~By Clodagh Bastian
The face of SouthWestRaleigh has changed significantly over the last couple of decades. As more and more people come into the area, development increases; and with continued recognition of the city on “best of” lists, that growth continues. Major new developments are in place and being discussed in the Warehouse District, Cameron Village, Glenwood, around Dix Park, and elsewhere in the district. As part of this new growth, many existing structures are being demolished to make room for new and bigger construction, and some communities are examining their historical inventory with a view to protecting its legacy and character.
Recognition of the need for thoughtful historic conservation has existed in Raleigh for some time – in fact, the city’s 56-year old Preservation Commission was one of the first in the nation – but recent intense development has brought it more to the forefront. Especially this year’s demolition of the Velvet Cloak Inn on Hillsborough Street struck a chord with many Raleighites who hold fond memories of attending balls and other celebrations in the ornate hotel. Possibly adding insult to injury, the building replacing the Inn is a large student housing complex with little to distinguish it from others in the area.
Some Raleigh neighborhoods have already taken steps to preserve their individual character. Oakwood and Prince Hall have had historic designation for a number of years, and Glenwood Brooklyn was recently approved for a Street-Side Historic Overlay District. Method, Oberlin Village, and individual structures on Bloodworth Street are some current examples of efforts to preserve Raleigh history from the wrecking ball.
Naturally, consensus on the need – or lack thereof – for preservation is not unanimous. Discussions of heritage versus progress, NIMBY versus YIMBY, and facility versus culture are ongoing and likely to continue as Raleigh keeps growing. Some of us may find it difficult to get our head around regulations and processes involved in historic designation or what it means to communities to have historic landmarks or districts. What does preservation mean? What does it signify to be on the historic register? What historic examples already exist in SouthWestRaleigh? How does preservation contribute to our communities? What effect does it have on property values and resale? On city brand and tourism?
As we close out 2017 and look back at the old and forward to the new, we decided to make December Preservation Month in SouthWestRaleigh. Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll look at the process of historic preservation in the district, highlight some examples, and share thoughts from city and private folks engaged in the process. Join us! You can follow the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.