With the fall semester about to begin, college students are facing the same challenges as the rest of us in these difficult times. But many must do so without a steady income or financial support from their families. The Spartan Open Pantry helps UNCG and Greensboro College students avoid — or overcome — hunger. A joint project of the Wesley-Luther Campus Ministry and the UNCG Dean of Students Office, the pantry provides non-perishable food to students at the two institutions who are facing food insecurity (and to UNCG staff who are struggling as well). Please join the College Hill Neighborhood Association in supporting the SOP now.
The Historic Preservation Commission has approved a request for permission to demolish 923 Carr Street, the College Hill home severely damaged in a fire last month. The College Hill Neighborhood Association supported the request. Neighbors cited the house’s three chimneys, now unsupported by a roof, as a particular hazard.
The house was was built in 1910. It was a significant structure in the neighborhood, even though it was increasingly an eyesore after many years as a rental property. “Its removal will leave a gap in an otherwise intact block of historic houses that are unique in Greensboro because of their close spacing, short setback from the street and architectural rhythm,” the historic preservation staff said in its recommendation to approve the demolition. Two houses on that side of the block have been extensively renovated in the past two years; another is being renovated now.
923 Carr burned early in the morning of May 13. The family that was renting the house all managed to get out unharmed. The house lost its entire roof in the fire; more than 11 inches of rain have fallen since May 13, compounding the damage. The fire badly damaged back of the house as well. The Greensboro Fire Department responded quickly and was able to minimize damage to the very close houses on either side.
Property owner Andy Clark told the commission the house is too badly damaged to repair. He agreed to let Architectural Salvage of Greensboro see whether porch columns and other materials could be saved but expressed doubt about whether the structure is stable enough for them to work in it safely.
Under state law, the commission’s only options were to approve the request to demolish the house or to approve it with a delay of up to 365 days. The city will issue a certificate of appropriateness for the demolition with five conditions:
That Architectural Salvage be allowed to see whether materials can be salvaged safely.
That the site be graded and seeded with grass within 30 days of demolition and the property be maintained on a regular basis.
That the house be photographically documented.
That trees and mature shrubbery be protected during the demolition and a plan to that effect be submitted before demolition.
That a certificate of appropriateness be obtained along with other necessary permits for redevelopment of the site.
Clark said he expects preliminary work, such as testing for asbestos and cutting off the property’s gas line, to get under way soon. He said the house could be demolished within two or three weeks. Afterward, he plans to sell the property, he said.
Beth Langlois, chair of the beautification program, reports:
The neighborhood flower beds weathered the winter and spring very well.
The pansies have been removed, and beds have been weeded. Thank you to Lyddan Pawlowski for help weeding the Jackson, Tate and Cedar beds.
Bushes have been trimmed at McGee/Spring, Cedar/Spring Garden, Jackson/Spring Garden and Market/Tate (you can now see the sign.)
We still need to trim at Carr and Tate, but the lavender and cone flowers survived winter and that bed looks so much better now!
The elephant ears have been transplanted from Market to McGee because they were blocking the sign.
The variegated lirope at Market has been split and transplanted to the beds on either side of the roses at Walker and Mendenhall.
Russian sage volunteers from McGee have been transplanted to beds on either side of the roses at Walker and Mendenhall. They don’t look too happy right now, but they may perk up.
The shade garden at Jackson has received transplanted ferns, astillbe, hosta, 0ne small hydrangea donated from my garden and one baby hosta donated by Lyddan Pawlowski.
Black Eyed Susans donated by David and Cathy Sevier have been planted in the small bed at McGee and at the Cedar bed.
Does anyone have an opinion on the roses at Walker and Mendenhall? Are they a bit too tall? Should they be lowered a foot? Any trouble seeing when approaching the stop sign coming up Walker?
The “Patriotic bed” at Rankin and Mendenhall was “skillfully” destroyed by a “lucky car thief.” Annuals were planted last summer and fall. I had planned on putting in perennials for a more permanent bed. Lonnie and Noreena Cole have volunteered to help care for the bed.
Other volunteers would be greatly appreciated to help weed the other gateway beds.
At the Rankin/Mendenhall bed, I purpose three red knockout roses across the back, in the middle of the bed three white gaura and seven white swan cone flowers. The front of the bed would be blue salvia. Cost: $146.38, including mulch. In the fall we would do pansies again as with the other beds.
