What Local Historic District DOES NOT do: · Does not regulate paint colors · Does not require repairs or renovations to be made · Does not increase taxes beyond normal increases for the City or County · Does not prevent additions · Does not prevent non-contributing homes from being demolished · Does not require use of historic materials or historic building methods · Does not require that you open you home to the public · Does not restrict routine maintenance of properties
What Local Historic District DOES do: · Recognizes that Oakhurst has a distinctive historic character important to the overall character of the City of Decatur · Encourages creative and compatible development with historic areas · Requires that a Certificate of Appropriateness be obtained for exterior changes to contributing properties, demolition of buildings, and new construction. · Applies only to major renovations to the exterior of your home. Interior renovations are not restricted.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Opinion from Eureka

Historic districts are good for Eureka
My Word by Karen Black
Article Launched: 10/29/2007 01:31:48 AM PDT

I have three houses in the proposed Clark Historic District. I also have one in a newly designated Berkeley historic neighborhood. Now I live in a Victorian just outside of a historic district in Vallejo.

I understand that the freedom to change a door or window is a big deal, but personally I think it should be a design crime to replace an old Victorian door with something new from Home Depot. Sliding Vinyl windows look bad in the front of Victorian houses. Let's keep Craftsman homes looking like Craftsmans and let Art Deco buildings stay Art Deco. Character equals value.
Here are the only two unpleasant stories that I have heard of, and I have been around awhile:
1. Someone wanted to remove an extra door in front of their house. So they remodeled inside and left a false door on the outside. It looked a little silly, but it satisfied everyone. I don't think houses have to stay exactly the same, but the basic “look” must stay the same.
2. Someone went ahead and began a cement pillar and chainlink fence around their Victorian. The Historic Committee gave them the choice of three acceptable fencing options, and after about three years of messing around doing what he wanted to do, the fellow finally did one of the things he was asked to. It looked great, and he wished he'd listened sooner.

Here is what I think people are afraid of: Historic building police. Design committees can sometimes be overly brainy and insensitive. Right now there is a building code. Is that an infringement on property rights? Yes, but we give a little for the greater good.
I'd like to see historic homes kept as genuine looking as possible, but the council members have to not be too persnickety. Just about everyone has gone by a beautiful old house and said, “Oh, that it is so sad. Look what they did to that house! It used to be so great!”
The only problem that I see with having to comply with neighborhood historic building codes is the cost. New windows are cheaper and more energy efficient than the old wood ones. I put them (shame on me!) in my first renovation because it was all I could afford.
However, I once saw a guy on the television show called “This Old House.” His business was to bring his truck/mobile workshop to your home. He would take out your old windows and make them double-paned and then reinstall them! It was cheaper than buying a new vinyl one, and everyone was happy.
Change is hard to take, but it usually turns out for the best. Perhaps new guidelines will lead to more and different business opportunities for the craftspeople around town.
Eureka is lucky to have some of the best tradespeople in America. Establishments of historic districts are good for Eureka and her economy.
Karen Black owns several houses in historic neighborhoods. She now in a Victorian just outside of a historic district in Vallejo, Calif.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Does Historic District Zoning Negatively Impact Property Values?

"The marketplace increasingly recognizes both the short and long term economic value of historic properties. Just compare almost any neighborhood or commercial area that has embraced historic preservation with those that have not. Historic preservation and economic development represent an effective partnership - as a growing number of communities and businesses have come to realize."

Full Article:

Does historic district zoning negatively impact property values?

This was the question that the Denver Colorado City Council sought to answer in 1988 when it designed the Lower Downtown Historic District.

More than 75 percent of the areas property owners initially opposed the historic district. They feared a loss of property rights and a further erosion of property values. Today, the opponents are believers in the value of historic district zoning

Before designation, the once thriving commercial area on the edge of downtown had a vacancy rate of 40 percent - and 30 percent of the properties had been foreclosed. Blighted conditions triggered precipitous decreases in property values.

