The Council of State approved the sale of two more old houses in the Blount Street Historic District this week but held off making a decision about two others at the urging of Lt. Gov. Dan Forest.
That’s because the buyer of the two houses plans to tear one of them down. The roof of the McGee House, a brick Tudor-revival home built on North Blount Street in the late 1940s, has collapsed, leaving most of the inside in ruin.
Forest wants to make sure demolishing the house is consistent with the preservation goals of the legislation that authorized the sale of the houses in 2003. That bill requires that sales of state property in the Blount Street district be subject to preservation agreements that “ensure that the use of the property is consistent with the historic and architectural character of the district.”
“The Lt. Governor wanted to make sure all the I’s were dotted and the T’s were crossed before the vote occurred,” his spokesman, Jamey Falkenbury, wrote in an email.
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The houses are among a dozen the state is selling just north of the Executive Mansion to buyers who, with the exception of the McGee House, plan to restore them as homes or offices. McGee is being sold along with its larger, Victorian neighbor, the Coble-Helms House, for $710,000 to Double Fault LLC, a development company that plans to turn Coble-Helms into offices.
Double Fault’s offer for both houses matched the state’s asking price.
State property officials concluded that the McGee House is not a significant part of the historic district, because it was built so much later than the others on the street, and had planned to demolish it. They’ve proposed that the house be sold with restrictions on new construction aimed at preserving the character of the historic district.
But Preservation North Carolina, a statewide advocacy group based in Raleigh, offered to buy the McGee House this winter and have it restored, said Myrick Howard, the group’s president. Howard said despite the house’s horrible condition, the group’s engineer, architect and contractor all said it could be saved.
Howard acknowledges that the group offered less than the state’s $265,000 asking price for the house, but thought its willingness to restore the house would be taken into account.
“The legislation is so entirely and totally clear that these properties are to be sold subject to preservation agreements,” he said.
In the late 19th century, Blount Street was one of Raleigh’s most fashionable neighborhoods, lined with large houses built by industrialists and prominent lawyers. By the 1960s, the street’s fortunes had faded and many of the houses had been turned into rooming houses or divided into apartments. The state began acquiring them as part of a plan to turn the area into parking lots for the nearby State Government Complex.
Many of the houses that survived were used as government offices until the state came up with a plan to sell off its property in the district, resulting in the bill signed into law in 2003. Starting in 2007, the state sold two blocks of houses and parking lots to developer LNR Property for Blount Street Commons, a plan to eventually restore or redevelop much of the state’s property in the historic district.
The recession limited LNR’s work to the initial two blocks, and now the state is selling off the houses individually. Since last summer, it has put 12 houses on the market, and all 12 have now been sold or are under contract, including the four that the Council of State took up this week.
While it delayed a decision on the McGee and Coble-Helms houses, the Council of State approved the sale of the Andrews-Duncan House on North Blount Street for $860,500 and the Bailey-Tucker House on East Lane Street for $900,000. Rep. Duane R. Hall II, a Democrat from Raleigh, bought Bailey-Tucker and plans to use it for his law firm’s office.