Sunday, September 28, 2008

McMansion Meltdown?

Finally, a top 10 list Raleigh is not on.

Towns That Could Be Hit Hardest by the Financial Crisis
by Prashant Gopal | Saturday, September 27, 2008 | provided by Business Week

The upheaval shaking Wall Street will hurt privileged enclaves as well as working-class neighborhoods from coast to coast. Find out which will fare the worst.

The story begins ...

How many former Lehman Brothers bankers or AIG executives are likely to be buying a Park Avenue apartment or a home in Darien, Conn., this year? Most likely answer: not many at all.

Reading the article shows that many of the nation's teardown hotspots are on the list of places expecting slowdowns. Of course all will be affected by this. But Fallonia predicts that activities such as this and this and this will be slowed as well.

Of course, we can never get these back.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Naturalist visits Fallon Park

This is a fine exploration of Fallon Park and its surrounds.

It is a clean, rock-filled creek with a wide range of trees and plants arranged around its slopes. There are small grass meadows at the top and bottom. It serves a surrounding community that maintains rich, semi-organic plantings in its large yards, and it drains steep wooded slopes with older houses and little construction. The creek’s quality reflects all of that.

And this observation is exactly why residents were so concerned about this little park that they requested a zoning that reflected the build-out of the current area.

Enjoy the virtual visit.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Community Conversations III


The Economic Benefits of Community Character
Donovan Rypkema, Place Economics, and Pratt Cassity, UGA Center for Community Design and Preservation

Our community character (the physical, natural, social and cultural elements of our city and its neighborhoods) and the
strength of our economy are what consistently make Raleigh one of the ten best places to live in the country. Don Rypkema and Pratt Cassity, both national experts in urban design, historic preservation and economics, will discuss how our priorities for community design and preservation affect our city's economic future.

Continue the conversation with your friends and neighbors over coffee and dessert after the lecture.

Monday, September 22, 2008
7:30 - 9:00 pm
Long View Center
Lecture is free and open to the public.

Sponsored by the Raleigh Historic Districts Commission,
in partnership with Preservation North Carolina and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Charlottesville VA keeps track

1. The desire for greater density lead to the demise of some decent looking houses in the University area, such as 2006 Jefferson Park Ave., demoed to make room for a 20-plus-unit apartment building. 2. Modest, run-down homes in the University area, like this one on John Street, have been particularly likely to be replaced by higher density housing. 3. Some older single-family residences across the city have been torn down to make room for newer single-family residences, as was the case with 606 Monticello Avenue. 4. Not everything demolished has been replaced, as is the case at 723 Nalle St. It is one of 15 homes torn down in Fifeville in the past five years.

Oh no, not Charlottesville...

Places we've lost

Looking back at 80 demos in five years

BY WILL GOLDSMITH | (Charlottesville News and Arts)

When she took over as city preservation planner in 2003, no one told Mary Joy Scala to keep tabs on torn-down buildings. “We only keep building permits for three years,” says Scala. “I just thought there should be a record of what was destroyed.”

The result is a trio of 1" three-ring binders with property cards and pictures of the demolished buildings. Some fourscore demolitions have taken place in the past five years, a time during which the city has seen a development renaissance thanks to the confluence of a bubbling housing market and philosophical shift during the mayoral era of Maurice Cox towards encouraging density. On a rainy weekday, I trudged down to City Hall to see what could be gleaned by combing through Scala’s binders.

For the most part, they are page books of modest homes that had to make way for “progress”—bigger buildings with more units and modern amenities. The University area in particular has been hard hit by demolitions, either because of institutional expansions or landlords capitalizing on the higher density afforded by Council in 2003.

Monroe Lane lost at least half a dozen residences to condos and medical center projects. Valley Road and Brandon Avenue were scourged for the South Lawn project, though property owners there were well remunerated for their loss—UVA bought several of the bulldozer-marked houses for more than $1 million each. On Wertland Street and Jefferson Park Avenue, Wade Apartments took down older rental units to turn them into nicer new units. Further down JPA, two stately residences at 2006 and 2101 vanished in favor of, respectively, a multiunit apartment and a grassy lot.

The most infamous University area tear down was done by the Thomas Jefferson Scholars Foundation when it demoed 124 Maury Ave. (a.k.a. the Beta frat house), an elegant residence designed by notable architect Eugene Bradbury. But the TJ scholars also took out two less striking ranch-style houses on Clark Court to make room for their new graduate fellowship center.

Not all the tear downs are residential. The Terrace Theater, for instance, was torn down last fall to make room for the new Whole Foods on Hydraulic Road, and a Donut Connection building was obliterated for the cool two-story Arch’s.

Around the rest of the city, demolitions have been mostly scattered affairs, though Fifeville and the area of Belmont closer to Carlton Avenue have lost more than their fair share. Neighborhoods both old and rich, like North Downtown and Rugby Road, have largely been spared the wrecking ball, but even those places have seen a handful of demolitions. For instance, after buying 906 Fendall Terrace in 2004 for $530,000, Michael and Prudence Thorner tore down a five-room 1,760-square-foot house and replaced it with an eight-room 4,000-square-foot house.

