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mpchicago

Possible Historic District in EGR

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I can't say I'm surprised about this.  A lot of homes in EGR were built at the turn of the 20th century, and many have the same great details as those in Heritage Hill.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out.  I also would not be surprised to see a historic district proposal for some Eastown area streets at some point in the next 5 to 10 years.  Some people get very worked up about historic districts as they feel it takes away their right to do what they want with their own home.

 

http://www.mlive.com/east-grand-rapids/index.ssf/2014/03/post_216.html#incart_river_default

Edited by mpchicago

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I'm not surprised either. During any summer while cruising garage sales, I've seen multiple homes over there demolished and rebuilt.

 

However I doubt this is going to get far. EGR is just not the place you go to live in an old home if you don't have to. Prices are high to live there and people like the look and feel of new.

 

That is not to say that some of those homes should not be preserved. They are just not going to be able to get away with carving out a huge instant historical district, with all manner of rules that will stranglehold homeowners with basically having to live in a museum. It will likely be tied to when certain homes go up for sale that they will be considered in a historical district when sold. And even that might not happen because it will affect the sale price of the house.

 

I'm not a huge fan of expanding the domain of historical districts even though I've lived in them for 10 years. There should be a reasonable limit to the number or else we will have whole cities of nothing but "historic" homes just because they are all old at some point, even though many of them should be replaced.

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The historic district in EGR would serve a completely different purpose that those in GR.  In GR they have recently been used largely for the federal and state tax breaks and other funding.  One of them encompasses a bunch of tear-down grade garbage off of Wealthy under the guise that these were "historic working class cottages"--the "Wealthy Theater Historic District" I think it's called. 

 

The EGR proposal goes back to the original concept that gave rise to Heritage Hill--a bunch of nitwits are tearing down houses left and right that do have actual historic value.  Cambridge Boulevard, where some guy proposed ripping down a great Tudor Revival, truly is one of the most historic streets in EGR, with some of the best and highest concentrations of very high end 1920s architecture you will find anywhere. 

 

I wouldn't doubt an historic district in EGR if the tear down phenomenon continues.  There have been a couple new houses on the street, some with rather questionable design aesthetics, and I would probably want an architectural review board if I lived there too.  Most living there already comply with what the rules would be.

 

What kills "historic" districts in GR is the HPC's tendency to call every structure and every aspect of every structure "contributing" just because it's old.  That, and they won't let you get anywhere near a vinyl window--even on new construction, or a rotted out rear attic window.  They won't even let you install a steel door on the back of the house because the old one rotted out 5 times.  Actions like this are not really in good keeping with how an historic district is supposed to be administered.  Most historic commissions elsewhere aren't nearly so heavy handed.

Edited by x99
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The historic district in EGR would serve a completely different purpose that those in GR.  In GR they have recently been used largely for the federal and state tax breaks and other funding.  One of them encompasses a bunch of tear-down grade garbage off of Wealthy under the guise that these were "historic working class cottages"--the "Wealthy Theater Historic District" I think it's called. 

 

 

Those cottages were a Dutch immigrant settlement, or "buurt" as they called it.  Unlike other ethnic groups, the Dutch didn't center-mass in one neighborhood, they spread out in clusters around town, usually delineated by the Dutch province they came from.  There used to be enclaves like that one all over town, with the same style streets and houses.  Some were razed, some are still there.  Brikyaat's another example.

 

I'm not defending HPC regs and practices (I've never owned a house in a historic district so I wouldn't know) and I'm not saying they have to stay up - I agree they aren't great houses - but I also wouldn't say they don't have historic value.  I think it's quite a privilege to be able to visibly see GR's immigrant history on display while we still can.

Edited by RegalTDP

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Having lived in heritage hill for the last 4 years, I don't see what the fear is regarding the restrictions.  sure you are limited to using quality materials but that should be the case anyway.  If your door has rotted out 5 times then there is a deeper problem with your house, which gets back to my pet peeve regarding how many of these homes are maintained.  the owners become "master patchers" where they slap band-aid fixes on things rather than address the real problem.  if your door is rotting out, it is not because it is wood. it's because there is poor water management, i.e. gutters, grading, flashing, etc.  when there are problems that indicate infrastructure issues, the infrastructure should be addressed first and then the cosmetic repair. the problem is that is it often more expensive and people don't want to spend the money.  

 

I agree that the every structure is protected, even if is a crappy shed built one year before the area became a historic district is a lame aspect of the law.  there are a number of crappy buildings that could be significantly upgraded if it were allowed.  that is especially a problem in heritage hill where the neighborhood was in steep decline before enacting the historic designation.

 

I also don't see the need to preserve an entire neighborhood of crappy homes just because some immigrants moved there a hundred years ago.  maybe a couple of the best examples but if you are going to use the historical significance with no contribution from the architectural significance then it better be really significant.  Abe Lincoln must have been born there or something along those lines.  some no-name day laborers don't count.

Edited by jas49503

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I agree that the every structure is protected, even if is a crappy shed built one year before the area became a historic district is a lame aspect of the law.  there are a number of crappy buildings that could be significantly upgraded if it were allowed.  that is especially a problem in heritage hill where the neighborhood was in steep decline before enacting the historic designation.

 

All things considered, EGR probably does not really need this since there are few landlords who would love nothing more than to slather the structures in vinyl siding from Home Depot installed by the lowest bidder.  Other than this house, there are few nice,  externally beautiful properties in EGR so inexpensive that people would be tempted to rip them down.  Unlike Heritage Hill, EGR does not have cash-rich and short-sighted colleges and hospitals that would pay any price to bulldoze most of it.  They have a handful of rich people buying "dumps" for $175,000 who want to bulldoze them.  The bureaucratic overhead of an Historic District probably isn't worth the headache, and could really be better handled at the local level by garage setback and vinyl siding restrictions.  The house that gave rise to this was an anomaly. 

 

Shifting gears, I don't think any district is bound to say that every structure and feature is contributing.  When you designate a district where most structures are old, though, it's easy to fall into that trap.  GR has been particularly guilty in this regard, with some geniuses on the HPC arguing that an old ramshackle two stall garage is "contributing" because that's the type of cheap thing middle class people constructed to house their cars in the 1920s.  Or the goofy argument that a metal door on the back of the house that wasn't even visible from the street was a "contributing feature." Or the crumbling, abandoned chimney on the back of a house that could not be removed because it was was "historically significant" and showed how people "used to cook".   Not kidding.  The frightening things you learn when you read the HPC minutes...

 

It wouldn't surprise me if residents of somewhere like Cambridge Blvd in EGR voted for something like this, but be wary of what you wish for.  The people enforcing it can easily take it to an absolutely nutty extreme.

Edited by x99

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Interesting update on this one that I missed:  http://www.mlive.com/east-grand-rapids/index.ssf/2014/06/egr_home_slated_to_be_torn_dow.html

 

Looks like the people that wanted to tear the house down on Cambridge in EGR sold it to new owners back in June, and the house is being saved.  That's a really nice Tudor, so it's good to see this.  Cambridge is an important street, and easily rivals most anything Heritage Hill has to offer.  If you've not driven down it, go for a drive and be prepared to be impressed.

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