The Big Boylan Bash has become an institution in this historic neighborhood across the railroad tracks from downtown’s Warehouse District.
“The ingredients are local bands, local beer and neighborhood camaraderie,” said Josh Marlow, president of the Boylan Heights Neighborhood Association, shortly before this year’s event got under way Sunday afternoon. Other constants at the fundraiser for the association include free food and a potpourri of activities for kids.
Although this bash has been a constant for more than a decade, the neighborhood itself has been steadily changing for quite a while.
For one thing, the booming downtown Raleigh scene – including the Warehouse District’s Union Station transit hub, which is expected to open next year, and the17-story office building on the site of an old Dillon Supply warehouse, where construction just began recently – has given property values a boost.
“I don’t think we could afford the neighborhood now,” said Neil Barry, 51, a psychologist who has lived in Boylan Heights with his wife, Tammy, for 19 years.
In recent years, Tammy Barry said as she and her husband listened to the first of three bands that played Sunday, there has been an influx of young families. And, over the long term, the neighborhood aesthetic has gotten an upgrade.
When they moved in, “there were a lot of properties that were in bad shape,” she said.
The Barrys bought their house from a group of neighbors who had pooled their resources to buy a house that was in dire need of a makeover, and the Barrys fixed it up. Nor was that unusual at the time.
Throughout the 1990s, more than one group of neighbors bought houses and gave them a makeover, said Marsh Hardy, who has lived in Boylan Heights since 1992. He estimated that, altogether, “certainly more than 20, maybe twice that number” of houses were renovated by neighborhood groups.
“My house was the very first house done by a coalition of neighbors,” a group that at the time included Charles Meeker, the former mayor, Hardy said.
Hardy himself subsequently joined that coalition for a time. The neighbors’ primary goal was to upgrade the neighborhood, but they also turned a handsome profit.
“We used the triage method,” said Hardy, 66, a statistician. “The houses that were in good shape and for sale, we left them alone. The ones that were just about to fall down, we left those alone. The ones that were structurally sound, but ... needed a lot of siding and painting and renovation, but the foundation was solid, those were the ones we bought.”
Today the neighborhood is extremely desirable for people like C.J. Bauckham, 28, who moved into Boylan Heights a year ago.
“I just heard great things,” said Bauckham, who also is the lead singer for I Am Maddox, one of the bands that played Sunday. “If you want to live downtown yet in a neighborhood, this has more of a neighborhood feel.”