherokee Investments occupies the upper floors of the Heilig-Levine Building.  Rumor has it that a cool new restaurant will move into the street level space.

It’s worth noting that Greg Hatem and Empire Properties received the 2006 L. Vincent Lowe, Jr. Business Award at PNC’s annual conference.  This award is presented to a North Carolina business showing vision and creativity in promoting the protection of the states architectural resources.   Empire Properties recognizes the value and charm wrapped up in Raleigh’s historic buildings.  They have taken on properties that others thought better torn down.  In doing so, they have become a major player in the movement to revitalize downtown Raleigh.  Here’s looking forward to their continued success.