By the summer of 1995, however, vacancy rates in Lower Downtown had dropped to less than 10 percent. The last foreclosed property was sold to a private developer in 1993. The area is now home to 55 restaurants and clubs, 30 art galleries, and 650 new residential units. property values have doubled and private investment, not including Coors Field - the new home of the Colorado Rockies baseball team - has exceeded $75 million.

So how did historic district zoning contribute to Lower Downtown's success? The answer is simple: scarcity and certainty create value. Small businesses and investors were lured into the area by its charm and historic character - and by a knowledge that it would remain that way. In other words, historic district zoning gave investors assurance that their investments in rehabilitated, turn of the century buildings would not be undermined by billboards, parking lots, or other insensitive developments on nearly properties. The city's $2 million investment in streetscape improvements also reinforced private investment in Lower Downtown.

Historic district zoning is frequently controversial, but it almost always has a beneficial effect on property values, commercial revitalization, business investments and increased tourism. This was the finding of a wide ranging 1995 study by the Preservation Alliance of Virginia. According to David J. Brown, Executive Director of the Alliance, "Historic preservation is economic growth and the reality is that preservation means dollars in the pockets of Virginians."

The Virginia study addressed four aspects of preservation's economic impact: tourism, job creation, property values and downtown revitalization. On tourism, the study found that historic preservation visitors are a major portion of the state's $9 billion a year tourism industry. Seven out of ten first time visitors come to the state to visit historic sites, museums, and battlefields. The study also found that history minded visitors stay longer and spend more; two and a half times more than the amount spent by other visitors.

The second issue the commission looked at was job creation that resulted from the rehabilitation of some 900 historic buildings in Virginia pursuant to the federal Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit. This program created over 6,600 jobs in the construction trades and over 6,000 jobs in spin off areas. Construction related historic preservation activity yielded a total of $270 million in household income in Virginia.

The study also examined the impact of Virginia's Main Street Program. Since its inception in 1985, the 20 small communities in the Main Street Program - whose goal is downtown revitalization within the context of historic preservation - have netted more than 1,100 new businesses, spurred the rehabilitation of 1,622 historic buildings and resulted in a net gain of 2, 170 new jobs.

As for property values, the study found that property values appreciated more in historic districts than in other areas of the cities. These results were similar to those of a separate independent study conducted by the Government Finance Officers Association's research center which found that property values in historic districts in Galveston Texas and Fredericksburg Virginia grew 1.5 to 3 times faster than comparable areas not in historic districts.

The marketplace increasingly recognizes both the short and long term economic value of historic properties. Just compare almost any neighborhood or commercial area that has embraced historic preservation with those that have not. Historic preservation and economic development represent an effective partnership - as a growing number of communities and businesses have come to realize.

The Value of History

A sense of place provides us with a canvas in which to tell a story. Nostalgia is one of the top reasons we visit places. Often, when visiting such places we spend money. I recently received an e-mail containing the attached photograph.

Four friends meet for lunch at the Universal Joint on a regular basis. These friends do not live in Decatur, but other parts in the state. They choose our warm neighborhood because it is where they grew up. They visit and talk. Their conversations are likely to include catching up on current events and reminiscing about their life in Oakhurst.

Without the sense of place and tie to the past they would likely not be drawn here. The ability to see a glimpse of what a building or group of buildings looked like in the past draws on nostalgia, a very powerful thing. If the neighborhood does not retain that sense of place, that link to the past, then it is no longer a nostalgic destination.

Sure, this trip down memory lane only brings in $40-50/month or so for one of our local eating establishments. But, this is not the only story we have heard about other former residence returning to the home they grew up in. We have also heard from visitors that spend time in Oakhurst because it reminds them of the place they grew up and because that place no longer exists for nostalgic purposes.