What Scala’s binders can’t explain, however, is why a house was demolished. Unless a building has local historical designation, a demolition permit is relatively easy to obtain and requires no justification. That means that there is no catalogue of a building’s flaws, of its cracked foundation or its leaking roof or its rotten framing. No judge publicly proclaims its sins before consigning it to the crowbar. The city assessor’s property card, with its simple numbers on rooms, square footage and year built, is all that will remain of those deceased dwellings that once gave Charlottesville shelter.

Same here. And the demo permit fee is $75 in our neck of the woods. Hardly a hardship.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Good Morning, Raleigh

Over at Goodnight, Raleigh! a photo essay on Raleigh's "Nail Buildings" was posted 09.08.08.

‘Nail Buildings’ or ‘Nail Houses’ are terms that were coined in China to represent the businesses and residences that refuse to allow their buildings to be demolished, even in the face of towering construction or a barren landscape all around them. The phrase refers to a nail in wood that is difficult to remove.

Must be why they invented bulldozers.

You may also want to take a night-time stroll down memory lane.

This is the while-you-were-sleeping view of Raleigh. Almost like being there. Almost.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Sold on Claremont

Crabtree Creekview on Claremont changed owners on 8/13/2008.

The original house was razed on 3/15/2006, thus a 2.5 month flip-phase.

The sale price came in $500 lower than asking price, and $120K below tax value.

You really could see Crabtree creek really well from the porches last week during Gustav. Or in the driveway.

The Week in Preview

From the N&O:


Two historic areas in Raleigh are the subjects of votes this week.

Today, residents of the Glenwood-Brooklyn neighborhood across from Fletcher Park near downtown will be watching how Wake County commissioners vote on the George's Mews apartment proposal. Many residents oppose an effort to convert the 26-unit complex into low-income housing, including eight units for people with physical and mental disabilities. The $2.14 million project is to be funded by the city, Wake County and state agencies.

On Tuesday, the Raleigh City Council will consider the Wake schools' plan to make a parking lot out of the front lawn of 79-year-old Broughton High School. This is an appeal of the Planning Commission's 6-3 rejection of the school's plan last week.

More Glenwood-Brooklyn stories here:



North Raleigh News

Broughton's front lawn is covered here:


Planning Commission decision

Further reaction



Saturday, September 13, 2008

UP and CV Go At It

Keep up with things here.

In summary, regardless of the multiple requests by the neighborhoods to address issues concerning density that gut the Wade/Oberlin Small Area Plan and traffic congestion that will negatively impact the neighborhoods surrounding Cameron Village, the city planners have chosen Cameron Village as a site for more density without fully knowing how the current infrastructure of the neighborhood will support the dramatic increase in density.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

They Paved Paradise ...

Fallonia can't believe her eyes ... pave the front lawn at Broughton? Three Cheers for the Planning Commission. Or is it 1 cheer for the PC and 2 cheers for the neighbors who were paying attention and let their voices be heard.

Fallonia has been away on an extended non-holiday and is slowly catching up with local news. Please let me know if I have missed something in your neck of the woods. Better yet, submit a guest column for your neighborhood. Anonymity guaranteed.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Here's a Whale of a Tale

What is a view? It depends on Who is looking Where.

Who has a right to a view? It depends on Where the Money is.

If you are a resident of an established neighborhood, then something that comes along and obstructs the view and the sunshine can be regarded as a detriment to that property. The new guy on the block will see what they have done as their right, and very likely an improvement to the neighborhood. What about the original resident's right? A great time to invoke the golden rule (as an aside, a form of this rule exists in every religion on earth -- wonder why?)

Just when you think it can't get any muddier, along comes a new way of looking at it. In a story on NPR today, the battle over View has three sides: the residents -- the city -- and the billboard industry. Guess who's view is most important?

In Florida, Billboards Trump Trees

by David Baron

All Things Considered, September 8, 2008 · Across America, communities intent on beautifying their roadways often plant trees. But in some places, those trees have encountered a powerful foe: the billboard industry.

This is a story about 16 crape myrtles, four billboards and one road.

'Tacky Town' Gets A Makeover

U.S. Highway 192 is a six-lane strip of asphalt in Osceola County, Fla., outside Walt Disney World. Families come here to ride go-carts and roller coasters, buy T-shirts and gorge themselves at all-you-can-eat buffets. But back in the 1980s, this tourist strip was losing business to newer, nicer roadways. Its image needed improvement.

"It got its fair share of bad names," says Hector Lizasuain, who oversees the highway for Osceola County. "At one time, this place was considered 'Tacky Town,' 'The Failed Las Vegas.' I think that's what drove this community to do something about that and change that."

What the community did was launch a beautification project.

Highway 192 used to be exceptionally plain. It was lined by weed-filled ditches, with no sidewalks and poor lighting. It was drab.

So the property owners voted to tax themselves $29 million to make the roadway safer and prettier.

