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Historic District Designation

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Has anyone on here had any interactions with a historic district in CLT?  Does anyone have any strong feelings toward historic district designation one way or the other?

 

Given that this forum is populated with people who are often both pro-development and pro-preservation, I am curious what the general consensus is.  

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Since it says that you live in Elizabeth, I am guessing that your interest is in the City of Charlotte Historic District Commission designated type of historic district, rather than the National Register Neighborhood type.  And I am also guessing that your interest might have something to do with the letter to the editor in the recent ECA newsletter that was in favor of an Elizabeth historic district.

I am trying not to go on a rant, but I lived in a Charlotte city-designated historic district for 10 years.  At first, I was really quite excited about the idea of living in one of our protected historic neighborhoods.  But over time I started to realize how little protection the city historic district commission really provides.  And at the same time, I started to feel HDC rules were painful, silly, and irrelevant with respect to actual preservation.  At the end of that period, when we decided that we had outgrown our little house, we decided that our new house would absolutely NOT be in any city historic district.  Ten years out, I am still very happy with that decision.  Obviously, significant time has passed since I have had any direct experience with the HDC, and you would be wise to discount my opinion accordingly.

I saw that Martha Washington was mentioned at least twice in that letter to the editor.  Before anyone gets too excited about what historic district designation would have done or not done there, my back-in-the-day experience was that the underlying zoning ruled the day and tied the hands of the HDC.  I encourage you to ask some serious questions from someone legitimately in-the-know about how that project would be different if it were in a city HD.  Because Martha Washington -- and quite a lot of Elizabeth, honestly -- is zoned R-22MF, and it will still be R-22MF if it's in an historic district.  

 

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Elizabeth used to be in an Historic District per the city.  A homeowner (a judge to be precise) successfully sued the city to strip it of that designation.  Don't remember the technical reason of his lawsuit, other than he was frustrated with a decision related to his property, but it resulted in the whole neighborhood losing HDC oversight, though it did not impact Dilworth or Fourth Ward, which were the other 2 districts at that time.

Elizabeth is still a national historic district as it relates to improvement tax credits I believe.

I've lived in Elizabeth, and Dilworth twice and had a fair amount of interaction with HDC and neighborhood groups, so can offer a more detailed reply depending on what hopes/concerns you have about HDC.

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As a long time Dilworth historic district resident my opinion is a mix of previous comments. The protections are limited and the historic district commission sometimes will do less than expected unless there is a committed homeowner adjoining the property in question who insists the Commission respect the printed limits. It can take much time and effort to force a stubborn owner to hew to the stated requirements. On the other hand one can drive through the south Dilworth area where homes of all architectural type, maximum height and size per lot area, varying quality and materials and imagine that on every street in Dilworth.

I experienced the run up to historic district designation and there were questions and some resistance at the time. The tipping point, in my opinion, was when Murray Whisnant, architect, designed and built the seven condos on the two lots at the corner of Park and Lyndhurst. Cedar vertical siding and cheap metal roofing and a style that can, with excessive kindness, be called ski chalet. Every owner realized that this is what could be on every block in the neighborhood. Drive by that location today to see how poorly it has aged and how out of character (to put it kindly) it is. Historic designation prevented the spread of this dreck. 

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Interesting background on those condos, thanks for sharing a little.  I lived in the 300 E Park building for just over a year and walking down to Latta I always found these condos to be randomly placed compared to the rest of the neighborhood.

Edited by SouthEndCLT811

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I oscillate widely on Historic District Designation and Preservation.  The polar vortex today has me feeling a little cynical of preservation in the face of affordable housing, and housing diversity deficiencies.  I like that we have historic districts.  I don't really feel like we need more right now, and I am wanting to embrace our evolving and everchanging neighborhoods.  Not sure I can do that but I want to...

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29 minutes ago, Desert Power said:

Seems like this designation would work to limit growth in neighborhoods that should be denser IMO

NIMBYs gonna NIMBY. You let ski chalets go up in Elizabeth and what's next?? Affordable housing?? Minorities!?!

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I'm right there with @archiham04. I've never been pro-preservation for preservation's sake, but when you have so little to preserve it's hard to say that you should save every scrap that you can. 

The very hard truth is that preservation districts do have the consequence of limiting ownership to high-income brackets. To do it "right" costs money - sometimes far more money than an owner realizes. Routine maintenance items suddenly become moneypits. Repurpose or expanding structures becomes unviable.

Charlotte's commission is pretty lax compared to some I'm aware of. I've seen districts that would not permit upgrading windows from historic, wavy glass, single pane windows. I find that kind of preservation to be completely counter-productive and (literally) unsustainable.

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1 hour ago, JHart said:

NIMBYs gonna NIMBY. You let ski chalets go up in Elizabeth and what's next?? Affordable housing?? Minorities!?!

That is what I'm concerned about.  Now when we talk about taking historic structures like the mills and helping them bet reused in creative ways...that is a different story.   I'm not sure the mini-mansions that populate Dilworth, Elizabeth, and increasingly NoDa need more protection.  Would rather see those areas upzoned so they have more multifamily developments...

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Charlotte's HDC is limited in that any building in North Carolina can be demolished after a year... so that may play into the HDC having to be more lenient if they want to keep a building.  

Personally, I think it can be a pain as a homeowner to have to get permission and go to a meeting and argue to take a tree down or update a dilapidated accessory building... but it's worth it when your neighbor can't easily sell out, have every tree taken down and build a gaudy new mcmansion.

The City is about to rezone a number of properties in historic districts (a few in Wilmore, but more in Dilworth) to TOD... they say HDC guidelines will rule the day. We'll see.

http://charlotte.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=154674c8ea364da687ce0f3248ffdac6

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You are correct. In Dilworth an owner may petition for demolition and must wait 366 days. This does happen, and an example is at 719 Romany in the past two years. The existing house in 2017 was a replacement for an earlier home and was constructed by an architect in the 70's as his personal residence following a European modern style. When the historic district was established in 1980 this house was included though it was not historic, per se. It sold two years ago and the new owner petitioned and then a year later demolished the house and began his new home. The new home has many elements that recognize the neighborhood in style, materials, appearance and I assume was submitted through the Historic District for approval. The new house is more complementary, in my opinion, than the 70's house, which resembled a dentist office.  

Edited by tarhoosier
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4 hours ago, XCltRunner said:

Charlotte's HDC is limited in that any building in North Carolina can be demolished after a year... so that may play into the HDC having to be more lenient if they want to keep a building.  

Personally, I think it can be a pain as a homeowner to have to get permission and go to a meeting and argue to take a tree down or update a dilapidated accessory building... but it's worth it when your neighbor can't easily sell out, have every tree taken down and build a gaudy new mcmansion.

The City is about to rezone a number of properties in historic districts (a few in Wilmore, but more in Dilworth) to TOD... they say HDC guidelines will rule the day. We'll see.

http://charlotte.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=154674c8ea364da687ce0f3248ffdac6

I thought that the city had rezoned the land around transit station on the south portion of the light rail years ago, or did the city neglect to do that?

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