Local historic districts help keep this link to the past, which is valuable aesthetically and economically. The purpose of such a local district zoning is not to freeze a place in time, but to make sure new development does not erase the past.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Oakhurst Historic District Nomination Form

Decatur Historic District Nomination Form

Short Name of District: Oakhurst Historic District


Describe in general terms the location of the district within the City
The proposed Oakhurst District is located in the southwest quadrant of the City of Decatur. The District is bound by West College Avenue to the north; Winter Avenue, Johnston Place, Park Place, and portion of East Lake to the west; the Oakhurst commercial District to the south; and Mead Road to the east. The boundary streets are College Avenue to the north, Leyden Street to the south, Mead Road to the east, and East Lake Drive to the west.

List streets and features within and around the district.
In addition to West College Avenue, Winter Avenue, Johnston Place, Park Place, East Lake Drive and Mead Road, the proposed district also includes Hood Circle, Third Avenue, Cambridge Avenue, Feld Avenue and Leyden Street. The district includes Oakhurst Elementary, Oakhurst Business District, West College Businesses, Bell South Property, Mead Road Businesses, Oakhurst Baptist Church, Thankful Baptist Church, East Lake Marta property and a cohesive development of bungalow style homes. The district is located between the MAK Local Historic District and the Historic Scottish Rite and the proposed Kirkwood Historic District.

Reasons for requesting historic district designation.
Check all that apply and explain.
___ Recognition
_x_ Protection
The entire Oakhurst neighborhood is under extreme redevelopment pressure. The proposed district is in danger of losing important historic structures and overall character.
___Tax Incentives
___Grant Assistance

Nomination prepared by:
Brendan Breault, Greg Levine, Joy Provost

Title and Organization, if any:
Oakhurst Historic Preservation Group

Mailing Address:
228 Third Avenue, Decatur, GA 30030

Please explain your relationship to or interest in the district:
Citizens of City of Decatur and residents of the Oakhurst neighborhood.

Signature: Date:

Decatur Historic District Nomination Form

I. Name of the District
Oakhurst Historic District includes portions of the Town of Oakhurst developed by the East Lake Land Development Co., in 1910 and 1924, A.R. and L.M. Morris development in 1915, Feld Realty Company development in 1910 and John Ridley development in 1910. It is included in the large annexed area of Decatur between 1914-1916. The very northern section of Mead Road was annexed by the City of Decatur in 1907.

II. Description of District

a. Narrative Description
Oakhurst Historic District’s development was tied to the expansion of the railroad. One of the early stations built was Meade Station, which is thought to have been located at what is now Mead Road. John F. Ridley sold off portions of his property near the station for the development of the town of Oakhurst. Oakhurst was incorporated in 1910. The 1910 residential directory gave addresses in Oakhurst along Park Place, Viola (Madison), College Avenue, Meades Road (Mead Road) and Winter Avenue. Oakhurst was annexed into the City of Decatur in 1915.

Continued development was linked to the addition of trolley lines. The North Decatur line was built in 1892 running north of Candler Park, down to DeKalb Avenue and then following East Lake Drive South. It then crossed the South Decatur line at the intersection of Oakview Road, East Lake Drive and Mead Road.

The development of Oakhurst was developed closely to the expansion of Decatur and enjoys some of the same character as the oldest development of the City. Oakhurst Historic District housing is predominately in the bungalow style with Craftsman details. The majority of the homes are of wood construction, but there are many brick or stone homes. They are further distinguished by the simplicity of detailing and large front porches.

Oakhurst Baptist Church was the first church of any denomination in the City of Oakhurst.

Nestled within the Oakhurst Neighborhood is Oakhurst Elementary School, which recently underwent a nicely crafted and historically sensitive renovation, adding charm to the neighborhood. Having a school within the neighborhood creates a sense of community and enhances the small town feel of the district.

