Hold Up A Minute -This Downtown Housing Plan on Tarborro St. Is Not a ‘Zion’ Slam Dunk – Part 1

It’s been a great weekend for shotgun houses after publishing on Saturday morning my belief that they are a preferable alternative to government-owned housing. Social Media got busy commenting on what I’d written and added additional ideas and wonderful support for the need to save and preserve this vernacular architecture. There were many ‘shares’ spreading the word that Rocky Mount city officials are inviting the community to a public information session on the planned downtown multi-family workforce housing development on Tarboro Street. The session is set for 5 to 7 p.m. April 2 in the Biotech Auditorium at Edgecombe Community College. I’m thrilled that people were involved all weekend adding substance to the discussion.

Between now and April 2,  we’ve got to think about some serious issues. We’re going to base this collaboration on a premise I believe in. Alone, we can do so little, but together, we can do so much!  I have spent many fascinating hours talking with people who have taken me under their wing, informed my thinking, added to my learning curve. I’ve researched and read a lot. The comments on social media prove my point. Together, we’ve got A LOT of expertise to get this housing thing right. My goal in these next few days is to write every day from my downtown bench the things that must be weighed and considered before this housing project can possibly be considered.


“There is today an almost universal agreement that the Urban Renewal demolition of large tracts of downtowns was misguided, self-defeating, and ultimately a failure as a revitalization strategy. The sustained success stories in downtown revitalization today are found in those cities that maintained and reinvested in their historic buildings and recognized their character, quality, and ultimate durability.

But today the same approach of wholesale destruction is being taken in neighborhoods in far too many American cities. And almost verbatim the same arguments are being made: “Those structures are about to fall down anyway.” “Those old buildings don’t meet the needs of today’s market.” “Once you fix them up you still have nothing but old buildings.” “They are an eyesore and we have to get rid of them.” “As soon as we tear those buildings down and have a clean site the developers will be lining up for a chance to redevelop the property.”

The most charitable description of those arguments from the Urban Renewal days is that they were well-intended but patently wrong. When George Santayana wrote that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, he couldn’t possibly have imagined that the past would be forgotten so quickly. It is hard to conceive that cities are using what is a demonstrated failure in Urban Renewal as the strategy of choice in neighborhood renewal. It is not that no building should ever be torn down, rather that demolition should be the last resort, not the first option.” – Donovan D. Rypkema for the National Trust for Historic Preservation

The Beal Street Neighborhood With Shotgun Homes





See You  Tomorrow On The Road to the Final Four Part 2



7 thoughts on “Hold Up A Minute -This Downtown Housing Plan on Tarborro St. Is Not a ‘Zion’ Slam Dunk – Part 1

  1. Although you are up against the Titanic of Rocky Mount, you are our Molly Brown that will steer us clear of the Knight, Blackwell iceberg.


  2. Spent a great deal of my childhood in a shotgun house off Falls Road. My grandfather worked for Rocky Mount Mill’s and he and my grandmother raised their own four children, and they had an immeasurable role in raising several of us grandkids, too.
    I spent many happy hours in their home growing up, and while it may have been humble, it was never without an abundance of love. It’s a shame so many of Rocky Mount”s shotgun houses have been demolished over the years. Hopefully, we can save the ones that remain, and introduce an entire NEW generation of kids to life in a shotgun house, where love and a caring family unit can create a lifetime of wonderful memories.


    1. I’m grateful that you have added this wonderful story to the blog. It has enhanced the piece immensely. I teared up when I read it because I know in my heart that saving these houses to provide low-cost housing in a neighborhood where people can look out for one another is what is needed. Thank you, Randy. I want to hear more about this. Yes, a new generation!


  3. When I lived in New Orleans, the naysayers cried out that the French Quarter was full of old buildings that should be torn down. What if they had succeeded in their misguided mission? I shudder to think!

    When I lived in Raleigh, our state government tore down an historic hotel opposite the Capitol. Guess what was built in its place…a parking lot.

    You don’t know what you’ve got… until it’s too late.



  4. Well said Stepheny!

    A movement has started in RM that will change its bleak future into one that will have tremendous opportunity.

    The cotton industries’ saying goes “Cotton, the fabric of our lives.”

    Perhaps RM’s should be:


    Undoubtly, you all get my drift; if only theoretically.



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