Kate Miller | Indy Week

Kate Miller 
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Re: “A contemporary home threatens to tear Oakwood apart

This whole story makes me sad. I'm sad for Cherry/Gordon that they have spent their life savings on the project - but at the same time, I wish they hadn't committed their life savings to a project when they were informed - as they were even before receiving the building permit - that an appeal was in progress and that, by initiating construction, they were building at their own risk. It's hard for me to understand why they would have taken that risk - and started construction with their life savings - when they had received that news.

I'm a longtime resident of Oakwood. It's where I was born, and where I spent my childhood and much of my adult life. I watched my parents pour *their* life savings into renovating a 19th-century home, which had been left to decay and which today is one of the most beautiful houses in the neighborhood (in my unbiased view!). I've watched my parents, and my neighbors, devote years to the process of having the city (both Raleigh residents and officials) recognize the neighborhood as the gem that it is. The push by neighbors to avoid the neighborhood's destruction by the city in the 1970s, when a freeway through the neighborhood was proposed, shows the neighbors' pride in the preservation work it had done and would continue to do. And years later, their work paid off for the city significantly by drawing tourists to marvel at the collection of old homes and to admire the restoration work that's been done. Preserving the neighborhood means just that - preserving the neighborhood - and that means some restrictions are necessary on new construction (and new additions to existing constructions). While these guidelines may have prevented some houses from being built, or at least from being built as the architects had first imagined, those same preservation efforts have meant that beautiful old homes threatened with destruction have been saved. Even recently, it's been necessary for Oakwood neighbors to pitch in, devoting resources - time and money and labor - to saving and restoring old houses that are threatened by city decisions. They have accomplished that as a community, not as isolated individuals, because that's what the neighborhood values. In fact, that's what makes it a neighborhood.

I'm not sure why Gordon/Cherry would choose to build the home they've built in a historic district, then say they don't think that neighbors should be concerned with the appearance of their home. Neighbors' concern for the homes in the district is what has preserved it in the face of officials who often (as the 1970s freeway project made clear) haven't appreciated the need for preservation. So, why would Cherry/Gordon choose to build a home in Oakwood? The most obvious answer to me is that they were drawn by the ambience of a beautiful community - a community of people and of homes - that has worked hard for its continued existence. They're benefiting from the work of their neighbors, but seem not to realize (or not to care) that their project is at odds with the neighborhood and its history. It's a community they're joining - and they're joining it because of the very values that they're criticizing. If it's an isolated unit of private property they're after, perhaps they should have chosen to build their home outside of a protected district.

New homes have been built in Oakwood over the years - and neighbors have conceded to the projects, sometimes grudgingly, with the consolation that at least the new homeowners have respected the work they've done by preserving the style of the existing homes. I find it hard to believe that Cherry/Gordon hadn't gathered the importance of this during the years they had spent in Oakwood before beginning their current project. They've purchased the property, and in that sense it is a "private property" they're building on; but in Oakwood, as in other protected historic districts, properties aren't isolated units. They're more than that: they're part of a community. It seems that Cherry/Gordon aren't appreciating the history of a neighborhood whose success and beauty are the product of years of work by neighbors who shared a vision and a goal, often in the face of official opposition.

5 likes, 39 dislikes
Posted by Kate Miller on 04/30/2014 at 4:18 AM

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