The area borders Oakhurst Park, maintained by Decatur Parks and Recreation Department. It serves as a recreational area for children, pets and various athletic teams and groups.

b. Condition
i. Very Good .05%
ii. Good .25%
iii. Average 64%
iv. Fair .05%
v. Poor .006%
vi. Ruinous .003%
c. Number of Properties
There are 317 properties in the Oakhurst Historic District.

d. Instrusions and Non-Historic Properties
There are several non-historic properties within the Oakhurst Historic District, although the majority of the homes would be considered contributing structures (over 50 years old). Over time, the original structures are being torn down and replaced with larger, more modern homes. However, many homeowners have built additions and managed to keep within the style of the neighborhood.

e. Boundaries of the District
The District is bound by West College Avenue to the north; Winter Avenue, Johnston Place, Park Place, and portion of East Lake to the west; the Oakhurst commercial District to the south; and Mead Road to the east. The boundary streets are College Avenue to the north, Leyden Street to the south, Mead Road to the east, and East Lake Drive to the west. This area comprises the most intact pre-war constructed homes in the City of Decatur. Another demarcation is its proximity to the former Scottish Rite Hospital currently listed in the National Register and the MAK Historic District.

f. Photographs
Photographs are included as an appendix to the application.

g. Maps
Maps of the district are attached.

III. History
a. Summary of Historic Facts
· The area is comprised of four subdivision built in the residential construction boom that preceded the expansion of rail stops and trolley lines. The developers include East Lake Land Development, AR & LM Morris, Feld Realty Company and John Ridley. Development occurred between 1910-1915 with additional development in 1924.
· The intersection of present day Mead Road with the railroad was the location of one of three Southern Railroad line tops in Decatur called Meade Station.
· Includes Hood Circle, one of the few streets with what appear to be World War II era houses: frame minimal Cape Cod “workers” houses.
· East Lake Drive was one of three automobile routes from Decatur to Atlanta by the mid-1920s.
· Original platted history.

b. Historical Narrative

In 1892 the Atlanta City Street Railway Company built the North Decatur line. Called “north” because it ran north of the South Decatur line, the second tram route ran through Candler Park down to DeKalb Avenue and then turned, following East Lake Drive south, east and south again into East Lake. This line crossed the South Decatur line at the intersection of Oakview, East Lake and Mead Road at what is now the “commercial “center in western South Decatur.

John F. Ridley purchased the Eugenius N. Meade property in 1907 and worked a small farm on the site when he first moved there. Ridley’s economic prosperity, however, was based in merchandise and real estate, not crops. In 1910, most of his sizeable estate was absorbed into the Town of Oakhurst, and he eventually sold off portions of his property. Some became the site for the Oakhurst School, more of it the basis for a subdivision along Mead Road.

In 1910 the Georgia Legislature approved the incorporation of the Town of Oakhurst, from all appearances the smallest of the settlement in the area of East Atlanta. The population for Oakhurst was a mere 100 people. The original residential directory gave addresses in Oakhurst along Park Place, Viola (Madison), College Avenue, Meades Road (Mead Road), and Winter Avenue, all located south of the railroad tracts in the original Oakhurst Subdivion.

Very little is known about the origins of Oakhurst or its brief life as a separate municipality, since the City Hall/Schoolhouse burned (and the records with it) a few weeks after the annexation to Decatur in 1915.

Most of Oakhurst was settled after it was annexed to Decatur, but he setting was already in place as far as relationship of lots to the street, lots to other lots and the lot size of the overall neighborhood. It is a pattern of down-scaled houses, overwhelmingly pre-World War II, overwhelmingly bungalow and sizable number are brick.

IV. Significance
a. Geography
Oakhurst is a neighborhood that many consider within walking distance to the downtown business and shopping district in the City of Decatur. It has a very popular commercial district with several restaurants, art galleries and other retail business. It contains a well used dog park, recreation park, and Boys and Girls Club. The Oakhurst area attracts many visitors from other parts of Decatur, Atlanta, and metro-Atlanta locations.

Oakhurst has many hardwood trees that pre-date back the origins of the neighborhood. There is a neighborhood arboretum within the Oakhurst community and many of the trees in the arboretum are located within the boundaries of the proposed district.

Oakhurst is an excellent example of the rapid suburban expansion that the electric streetcar service permitted.

b. Architecture
The predominant architectural style of Oakhurst is the distinctive bungalow with varying amounts of Craftsman detailing. Excellent examples of Queen Annes, Pyrmidal Cottages, Gabled Ells, Georgia Revival, Minimal Traditional, American Foursquare and Temple Forms exist.

