City shoots down demolition plan

RALEIGH "Well that area now is about as rundown as any block in Raleigh. It's in tough shape, has been for years," offered Mayor Charles Meeker.

Investors bought a half-dozen or so of the houses with an eye on redeveloping the area. Empty lots show where a few have already been demolished. Others have been ruled unfit for living, and for a while it looked as though the rest would come down too.

But because a lot of the materials in the homes could be reused, investors had the idea of deconstruction rather than demolition.

"We thought if we were going to have to demolish them, that we should try to salvage what was there," offered investor Richard Johnson.

He pitched the idea to the city: tear down the homes in an orderly way and let folks in the neighborhood come through and take what they wanted.

"There is value to those houses and there is value to the components of the houses," said Johnson.

But the city saw a problem and demolished the deconstruction concept.

"Recycling building materials makes sense, but not just leaving the sites open to anybody who can come by," said Meeker. "People could be injured climbing on the site. There could be other problems with just debris being left around."

Instead, Raleigh gave Johnson a reprieve. He doesn't have to tear the homes down. He says he'll spruce them up - rehabbing most of the historic block.

"The houses are really cool. They're little old houses, and so we feel we can make something very charming out of that," he said.

Johnson says he hopes to sell the homes for under $200,000. The full city council has to sign off on allowing him to do the renovations rather than demolish the properties next week.

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