"Look at it today," says Lizasuain. "We have 10-foot sidewalks on both sides of the road. We have bicycle paths, well-lit bus shelters, information-filled kiosks. And that's not even mentioning the beautiful landscaping that we have out here."

Trees Vs. Billboards

The landscaping included 360 palms, 300 oleanders and 1,400 loquats, among other trees. But as the county made these improvements several years ago, some people were not happy.

"We alerted [the county] that … we've got a problem," recalls Craig Swygert. He heads the Orlando division of Clear Channel Outdoor, which owns billboards along Highway 192.

"The billboards were there first, and the trees started popping up, and they were done so in a way that they would block the view of the billboard," he says. He argued that by planting the trees where it did, the government was acting unfairly. "It's like, 'Hey, we're going to give you a permit to be in business, but then we're going to take it away after you've already invested all this money.'"

Clear Channel and other billboard companies complained that beautification projects on a number of Florida roads threatened their business, so they lobbied the state Legislature for protection.

A New Law

In 2006, lawmakers drafted a bill to outlaw the planting of trees on the public right-of-way in front of billboards. Each sign would be guaranteed a 500-foot-long view, uninterrupted by a single branch of leaf.

At the time, Randy Johnson was state representative for Osceola County along Highway 192. He supported the bill. "Those billboards are important, they feed lots of families," he testified at a hearing. "This is a tourism corridor. Tourism depends on billboards, not on trees."

Osceola County officials vehemently disagreed, but the Legislature passed the law, and it went into effect in 2006 just after the beautification project on Highway 192 celebrated its completion. A few months later, the state transportation agency announced that 38 of the newly planted trees were in violation of the law because they stood in front of four billboards. It said those trees would have to be cut down.

"I felt very — at that time — very betrayed," says Lizasuain. Others felt the same way.

"Have You No Shame?'

The Orlando Sentinel ran a front-page article about the trees' impending demise. The story provoked a strong public response.

Orlando resident Paul Adsett penned a letter to the editor. "It would be hard to imagine a more compulsive demonstration of the abusive power of an industry-lobbying group … to overrule the public interest in the name of corporate profits," he wrote. "To Clear Channel, Craig Swygert and Randy Johnson, I say, 'have you no shame?'"

James Browski, a homeowner in the Indian Ridge Oaks neighborhood near Highway 192, wrote angrily to Johnson: "Trees are beautiful, billboards are ugly. Thanks to you, ugly wins."

Orlando resident Sandra Butler posted a comment to an online discussion board. "What kind of ignorant person passed this law?" she asked. "Haven't the developers taken away enough trees and plant life?"

Who Controls The View?

The public outcry wasn't just about trees. It was about a larger issue: Who gets to control the view? Why should a private industry dictate what the public sees on a public highway?

"The issue of billboard companies seeking to cut down public trees is something that's happening all over the country," says Bill Jonson, who serves on the board of the advocacy group Scenic America.

Jonson calls this industry lobbying effort inappropriate — "because they're public trees" — but it has been effective. Several states now have laws that give billboards precedence over beautification projects, and those laws often leave local communities powerless to save their trees.

A Compromise

At first, it appeared Osceola County was destined to lose its fight against Clear Channel, but as the negative publicity spread, Clear Channel said it was open to compromise.

The county made an offer. What if it kept the trees pruned to limit their impact on the billboards? Clear Channel accepted the offer and said most of the trees could stay. But the company took a hard line against 16 crape myrtles clustered in the median. It insisted that those trees had to go.

"That's almost like someone coming in and saying you've got twins, and one of them is going to be sacrificed to save the other," says Lizasuain. But he had no choice, and in October 2006, his crew cut the crape myrtles to stumps.

Lizasuain thought that was the end of the story, but he's since made a discovery. It turns out the crape myrtles did not die as intended. They are now sprouting through a bed of low-growing shrubs on the highway median.

Lizasuain is quietly letting the trees live. He keeps them trimmed to a tiny size so no one notices they're there, but to him they serve in silent protest to the billboard law. Should those in power someday change the law back in favor of the trees, the crape myrtles will be ready to emerge and provide a canopy of flowers that, for now, remains illegal.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Community Conversations: SEP 22, 2008

Two not-to-be-missed nationally recognized speakers together in one unique event!

The Economic Benefits of Community Character

Donovan Rypkema, Place Economics, Inc.
Pratt Cassity, University of Georgia Center for Urban Design and Preservation

Please join us for the third event in the Community Conversations series.

Our community character (the physical, natural, social and cultural elements of our city and its neighborhoods) and the strength of our economy are what consistently make Raleigh one of the ten best places to live in the country. Don Rypkema and Pratt Cassity, both national experts in urban design, historic preservation and economics, will discuss how our priorities for community design and preservation affect our city's economic future.

Continue the conversation with your friends and neighbors over coffee and dessert after the lecture.

Monday, September 22, 2008
7:30 - 9:00 pm
Long View Center
118 S. Person Street, Raleigh

Lecture is free and open to the public. Invite your friends to come along!

Sponsored by the Raleigh Historic Districts Commission,
in partnership with Preservation North Carolina and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.