Mulch for beds, $99.40
Plants for pots at pergola, $21.35
14 cone flowers for the two beds at Cedar and Spring Garden, $59.78
Total request including the cost of the Rankin bed), $336.33
Total without the Rankin bed, $189.95
Sidewalk access is becoming an issue because of overgrown bushes. Examples: behind Wafco on Spring Garden, at Jackson and Morehead, and Carr and Tate. The stop sign is obscured at Cedar and McGee, and there’s an ovegrown bush at Carr and Mendenhall. I could go on and on. When you have to walk in the road because bushes and “hell strips” are overgrown it is unsafe, looks unkept and says, “We don’t care about College Hill.” Statistics show crime goes up when yards are not kept trimmed and mowed.
With permission I would like to touch up the black lettering at the Gateway signs at Market/Tate and Cedar/Spring Garden with flat black exterior, multi surface paint.
If it cools off a bit, I will touch up the stain on the benches at the pergola with stain left over from last summer.
In the near future, the grout at the gateway signs needs some attention. It has been crumbling, allowing water to get in.
It’s hard to know what to make of the offer that appeared in local real-estate listings on Friday: Three adjoining houses on Spring Garden Street for sale together at $975,000. All are rentals. 704 Spring Garden is a classic 1900 College Hill home, long ago divided into three apartments. 700 and 702 Spring Garden are single-unit houses, relatively new and essentially identical — built on long-vacant lots in 2003, four bedrooms, four bathrooms, 1,736 square feet each.
The $975,000 price comes out to a head-turning $157 per square foot. There are a couple ways to put that into perspective. Twenty-five College Hill rental houses have been sold in the past five years. Only seven have topped $100 per square foot, the highest being $121 (211 S. Tate Street, then a single-unit rental and now owner-occupied). The 15 multi-unit rental properties have ranged from $63 per square foot to $120 per square foot. So the Spring Garden trio’s owner is looking for a premium of more than 25 percent above the priciest College Hill rentals.
Or consider that owner-occupied houses in College Hill sell at consistently higher prices than rentals, and in the past five years, only two out of 42 have sold for more than $157 per square foot. So, the Spring Garden 3 also are priced at a premium to 95 percent of the owner-occupied houses sold in College Hill since 2015.
On the surface, then, the price of the these houses is well out of proportion for College Hill rentals. But a deeper look shows … what? What could make these three houses worth $975,000? There’s no way to tell from the listings. They contain no interior photos of any of the houses, so if there’s something wonderful inside, the seller isn’t letting on (but why would there be in three rental houses?). The exteriors are OK, not as bad as many rentals but nothing special. The location is no better than that of dozens of other such houses in the neighborhood. Are 21st century houses more brilliantly designed than 100-year-old houses? Are they made of superior building materials? Are they in better condition? Do they have more character? No, no, not necessarily, and no.
Who knows what goes on in the minds of “real-estate investors” (as landlords fancy themselves these days)? Maybe someone with more money than sense will snap these houses right up. Whatever the deal is, good luck.
Surprisingly pricey home sales in recent years
Just because a house is listed at a way-high price doesn’t mean it won’t sell. There have been a few conspicuous outliers among College Hill home sales in recent years.
There’s the truly weird 2018 sale of 619 South Mendenhall Street for $420,000 ($145 per square foot). The only house in College Hill that’s sold for more since 2015 was the Bumpas-Troy House, 114 South Mendenhall Street, built in 1847 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. That sale was for $425,000 in 2016.
When 619 South Mendenhall was sold in 2018, it had barely survived a disastrous renovation. Five years earlier, the owners started adding a third story without bothering to get a certificate of appropriateness. The city caught up with them and halted work, but not before the entire roof had been removed. For months, only a leaky tarp protected the house from a rainy autumn and winter while the owners wrangled with the Historic Preservation Commission, finally accepted a compromise plan, changed their mind, appealed the plan they themselves had accepted to the Board of Adjustment, lost, and finally had to settle for the compromise. They had bought the house for $135,000 in 2012. And then, astoundingly, they were able to sell it for $420,000 in 2018. Less astoundingly, when the house was sold again this year, the sellers had to take a loss of about $70,000. (The 2018 buyer was an out-of-state LLC with no idea about the local real-estate market.)
On a square-foot basis, the most expensive College Hill house sold in recent years (and maybe ever) hardly looks the part. 611 Joyner Street is sweet little bungalow, just 1,186 square feet. It sold for $129,900 in February 2018. A swift five months later, after what must have been one heck of a renovation, it sold for $222,000. That doesn’t sound like much, but long division tells us it’s a brilliant $187 per square foot. If all rentals in the neighborhood could get that kind of renovation, we’d be Irving Park.
