Saturday, January 31, 2009

Houses for people to live in ...

Home teardowns

Coomentary by David Walden | Pleasanton Weekly - Pleasanton, CA, USA

The pace of teardowns also has slowed and preservationists are applauding the trend. About 75,000 homes a year were torn down across the country at the peak of the market. The National Trust has expanded its list of endangered neighborhoods to include 500 neighborhoods in 40 states.

The demolitions have triggered bitter battles between preservationists and suburbanites seeking new homes in mature, urban neighborhoods. But with new housing starts at a 26-year low, teardowns are experiencing a lull. For instance, in Westport, Conn., teardown permits were down 33 percent in 2008 compared to the previous year.

"The idea that you're going to make a lot of money tearing down an old house to build a new one, that's gone," said Morris Davis, a real estate economist at the University of Wisconsin in Madison who has advised the Federal Reserve on the teardown trend.

"We're advising communities to take advantage of this slowdown and use it as a cooling-off period," said Adrian Fine, a regional director for the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Washington. "It gives them a little more time to have a less heated and less controversial discussion to protect a specific neighborhood and balance that with the need for growth and development." (Source: The Christian Science Monitor)

Editor's Note: David Walden is a Certified Mortgage Planning Specialist and Certified Divorce Planning Professional associated with Diversified Capital Funding of Pleasanton.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Community Conversations: FEB 2, 2009

Practical Strategies for Historic Preservation

Maintaining Raleigh's unique community character is a hot topic in our city. Reasonable people can disagree about what our priorities ought to be and how best to achieve them, but the public discourse doesn't need to be contentious. Bill Schmickle, author of The Politics of Historic Districts: A Primer for Grassroots Preservation, will share his North Carolina-based perspectives on the political dynamics that drive proponents and opponents, especially in public forums, and how best to navigate them.

The lecture is free and open to the public. Please bring your friends and neighbors.

Monday, February 2, 2009

7:30 - 9:00 pm

Holy Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church
2723 Clark Ave, Raleigh NC

Sponsored by Preservation North Carolina.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Legislating Conversation?

Letting the Neighbors Know About Construction Plans
By Ann E. Marimow
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 15, 2009; GZ03

In the wake of legislation approved last month to combat "mansionization" of communities, Montgomery County Council member Roger Berliner (D-Potomac-Bethesda) is pressing ahead with a companion initiative meant to give neighbors a heads-up about major renovations or tear-downs of older homes.

Berliner calls the bill a "conversation starter" among neighbors. But builders and County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) say they see something more troublesome.

Under current practice, neighbors and neighborhood associations learn of construction projects after building permits have been issued and displayed on properties. Berliner's measure would require builders in some cases to notify certain neighbors and civic associations before a permit is approved.

Opponents of that approach are concerned that the measure would set up the false expectation that notice to neighbors would allow them to block or influence approval of construction.

Berliner seemed surprised by the level of discomfort with the bill. On Tuesday, he offered to significantly narrow the legislation to apply only to construction that replaces homes that are torn down or additions that are greater than 50 percent of an existing structure. It would not affect small-scale renovations or additions.

"This is notice only -- without any legal rights attached to it," Berliner said, "to encourage early conversation with your neighbors."

Berliner has the backing of council member Marc Elrich (D-At Large), who called the bill an "innocuous" requirement.

But the proposed changes did little to convince the building community, whose concerns Leggett shares. Raquel Montenegro, an associate director for government affairs at the Maryland-National Capital Building Industry Association, said the concern is "not what the bill says" but that residents "will believe they are entitled to stop construction on the property next door." She said it would be difficult for the county government to educate residents and to lower expectations.

. . .

Staff writer Miranda S. Spivack contributed to this report.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Dear Rose

Use Space Effectively to Add More Room to Older Homes

Q: We are appalled to find ourselves living in a neighborhood of tear-downs. Our house — like many of those being razed — was built a half-century ago when the area was working class.

We also need more living space, but can't decide how to add it. Do you have any suggestions?

A: Arm yourself with a good architect. He or she can survey your options and make professional recommendations on how to best enhance your specific property.

Meanwhile, you're to be congratulated for standing firm in your "working-class" footprint. After the bloated size and embarrassing aesthetics of America's McMansion phase, we are rediscovering the truth — that less is indeed more.

Here's inspiration from the pages of a new book that celebrates the smaller, smarter home, "The Simple House" by architect Sarah Nettleton (The Taunton Press). Subtitled "The Luxury of Enough," her book shows why and how to think through one's space intelligently.

The pictured room is an addition to a small home similar to yours. Long and loft-like, the new space parallels the old, cascading through several activity areas down to the sitting room, which is on the same level as the outdoor garden. Architect Taal Safdie of Safdie Rabines orchestrated the addition so it connects the new and old house through open "windows" hung with shutters.

The long storage wall is as practical as it is attractive — with open shelves and closed cabinets under columns that define the stairway as they evoke a feeling of the out-of-doors.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Turret Trouble

ELIZABETHTON — Steve and Ashley Grindstaff were both philosophical and practical on the day after a fire caused heavy damage to their $28.5 million home on Boone Lake on Saturday evening — a home on which they had no insurance.

