“Why are you insisting on these rules and regulations, when I’m the good guy here. I’m fixing an otherwise over-looked house that is spiraling downward. I am willing to put money into the project to improve the neighborhood. There’s a boarded up house, for heaven’s sake, next door.” -An objection from Stepheny’s writing world
My first reaction to an objection like this is, “Lordy, give them anything they want! Who can deny the great need of the houses in the historic districts for rescue efforts that will breathe new life back into them? I mean, will the tides reverse themselves if an unpainted fence stays up? BUT, if we lose sight of the large picture –the presence of neighborhoods that are defined by their historical significance, which is a strong feature of Rocky Mount, we ignore the role our historic districts play in the success of any revitalization efforts.
When it comes to the guidelines for our historic districts, you might say, it’s a crazy distinction. “A door is a door is a door.” but remember, preservation assumes that all historic features, materials, etc. will be kept where it’s humanly possible. Therefore, these historic features must be restored or repaired and maintained into the future. Preservation values the origin of a building and its occupants over time and assumes that all evidence of them will be preserved, as well as the original character of the structure.
The HPC was conceived not only to help protect the integrity of the historic districts but to HELP those who are investing in these districts. They’ll grant an extension of time for planning. They have economical alternatives to suggest and resources to pass along that are acceptable places to purchase building materials. (Putting in a plug for Preservation Rocky Mount’s Salvage Store at 910 Falls Road that is open on Friday & Saturdays 10-12. or by appointment (252-985-1804 and filled with materials from deconstructed houses. It’s better than a candy store.)
There are reasons why guidelines for historic districts pay off. We have a spill-over from Raleigh that is making its way East, arriving in Rocky Mount along with other newcomers from an amazing myriad of places, (ask the people at the dog park where they came from). Today, people want their homes and workplaces to be unique and distinctive—exactly the kind of distinctiveness, character, and sense of place that historic preservation districts provide. When you ask what buyers are looking for, you’ll hear walkable communities, authenticity, and charm. Investors recognize that Rocky Mount has exactly what people want today. There must be a margin of profit for them. The other side of the preservation coin is rehabilitation; fixing up a deteriorated historic property. Like preservation, it puts a premium on retaining and repairing historic features but allows more leeway for repair and replacement of elements that have been severely damaged by time.
I’ll write more about this two-sided coin soon. I hope I haven’t bored the socks off you with this topic. I ask that you keep it on your radar screen, to think about and problem solve. Thanks!