V. Sources of Information
City of Decatur (decaturga.com)- zoning and land use maps
Dekalb County web site (dklbweb.dekalbga.org/TaxAssessor/)- property information
Atlanta History Center (Dorrie)
Dekalb Historical Society
Decatur Library
Decatur Preservation Alliance (decaturpreservationalliance.org and and Decatur Historic Preservation Resource Manual and Design Supplement to the Decatur Historic Preservation Resource Manual)
McAlester, Virginia & Lee. A Field Guide to American Houses, Alfred A Knopf, 1986
The Story of Decatur, 1823-99, by Caroline McKinney Clarke
Architectural History of Decatur Neighborhoods
City of Decatur Historic Resources Survey prepared by Catherine Wilson-Martin and Dr. Darlene R. Roth

Next Steps:
Community Education

A meeting was held in October of 2005 to discuss the nature of a local historic district. An invitation to the meeting was delivered via handbill to all residents of the Oakhurst Community one week before the meeting.

Discussion regarding a local historic district continued via in-fill meetings held by various member of the Oakhurst Neighborhood Association.

There was strong support of a local historic district within the district described here. Members of the community began the research to pursue a local historic district.

Monday, April 6, 2009

This Old Wasteful House - read all the way through

This Old Wasteful House



NEVER before has America had so many compelling reasons to preserve the homes in its older residential neighborhoods. We need to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions. We want to create jobs, and revitalize the neighborhoods where millions of Americans live. All of this could be accomplished by making older homes more energy-efficient.

Let’s begin with energy consumption and emissions. Forty-three percent of America’s carbon emissions come from heating, cooling, lighting and operating our buildings. Older homes are particularly wasteful: Homes built in 1939 or before use around 50 percent more energy per square foot than those constructed in 2000. But with significant improvements and retrofits, these structures could perform on a par with newer homes.

So how does a homeowner go green? The first step is an energy audit by a local utility. These audits can be obtained in many communities at little or no cost. They help identify the sources of heat loss, allowing homeowners to make informed decisions about how to reduce energy use in the most cost-effective way.

Homeowners are likely to discover that much of the energy loss comes down to a lack of insulation in attics and basements. Sealing other air leaks also helps. This can be done by installing dryer vent seals that open only when the dryer is in use, as well as fireplace draft stoppers and attic door covers.

Experience has shown that virtually any older or historic house can become more energy-efficient without losing its character. Restoring the original features of older houses — like porches, awnings and shutters — can maximize shade and insulation. Older wooden windows perform very well when properly weatherized — this includes caulking, insulation and weather stripping — and assisted by the addition of a good storm window. Weatherizing leaky windows in most cases is much cheaper than installing replacements.

The good news is that the administration is taking steps to help homes save energy with a program that will invest almost $8 billion in state and local weatherization and energy-efficiency efforts. The Weatherization Assistance Program, aimed at low-income families, will allow an average investment of up to $6,500 per home in energy efficiency upgrades.

My organization is also working with the Natural Resources Defense Council and members of Congress on legislation to help cover the costs of making all older homes more energy-efficient. Under this proposal, a homeowner would receive a $3,000 incentive for improving energy efficiency by 20 percent, and $150 for each additional percentage point of energy savings. If 300,000 homes could be retrofitted each year, we estimate that after 10 years we could see a reduction of 65 million metric tons of carbon emitted into the atmosphere, and the equivalent of 200 million barrels of oil saved.

The labor-intensive process of rehabilitating older buildings would also create jobs, and this labor can’t be shipped overseas. The wages would stay in the community, supporting local businesses and significantly increasing household incomes — just the kind of boost the American economy needs right now.

Before demolishing an old building to make way for a new one, consider the amount of energy required to manufacture, transport and assemble the pieces of that building. With the destruction of the building, all that energy is utterly wasted. Then think about the additional energy required for the demolition itself, not to mention for new construction. Preserving a building is the ultimate act of recycling.

Richard Moe is the president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.