“Self insured,” Steve said. “I won’t get one dime of insurance ... I guess this is a case of thinking it will never happen to me.

Steve said a rare January bolt of lightning was the culprit. Fire officials have confirmed that it was lightning. The only things he didn’t take into consideration when building the home were the copper beams in the turret of the signature tower of the house. Copper is one of nature’s best conductors of electricity. When lightning hit that copper beam, it efficiently conducted the super hot bolt throughout the top floor of the house, spreading fire and destruction. The power of the lightning bolt can still be seen in the jagged hole left in the tower.

Obviously something has been overlooked in our lightning safety literature. 
  • The best shelter from lightning is a substantial building, indoors.
  • Avoid car ports, porches, garages, sheds, tents, baseball dugouts, or under bleachers.
  • If no substantial shelter is available, then seek refuge in a hard topped vehicle, with the windows up.  
  • Stay away from trees, electrical poles, or other tall objects.
  • If your hair stands on end, or you experience a tingling sensation – lightning may strike soon! DO NOT LIE FLAT ON THE GROUND!

Complete story here.

The $28.5M Crantzdorf Estate is listed here.

This extravagant estate took over 10 years to complete showcasing the work of European craftsmen and architects. It is an elegant home encompassing 20,000+ sq. ft. containing 21 rooms such as 9 bedrooms, 10 full baths, 3 - 1/2 baths, 4 car garage and much more. Each room is full of exquisite details such as antique and castle furniture. The fountain and doors are antique as well.

This home has details such as antique fireplaces, grand ceilings, hand cast moldings, Italian marble floors and spectacular stained glass. It also boasts a world class theater, indoor basketball court, large pool and a replica of the Bristol Motor Speedway complete with six cars. Not only is the home spectacular but it is only enhanced by the location of the 13 acres on Boone Lake. The home has lake access containing a boat house and gazebo. Not to mention, the awesome scenery found in the mountains of East Tennessee.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Raleigh Comprehensive Plan

Where we are in the process:

The Public Review Draft is here!

The City of Raleigh is pleased to announce the availability of the Public Review Draft of the 2030 Comprehensive Plan. This is a complete draft, made available to all interested individuals and parties for review and comment. The Department of City Planning will be taking comments from December 1, 2008 through January 31, 2009. Click here to browse the document on-line, comment directly on the Plan's text, and download a printable version. This page also contains information about where to browse a paper copy, and how to provide input on the document outside of the on-line tools.

What's next in the process?

The Public Review Draft has been released, and a variety of meetings and workshops will be held throughout the months of December, 2008 and January, 2009 to brief the public and appointed boards and commissions, and to receive input. The official roll-out of the Public Review Draft was held on December 3, 2008 at the Convention Center downtown. Most significantly, three citywide Public Workshops on the Plan will be held on January 13, 14 and 15 at various locations throughout Raleigh. Click here for a full schedule of meetings and briefings. All meetings are open to the public.

Begin your research HERE. You may be pleasantly surprised. Or not. Review period ends on January 31.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Teardown Watch

Garland Jones building is coming down
Eye-catcher or eyesore? Modernist building will be missed by just a few
By Richard Stradling - Staff Writer
Published: Sat, Jan. 10, 2009

RALEIGH -- The National Trust for Historic Preservation's magazine calls the Garland H. Jones Building an "eye-catching landmark." Local architects say it's one of the best examples of Modernist architecture left in downtown Raleigh.

But come February, when the five-story office building begins coming down, it's not clear that many people will miss it.

The building's owner, Wake County, expected some opposition when it proposed demolishing the 47-year-old building to make way for a $215 million justice center. But county officials say they heard from only a handful of people.

It's more than a teardown, really. Call it progress or call it tragic, it is another piece of Raleigh's history added to the landfill.

Jon Zellweger, a Raleigh architect who posted a eulogy for the Garland Jones building on the Internet last year, thinks that people will look back at pictures of the building and wonder why it was torn down.

"Fifty years ago, we were tearing down Victorians and buildings from the late 19th century that we now hold up as precious," Zellweger said in an interview. "We love what our grandparents built and hate what our parents built."

In that article, published on, Zellweger goes into the significance of the building architecturally. Accompanied by photographs and floor plans, the article makes clear what we are about to do to our urban landscape.

The American Institute of Architects has identified it as one of the 88 most important 20th Century structures in Raleigh. The building has also been identified as a contributing structure in a study to designate the Fayetteville Street District as a Federal Historic District. Most remarkable is the fact that it is the last remaining example of High Modern Architecture in the downtown core. A myriad of other structures still populate the area—so much so that Raleigh resident George Smart has found no end in cataloging just the residential structures worthy of note. But after Wake County demolished its Social Services Building in 1998 it left the First Federal Building as the only well-dressed representative of that time.

The writing on the wall began with the building of the county jail tower. Gotta love the way we do that around here ... putting the Art Museum next to the Polk Youth Center, for example. Eventually the whole of the area will change to the new function, just as we have always done. So it goes with the Wake County complex downtown. Seems to me we get a little shortsighted on the vision thing around here.

Thank goodness Dorton Arena was saved. Yall remember the blue/green glass era over there? And now we are proud.

Is good to have visionaries among us.