“Depot District” Dissed by Property Owners

“Depot District” Dissed by Property Owners

Train Derails

March, 31, 2009, by Aislinn

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Warehouse district property owners voiced strong opinions at the Community Forum on the potential “Depot Historic District” Monday evening, mostly against turning the area into a City Historic District.  Members of the Raleigh Historic Districts Commission solicited concerns from the attendees.  Their heated responses focused on loss of property rights and reduced real estate investment value. 

Commission members recorded each concern on an easel pad and nodded receptively, but generally avoided engaging participants in direct discussion.  They encouraged attendees to suggest revisions to the Design Guidelines for Raleigh Historic Districts and to the Depot District Boundaries, and also asked attendees to suggest how the revision process should proceed.

Not all district property owners are against adopting the designation for the area.  One owner said he was interested in street life in low-rise commercial districts.  Another attendee said that she lived nearby and liked the historic feel of it.

A district property owner responded to her comment, saying that if that was the case, she should buy property in the area, which the resident responded that she did own buildings in the district.  Another added that “people are concerned that all the money and hard work they’ve sunk into their property isn’t lost.”  A third owner stated that since the city has designated Fayetteville Street, Moore Square and City Market all as historic districts, the Historic Districts Commission should leave the warehouse district alone.

One fact escaped discussion until Greg Hatem of Empire Properties mentioned it halfway through the meeting.  The “Depot District” is already a National Historic District.  This designation simply gives property owners the opportunity to renovate their buildings to national historic standards in return for tax credits, but no restrictions are placed on changes, development or even demolition.  If the area also becomes a City Historic District, exterior changes as well as new development must be approved by the Raleigh Historic Districts Commission, but even then demolition can only be delayed.

Hatem suggested that district property owners need concrete numbers before they can support the designation process.  He said an appraiser could easily evaluate what potential extra expenditures and possible changes in property value would result from the historic designation.  “We need to quantify it,” said Hatem.

Charles Long, who has owned 310-314 South Harrington since 2000, said that it is the commission’s responsibility to perform that appraisal.  He also said it seemed suspect that the current proposed boundaries of the “Depot District” exclude several state-owned buildings that stand right beside other buildings that are included, and pointed to the old Dillon warehouses along Martin Street and the building at the NE corner of Cabarrus and Dawson as examples.

Curtis Casefang, chair of the Raleigh Historic Districts Commission, said neighborhoods like Oakwood provide examples of how much property values increase when a historic district designation is applied.  He and fellow committee members emphasized that the forum was only the beginning of an ongoing discussion. 

Another big concern for attendees was the lack of notification by the city to the property owners and residents about the forum. Very little information was posted about the event (although it was on little ‘ole New Raleigh and the city’s website).  The Raleigh Historic Districts Commission used tax records to try to send notifications to all property owners, but many who live and work in the Warehouse District reported that they were unaware of the forum’s existence until the last minute, when they either saw a sign outside of the Depot or heard about it via word of mouth. The city should have done a better job notifying residents and business owners, and hopefully will for future forums and discussions concerning the district.

Anyone interested in receiving updates and notices of further meetings can contact the Raleigh Historic Districts Commission at rhdc@rhdc.org.

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Downtown RaleighWarehouse DistrictDevelopmentInside the BeltlineDepot DistrictWarehouses


  • arthurb3
    03/31 01:10 PM

    Not that many residents live in this area but they should form a group/website where they can communicate with each other since the wharehouses will probably be replaced by high-rise condos soon and the city may eventually build the public tranist station there that would combine all the bus systems with the train under one roof.

  • bla
    03/31 02:35 PM

    Let’s have the Downtown Raleigh Alliance hire another consultant and figure it out.

  • smileycoyote
    03/31 03:46 PM

    City of Raleigh failed to properly notify property owners of their plans? Hogwash! That’s never happened before.


  • JRD
    03/31 07:06 PM

    Who cares, it should be torn down and replaced with highrises>

  • corey3rd
    03/31 07:40 PM

    what really happened down there that made it so damn historic?

  • Imagine Raleigh
    03/31 11:14 PM

    Raleigh Happened at this location. Didn’t the owner of Cal Tone paint run for political office. I think he ran for President. That could make the bar in his old paint store historic.

  • mgd
    03/31 11:34 PM

    I think it should stay as it is.  The main reason they are wining is b/c they want to flip the property to for a highrise.  I dont think they are a big hit here yet.  Theres at least 2 that have broke ground and Most arent even 75% full.

  • JT
    06/01 12:46 PM


    There certainly isn’t the demand, more people need to want to live downtown and they need to fulfill more of the low cost housing.  That would get more diverse retail and people would start to want to live downtown.  A big park would be nice, something that SF, New York and Atlanta have. 

    As for “high rise projects” the only 2 are RBC and West, both are having problems selling at the moment.  Charter Square at the end of Fayetteville has halted construction.  Green lighting any more that were not in the sub 200 range would seem like a terrible idea.

  • Bradley Upchurch
    08/25 01:40 PM

    No this area could easily be a center for retail and commercial growth. Have you been to Atlanta’s little five points? this is WHAT needs to happen. Make these old warehouses retail stores of various kinds and it would most CERTAINLY increase value.

    If Raleigh wants people to move downtown it needs to be more proud of what it already is and make something of it. We already having strip malls, and suburbs and far as the eye can see. Why not have a hip and vibrant warehouse district to live work and play.

    Come on people this is already happening at places like Five Star, Legends, Ess lounge, and the pit, so keep up this idea. We have numerous colleges in the Raleigh area so these businesses could easily target the college and young adult crowds.

    yea you stupid people, lets just keep tearing down everything and losing our cities value because of a lack of character…..DONT TEAR THESE BUILDINGS DOWN, AND GET TO WORK AND GET CREATIVE IF YOU HAVE ONE!!!!

  • Bradley Upchurch
    08/25 01:41 PM

    I typed to quickly but you get the point.

  • Lola
    07/13 02:13 PM

    Historic district? I will share our experience. We were all for this district, where my family owned a place. But then five years later, after a storm, the roof leaked & we put up a temporary tarp for two weeks until the roofer could get there. The “design police” instantly cited us. We had to appear before the historic board, which met only once a month. We wanted to put on a new roof in keeping with the age of the structure from the 1890s. But the design police had “frozen” the “historic appearance” in error, to its appearance in 1930, when someone had slapped on an awful tin roof. So the building couldn’t be made to actually be true to its own history. The design council refused to budge. We wanted to paint the roof to make it less obvious, but that was denied. When the “assessment” was done, they mandated that no “original” tin roofs would be painted. (If you build a new “historic” structure that passes muster with the design police, you can paint your tin roof any color you want.) The old front door was too thin to put on a deadbolt. We weren’t allowed to put on a new door similar to the original but more secure. Vandals have broken down the “authentic” door twice. We wanted to put up a fence to keep people from driving behind it. We were told we had to submit architectural drawings. When we said we couldn’t afford an architect, they insinuated if we didn’t have enough money, we shouldn’t own something in the historic district. Fight this if you feel you will NEVER KNOW who might end up appointed to the “board” of design. We adore history, but EVERYTHING depends on when the “freeze” the appearance. So we’d say, beware of how this happens, esp. who will decide what is “historic” and how people will get appointed to the board.

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