Residents in a neighborhood near downtown are pushing for the area to become a historic district in an effort to prevent new development and drastic changes.
The Raleigh City Council initiated a plan to give the Glenwood-Brooklyn neighborhood a historic designation.
The title would slow development changes in the area, including teardowns of existing homes, said Martha Lauer, executive director of the Raleigh Historic Development Commission.
Currently, the area has special zoning conditions that have been cobbled together over the past 30 years.
“Historic districts are not meant to be museums, but they are designed to keep the historic character intact,” Lauer said. “You maintain some of these special features with the acknowledgment that changes do need to happen sometimes.”
Glenwood-Brooklyn was an all-white neighborhood created in the first half of the 20th century. The area was mostly home to working-class families, although some wealthier families settled in larger homes there, according to the Raleigh Historic Development Commission.
Eventually, some of the bigger houses were converted into apartments, and the neighborhood became run-down, said Bob Fesmire, who has lived there for six years.
There’s been a recent push among property owners to spruce things up, and most houses have been converted back into single-family homes, Fesmire said.
He said some historic homes have been torn down and replaced by larger houses that look out of character. Some are taller than surrounding homes and have small yards.
The area’s special zoning rules don’t prevent such development.
“We realized what we’re looking at isn’t just regulating uses, but really preserving the historic character,” Fesmire said. “That’s what drew most of us to the neighborhood.”
He said some of the area’s newer homes are “compliant but that doesn’t make them compatible.”
Lauer said Glenwood-Brooklyn’s application to the city will likely request a street-side historic district, which focuses on visible parts of a property. Like full historic districts, property owners would have to get approval before tearing down a house.
Teardowns in historic districts are considered for a year before a request is approved or denied. Owners or developers are supposed to spend that year exploring other ways to renovate the home, Lauer said.
During Raleigh’s remapping process, which rezoned about 70 percent of the city, planners couldn’t find a zoning designation that was similar to the one Glenwood-Brooklyn already had.
The assigned zoning, which would have to be approved by city council, doesn’t retain all of the protections the neighborhood already had.
A historic designation wouldn’t completely stop demolition, Fesmire said, but it would create significant hurdles.