Scavengers have been fleecing Detroit homes for a great portion of the 2000s, but police said it will no longer be tolerated. The trade in stolen architectural salvage is facing a major crackdown.
“I don’t find those two things contradictory at all,” says Elsner, describing their love of the historic neighborhood and modernism. “In fact, the old exterior and new interior elements just adds to our aesthetic.”
A group of neighborhood residents recently saved Northwest Portland’s Goldsmith House from demolition. ( James Reddick/The Oregonian)
According to The Architectural Heritage Center, an estimated 389 demolitions took place in 2013 in neighborhoods across the city; it’s rumored that a demo per work day is happening in 2014. They have some ideas as places to start responding to the demolition epidemic:
(1) Require advance notice to surrounding property owners and residents. Right now, notice is only required by the city when more than one new house is proposed. There’s no notice/delay when a demo application and the replacement house permit are filed the same day. The city should require notice, and time for response, across the board.
(2) Change the definition of “demolition” in the city’s development code – a big problem is that any demolition that leaves any portion of a house still standing (such as a partial foundation wall) is called an “alteration” or “remodel,” not a demolition (which are seriously under-counted, as a result.) More typically, many other jurisdictions use “at least 50% of a structure remains standing” as the primary criterion for an alteration/remodel. If that’s reasonable enough for other cities and counties, it should be acceptable for Portland.
(3) Houses that are obviously historic (but unprotected) are those that have long been listed on the city’s 1983 Historic Resources Inventory, but many houses have reached the age of 50-plus since then. We propose a mandatory 120 day delay for houses on the HRI or at least 50-plus years old. These are likely the ones that need time for investigating alternatives to demolition.
(4) Require that existing front and side yard setbacks be maintained for the new house(s). One major concern is that after a demolition, a new house is not only usually bigger, but it covers much more of the lot, often changing the streetscape substantially. If the front- and side-yard setbacks stay the same for the new house, the streetscape remains more like its traditional neighbors.
Photos courtesy of The James Lee House
A historic house in Memphis was sold for a buck and turned into a bed and breakfast within a year. Jose and Jennifer Velázquez had dreams of opening their own B&B, and after 24 years they found the perfect place — The James Lee House, an abandoned and rundown Victorian built in 1848 that’s listed on the National Historic Register.