Also high up on College Hill’s all-time most expensive list is 817 Rankin Place. In 2016 it went for a still wow price of $389,000, $173 per square foot. It’s an infill house, built on another long-vacant lot in 2005. It also has an apartment above the garage, so that’s something. But it originally sold for just $250,000 in 2005. Eleven years later — even after the biggest real-estate bust in modern American history — it had appreciated 56 percent, a reminder that the right price for a house is whatever someone is willing to pay for it.
For purposes of comparison, consider …
Seven of the finest College Hill homes sold since 2018
The Greensboro Fire Department has determined that the fire at 923 Carr Street started at the back porch, but the specific cause hasn’t been identified. The report estimates damage to the structure at $44,145, 50 percent of its previous value. Damage to the Chen family’s possessions was estimated at $13,243.
The first call reporting the fire came in at 4:49 a.m. on May 13. The first fire truck is listed as arriving at 4:55. All members of the family had been able to get outside.
The subsequent investigation identified two possible causes of the fire on the back porch, an issue that remains under investigation. The fire department’s report was obtained through a public records request to the city. Here’s the narrative section:
Car 1 was dispatched reference a possible structure fire along with additional units. Communications advised that they were receiving multiple calls and reports indicated that the structure was fully involved.
Engine 4 arrived first at dispatched address finding a single story residence with heavy fire showing from the roof. Engine 4 assumed Command and initiated operations in an offensive mode. Engine 4 established water supply and performed a blitz attack with deck gun knocking down most of the fire. Engine 5 and Engine 8 were assigned to protect exposures bravo [the left side of the house] and charlie [the back] then moved inside to extinguish rest of fire. Ladder 5 was assigned to Search by Command. Car 1 arrived and took transfer of Command from Engine 4 assigning them as Fire Attack with Engine 5 and Engine 8 assisting. Ladder 11 was assigned as RIT [rapid intervention team for the rescue of firefighters in trouble] and Rescue 5 was assigned to protect exposure on the delta [right] side. Units worked and were able to bring fire under control and no one or pet was found in the home. Air 1 was on scene to provided rehab to working units.
Duke Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas were requested and responded to control their perspective utility. The occupants declined assistance from the American Red Cross. Fire and Life Safety assisted Car 33 in determining the cause of the fire which remains under investigation. Car 1 performed shift change on scene between assigned personnel.
Based upon the information available at the time of this report and after conducting a systematic fire scene examination, inspecting the physical evidence, reviewing photographs and witness observation, timeline analysis and employing the scientific method by means of formulating and discarding hypotheses; it is the opinion of Investigator B.H. Crump that the fire was undetermined due to multiple possible causes of ignition in the area of origin. The area of origin was determined to be on the back porch. With a mass loss and direction of fire travel on the wall studs and saddle burning to the floor joist. There was discarded smoking material being placed in a plastic container and a 240 outlet with oxidation, and damage to the wires. These area were located in two separate areas. Heavy charring to wall studs, mass loss at the lowest portion near the 240 outlet, the extent of damage to that area and other ordinary combustibles on the porch, and patterns point back to two possible areas the fire ignited.
The fate of the house is unknown. Workers there this week indicated that the owner plans to demolish it, possibly within days. That work would require a certificate of appropriateness from the Historic Preservation Commission; no application for a COA had been received, Mike Cowhig of the city’s Historic District Program said earlier this week. By law, the commission cannot prevent an owner from demolishing a building in a historic district, but it can order a 365-day waiting period.
Several neighbors have expressed interest in buying the property if the owner sells it.
Monday, August 24, 7 p.m.
The meeting will be held as a Zoom teleconference. Details will be posted to Nextdoor.com.
Historic Preservation Commission
Wednesday August 26, 4 p.m. The meeting will be held via Zoom videoconferencing.To view the meeting or speak on an agenda item, contact Stefan-Leih Geary by 10 a.m. Tuesday, August 25, 2020. You will be emailed the online meeting link and instructions on how to participate. There is no option to provide handouts or other documents the day of the meeting. If you have a presentation, pictures or other materials you would like to provide as part of the hearing, provide it to HPC staff by 10 a.m. Tuesday, August 25, 2020.
In-person meetings are usually held in the Plaza Level Conference Room, Melvin Municipal Building, 300 W. Washington Street. The alternate location is the City Council Chamber.
No, not any more. But eventually things will return to normal, and when they do, check the Local Events page for links to major events, major venues, university event calendars and Greensboro’s busy local arts scene (much of which happens downtown).