Vote for the school bonds and sales tax: Guilford’s schools desperately need to be modernized, safer and repaired

crumbling window frame at a guilford county school

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Guilford County’s school buildings are literally falling apart.

“While the buildings and grounds look okay from the outside, the infrastructure inside the walls and core systems like windows, doors, roofs, plumbing, foundations and heating/cooling units have been stretched to the breaking point,” the school system says. “In fact, so many systems are so old that we can’t always get parts for repairs.”

The school system has identified facility needs totaling $2 billion. The first steps toward meeting those needs are on the ballot this fall — a $300 million school-bond proposal and a 1/4-cent local sales tax increase for school construction. The College Hill Neighborhood Association has endorsed both ballot proposals. Please vote yes on the bonds and the sales tax increase.

The money will start funding the Guilford County Schools Facilities Master Plan, which was released last year. The plan calls for:

  • Safety and technology upgrades for all schools,
  • Rebuilding 22 schools on existing sites,
  • Building seven new schools and expanding three more to alleviate overcrowding and accommodate enrollment growth,
  • Fully renovating 19 schools,
  • Major repairs for 56 schools and
  • Eliminating all mobile classrooms, some of which date to the 1970s. GCS has more than 500 mobile or temporary classrooms.

In addition, the report found that 13 school buildings and 11 administrative facilities are in such bad shape they should simply be closed.

“This plan doesn’t recommend patching aging facilities that have been deteriorating for decades,” GCS Superintendent Sharon L. Contreras has said. That’s how the system has coped in the past. That’s why we now need $2 billion to fix our school buildings.

Most of us in College Hill don’t have children in school. But every one of us needs our schools to do the best job possible of preparing our community’s young people for their adult lives. We’ll be depending on them in the future. We need to fix our school buildings now.

Our schools haven’t received bond funding for 12 years. Neither measure on the ballot would impose a difficult expense on any of us. For the slight amount of money that each of us will pay, the results will be huge. And not supporting our schools would send our county further down the path taken by Alabama, Mississippi and other places that think their poverty, moribund local economies and bottom-of-every-ranking schools are all just a big coincidence.

We aren’t fools. Let’s not vote like we are. Support our schools at the polls. Vote for the school bonds and sales tax increase.

Posted in College Hill Neighborhood Association | Leave a comment

UNCG classes start Tuesday with COVID-dictated changes

3 gardeners stand at the "UNCG Gardens" sign on McIver Street

Click here to read about activity at the UNCG Gardens on McIver Street during the pandemic.

UNCG’s fall-semester classes will begin Tuesday, as originally planned. The rest of the semester, though, has been changed dramatically. Among the highlights:

  • Fall Break and Reading Day will be eliminated. Classes will end before Thanksgiving.
  • Most final exams will be online.
  • Almost 900 sections originally scheduled as face-to-face will be held online. More than 1,250 sections will adopt a hybrid format. Some students’ classroom time will be reduced up to two-thirds.
  • All students, faculty members and staff must wear face coverings indoors on campus, including in classrooms, libraries, auditoriums, and meeting spaces.
  • Face coverings are required outdoors when appropriate social distancing cannot be maintained.
  • Some campus events will be changed for social distancing and using technology to connect people, including Homecoming.

Click here for more information on the UNCG website.

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923 Carr Street is sold to neighbors after home’s demolition

the empty ot at 923 Carr Street

The aftermath of the May 13 fire at 923 Carr Street has played out to its end, for now at least. The remains of the house have been demolished and the wreckage hauled away. The site has been leveled and seeded, as the Historic Preservation Commission ordered. Damage to 925 Carr Street has been repaired almost fully; the roof has been replaced and the new siding apparently just needs to be painted. The lot has been sold. Eventually a new house will be built, but the owners are in no hurry.

The sale of the property closed Monday. The buyers are Alexa Barwick and Eric Snavely, who live next door at 925 Carr Street. The lot is tiny, just 0.11 acre. Similarly small lots have been built upon recently in College Hill, so there’s no doubt that a new house can be built, despite problematic setback requirements that came into effect many decades after the original house was built.

Previously:

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The Spartan Open Pantry needs your donation now to provide food to struggling UNCG and Greensboro College students

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.

Click here to learn more or here to make a financial donation.

Posted in College Hill Neighborhood Association, College Place UMC, Spartan Open Pantry, UNCG | Leave a comment

Morehead Park bridge on Spring Garden to get a new mural; Downtown Greenway seeks artists to create a replacement

Posted in Downtown Greenway, Spring Garden Street | Leave a comment

923 Carr Street, built in 1910 and burned in 2020, is demolished

1 p.m.: Arrival

1:30 p.m.: The Beast waits.

3 p.m.: Demolition begins.

3:30 p.m.: Pause. The Beast is thirsty.

5 p.m.: The first dump truck is deftly loaded.

5:10 p.m.: The west side of 921 Carr Street, also built in 1910, gets some afternoon sun for the first time in 110 years.

6:20 p.m.: After another dump truck has been loaded and the final rooms knocked down, the day is done.

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City allows demolition of fire-damaged 923 Carr Street; property owner expects it to happen within two to three weeks

The three chimneys at 923 Carr Street are a particular concern of neighbors.

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.

Posted in Carr Street, Historic Preservation | Leave a comment

Spring report from the College Hill Beautification Program; volunteers are needed to help weed and maintain planting beds

The current state of the flower bed at Tate and West Market streets

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.

Funding request

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
  • Fertilizer, $9.42
  • 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 

Other concerns

  • 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.
Posted in Carr Street, Cedar Street, College Hill Neighborhood Association, Jackson Street, Market Street, McGee Street, Mendenhall Street, Morehead Street, Municipal Service District, Rankin Place, Spring Garden Street, Tate Street, Wafco Mills, Walker Avenue | Leave a comment

Seen on the street: Political graffiti on a Tate Street sidewalk

Seen this week on a sidewalk on Tate Street
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Three side-by-side rental houses on Spring Garden Street have gone up for sale with one remarkably high price — $975,000

704 Spring Garden Street, built in 1900 and long ago divided into three apartments

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.

Left to right — 704, 702 and 700 Spring Garden Street

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.

619 s mendenhall street 2020.jpg
619 S. Mendenhall Street, a house with an odd story behind it

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.)

611 Joyner Street, built in 1923, sold for $222,000 in 2018 ($187/square foot)

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.

817 Rankin Place sold for $389,000 in 2016

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

107 S. Mendenhall Street

Built in 1922, sold for $370,000 in 2018 ($112 per square foot)

212 S. Mendenhall Street

Built in 1904, sold for $349,000 in 2018 ($144 per square foot)

702 Walker Avenue

Built in 1911, sold for $343,000 in 2019 ($109 per square foot)

129 S. Tate Street

Built in 1924, sold for $320,000 in 2018 ($122 per square foot)

1108 W. McGee Street

Built in 1900, sold for $300,000 in 2020 ($120 per square foot)

917 Walker Avenue

Built in 1880, sold for $280,000 in 2019 ($122 per square foot)

921 Walker Avenue

Built in 1905, sold for $212,500 in 2019 ($146 per square foot)

Posted in Joyner Street, McGee Street, Mendenhall Street, Rankin Place, Real Estate, Spring Garden Street, Walker Avenue | Leave a comment