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

Seen on the street: Contrasting moods in the neighborhood

Posted in Carr Street, Presbyterian Church of the Covenant, Tate Street | Leave a comment

Fitness on the Greenway resumes June 2 at Morehead Park with social distancing; bring your own mat and water bottle

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Following up on the fire at 923 Carr Street on May 13: Firefighters ID the origin, but not cause; house damage 50%

The fire appears to have started on the back porch.

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:

05/13/2020 16:22:38

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.

05/19/2020 07:38:25

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.

Click here to see the full fire department report.

The roof of the house was essentially destroyed.
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Fire severely damages Carr Street house; no one injured

923 Carr Street with its roof burned away after the fire
923 Carr Street after the fire early Wednesday, May 13

A fire caused major damage to a house at 923 Carr Street early this morning. It apparently began around 4 or 4:30 a.m. The family that was renting the house was able to escape without injury, but they were forced out with nothing but the clothes they were wearing. Neighbors provided shoes and additional clothing. The family said they had relatives with whom they could stay.

Firefighters worked for about two hours to put the fire out. Afterward, the full extent of the damage was unknown, but the metal roof appeared to be almost completely gone. The fire appeared to have started at the back of the house, firefighters said. The cause was not immediately known. The house was built in 1910.

Across a shared driveway, the neighboring house at 925 Carr suffered minor damage from the heat of the fire. 921 Carr, which is extremely close to 923, may have suffered superficial damage as well but did not catch fire.

Fires are fairly rare in College Hill. A fire in an apartment at 919 Spring Garden Street caused extensive damage several years ago. The city, Preservation Greensboro and the College Hill Neighborhood Association worked together to find a buyer to restore the house and convert it back into single-family residence. A house at 824 Rankin Place was destroyed by fire in 1999; a new house was built on the lot last year. A New Year’s Day fire damaged an upstairs apartment at 307 S. Mendenhall about 20 years ago.

firefighters begin leaving after the fire was extinuished
Greensboro firefighters spent about two hours putting out the fire at 923 Carr Street

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Spring Garden Street reopens after overpass repair project; bridge work complete on Tate and Fulton streets as well

bridges over spring garden street
Spring Garden Street at Morehead Park, reopened on Friday May 8

Spring Garden Street was reopened Friday, seven months after being closed for repairs to the Edgeworth and Spring street overpass bridges. The city closed the street at Morehead Park around October 1 for what was scheduled to be a 90-day project.

The murals on the overpass piers were largely wiped out by the repair work. Action Greensboro says it plans to restore the work, called ColorHaus. (Action Greensboro photo)

Fortunately for the relative few drivers still motoring around the neighborhood these days, bridge projects on Tate and Fulton Streets were completed in a more timely manner (about a week in both cases). Both bridges have been cleaned up and painted after being ignored for decades.

The Tate Street bridge got a coat of Spartan blue and gold.
Railroad bridge over Fulton Street
Posted in City Government, Downtown Greenway, Fulton Street, Spring Garden Street, Tate Street, Traffic, UNCG | Leave a comment

Railroad tracks being taken up along Greensboro College; Downtown Greenway construction could begin this year

area at McGee Street where tracks have been taken up
Railroad tracks have been removed at McGee and Cedar streets, across from Wafco Mill

A contractor for Norfolk Southern is removing the railroad tracks from Spring Garden Street to West Market. The work is in preparation for construction of the western section of the Downtown Greenway. The greenway will follow the boundary of the neighborhood alongside the Greensboro College campus.

Design is complete for the section, which will use the railbed from Spring Garden to Smith Street, and for the portion of the Atlantic & Yadkin Greenway from Smith Street to Benjamin Parkway. Dabney Sanders, Action Greensboro’s project manager for the greenway, expects to seek bids for construction in August with a start date late this year or early 2021.

Posted in Cedar Street, Downtown Greenway, Greensboro College, Market Street, McGee Street, Spring Garden Street | 2 Comments

Tate Street closed at Oakland Avenue for overpass project; Spring Garden still blocked for work on Spring Street overpass

Maintenance on the railroad overpass on Tate Street is scheduled to be completed this week. Click on any of the photos to see them larger.
maintenance work underway on Tate Street railroad overpass
A look behind the barricade shows the underpass getting a long overdue paint job as part of the maintenance project.

With traffic at historic lows, the city is taking advantage of the lull to conduct street maintenance. Tate Street closed between Spring Garden and Gate City Boulevard on April 11 for work on the railroad overpass. The work is scheduled to be completed this week. The project follows what appears to be similar work on the other side of campus on Josephine Boyd Street between Spring Garden and Gate City. That work is now complete.

On Spring Garden, the street remains closed near downtown at Spring Street for maintenance on the overpass. The project began in October and was scheduled to take three months. Work is still under way after seven. A construction manager at the site said Tuesday it could be finished by the end of May.

Work continues on the Spring Garden Street overpass, now four months beyond the expected completion date for what was scheduled to be three months work.
Posted in City Government, Oakland Avenue, Spring Garden Street, Tate Street, Traffic | Leave a comment

A swarm of honey bees is rounded up on Carr Street

Beekeeper David Millsaps examines a branch holding hundreds of bees before dropping them into his bee box on Carr Street on Friday.

A swarm of hundreds of honey bees settled in a front yard on Carr Street late Friday afternoon, on their way to a new place to live. A bush at 924 Carr provided an opportune spot to take a rest. Before the little pollinators were ready to take off and resume the search, College Hill beekeeper and good neighbor David Millsaps arrived to round them up and add them to his hives.

David said honey bees swarm when a hive gets too crowded and a group leaves to find a new home. This swarm arrived around mid-afternoon and formed a massive, loudly buzzing vortex near the bush where they gradually settled. Most of the bees formed a core several feet in diameter and several feet high with others orbiting as far out as the street and the porch of the house next door. It shrank down to nothing over the course of 30 minutes or so as the bees settled down upon each other in the bush. Swarming honey bees aren’t aggressive and won’t attack unless they feel threatened, David said while he collected them.

David explains the process to homeowners Lynn Gagnier and Dave Hemm.
David checks a frame that still contains honey from an earlier hive. The honey will nourish the swarm, which needs food after its flight in search of a new place to live.
The first step is to trim some branches to reach the resting swarm.
The inner branches holding the bees get clipped and dropped down to the bee box.
Once most of the bees have settled into the box, David replaces the last frame.
As he brushes a few stragglers out of his hair, David and the swarm are ready to go.
Posted in Animals, Carr Street | Tagged | 2 Comments