Wake County

NC begins to complete sales of historic houses in downtown Raleigh

The state accepted Matthew Brown’s offer to buy the Lamar House on North Person Street on Nov. 6. He finally took possession of the house this week.
The state accepted Matthew Brown’s offer to buy the Lamar House on North Person Street on Nov. 6. He finally took possession of the house this week. rstradling@newsobserver.com

The first of a dozen old houses the state is selling in downtown Raleigh has changed hands, more than nine months after the state began accepting offers for them.

Matthew Brown closed on the purchase of the Lamar House on North Person Street on Tuesday. State officials say the deeds for two other homes will be transferred this week, as well.

Most of the houses are in the Blount Street Historic District, just north of the Executive Mansion, and two of them are on the National Register of Historic Places.

Brown and some of the other buyers are frustrated by the time it has taken to complete the sales, as were others in the neighborhood who have watched the houses deteriorate over the years. Brown’s offer of $536,000 for the 115-year-old Lamar House was accepted in November.

State officials say the transactions are much more complicated than most, which is why they’re taking longer than a typical home sale.

For starters, the sales needed the approval of the Council of State and the legislature. Because the homes are historic, each property comes with customized covenants governing uses and renovations that must be approved by the State Historic Preservation Office and then incorporated into the deeds. All of the properties must be surveyed and new lot lines drawn to replace the ones that were erased as the state purchased the properties over the years. And new easements for shared driveways and parking areas must also be negotiated.

The sales of all 12 houses will generate nearly $7 million for the state and put the neglected buildings back into the hands of people who will restore them for homes or offices, with one exception. The McGee House, a brick Tudor-revival home built on North Blount Street in the late 1940s, was deemed beyond repair. It is being sold along with its Victorian neighbor and will be demolished.

The state began acquiring homes along Blount Street in the 1970s as part of a plan to tear them down for parking for workers in the nearby State Government Complex. Several of the homes that survived were turned into offices for state agencies.

The state has wanted to get rid of the houses for several years. The legislation authorizing their sale was passed in 2003, and in 2007 the state sold two nearby blocks of Blount Street to developer LNR Property, resulting in the restoration of some historic houses and construction of new apartments on empty lots.

The recession forced LNR to back out of plans to buy two other blocks on Blount Street, and Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration decided to put the homes on the market individually. All 12 were under contract within months, with some drawing more than the state’s original asking price.

John LaPenta, the deputy secretary of administration overseeing the sales, says the houses that also will change hands this week are the Ashley House, on East North Street next to Brown’s house, and the Heck-Andrews House, a landmark three-story mansion with a four-story central tower on North Blount Street. The N.C. Association of Realtors is buying Heck-Andrews for $1.5 million and plans to use the upstairs for its Raleigh office and make the ground floor available for public events.

Richard Stradling: 919-829-4739, @RStradling