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« Fun with physics | Main | Dude, you're getting the shaft »

Oct 13, 2009


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Perhaps our planning process should take a cue from the newly minted, first female winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, especially if you expand her thesis that common resources include the land itself. What would the intersection of Elm and Cornwallis look like if it was designed by the neighborhood?

Ostrom, a professor of political science at Indiana University, was praised "for her analysis of economic governance, especially the commons."

Ostrom's work shows that local communities often manage common resources -- such as woods, lakes and fish stocks -- better on their own than when outside authorities impose rules, the committee said.

"Bureaucrats sometimes do not have the correct information, while citizens and users of resources do," she said to explain the significance of her work.


Well, what is being proposed? Luxury town homes, or 50 feet tall apartments?


I thought the historic significance was that it was designed by girls, and how amazing that was. Folks seem not to like being hoisted on their own McCall's home ec petard.

Roger Greene

I think the house itself is fugly, but I support the neighbors on principle in that apartments have no business being imposed on an essentially single family, low density neighborhood.

Ed Cone

There is a difference between

"Women designed this at a moment when such things were rare"


"This piece of junk was developed by home ec students."

Both point to the role of the female students, but one holds it as a virtue, the other as a punchline.


What if it's a piece of junk designed by women at a moment when such things were rare? I wonder how worried about the house people would be if the owner wanted to tear it down to create a pretty park that would be privately maintained but open to the public. He probably wouldn't have to ask permission for that. Folks should oppose the development if they want to, to whatever extent the law allows, but the house looks like an ugly, run-down red herring.

Andrew Brod

Old houses? History? Feh. This is Greensboro, and our incredible economic dynamism is due to our belief that the only way to create jobs is to "to rezone and develop land."

Ed Cone

Patrick, I don't think preservationists would feel differently if the house was to be razed for a park, but of course others who are concerned about the rezoning might sacrifice it in a heartbeat.

Like you, I see the house's value more in historical terms than current utility or attractiveness.

The deeper questions you raise are good ones, including: how do we balance historic preservation with property rights and best use of land? Is every landmark structure worth saving? At what point in the process do preservationists need to stake their claim, and when is it too late?


I don't think you have to ration historic preservation. A community should save as many old structures as its private property owners volunteer to save (out of self-interest, altruism or bribery) and its governments and non-profits can afford to buy. I don't think most of the people opposed to this rezoning care about the house; they just don't like what's going to replace it. I learned by clicking through from here to a comment on the N&R site that there are two other commencement houses. What would happen if the owner of one of the others wanted to tear it down and replace it with a single family home, or, indeed, if the same thing was proposed at this site? Not much, I suspect.

Ed Cone

We agree that many in the neighborhood are looking for ways to stop an intrusive development, and that the house makes a convenient cudgel.

But there is a very real preservationist spirit at work here as well, which developers would be wise to take seriously, no matter the outcome on North Elm.

You seem to underestimate the genuine interest animating Lucas, Levy, and the folks from Preservation GSO, among others.

I'd guess that they would be up in arms no matter where the house was located; that they will continue to fight in future battles; and that they have a degree of support from many quarters.


This just in. The proposal is for high end town homes in the $500,000 range. No rentals. Should at least enhance neighboring home values. I would suspect they would want privacy from Kimberly residences as well. The N&R mentioned "apartments" more than once. Beats the heck out of doctors offices, Commencement House aside.

Also heard that moving the house was too expensive to be practical, and I don't think the other rentals will be missed. Browntown ain't the 'burbs any more.


"The only way to create jobs is to 'to rezone and develop land.'"

I'll take "Brilliant things said by John Hammer" for $200, Alex.

Andrew Brod

Ding ding ding! Correct, Roch. What category next?


But do you take my point that individual zoning cases are not the appropriate fora in which to fight these battles? The point about replacing the commencement houses with new single family homes is that there wouldn't even be a battle, and the commencement houses would be just as gone. If you want to zone the whole city, or parts of it, to say that no building over 40 years old can be modified or torn down without approval of the city, fine; if you can get that done politically, at least it applies to everyone in the affected zone. Rezoning or conditional use zoning cases shouldn't be used, however, to try to coerce property owners to turn their property into public parks at private expense.

I have to say, also, that Preservation Greensboro's genuine interest did not result in a very focused presentation. "We wish it could stay, or something, but we'll try to find someone to move it if we have to, so, oh well." (paraphrase)

Ed Cone


I don't thing the zoning board is an inappropriate place to make a stand on preservation, but I take your point that zoning would not save a single-family home in a neighborhood where no zoning change was required.

In fact, another Loewenstein design just up Cornwallis from the disputed corner came down several years ago, to be replaced by newer houses...although few mourn it, and fewer still were in the market for a 12,000 square foot structure with no air conditioning. It was not his most beloved work, and it lacked the significance bestowed on the Elm St house by the UNCG connection.


Perhaps Lisa could photodocument the commencement house, y'know like, for posterity, when it's gone and is no more. Then the Historical Museum can put it in a corner (with a little diorama) and mention "girls" on the little explanation card somewhere.

BTW, after Dick got married, he tried in vain to change his first name to Richard. I see you're also in the camp that couldn't do it, either.


a paraphrase of one comment made at the meeting

"these luxury townhomes will promote a mixed-income neighborhood"


and great job joe killian on a nice article today.

Ed's Mom

Point of clarification: 24 planned units will be in two buildings, 12 per building, In each building 6 units on first floor, 6 on second floor, parking underneath. So--condos that are not townhouses but more like big city apartments. Since we are such a big city, Roof lines and height a real issue.


Thank you Ed's Mom



Since all those downtown wachovia luuuuxury condos went so well I guess we need more now. Cool. Recession over, sa-weet.

Oh dont forget those units at Friendly or at LAwndale and Pisgah or those long ago planned units that caused the Janus to go boom.


does anyone know how to save the zoning meeting footage either online or by burning it to a disk or flash drive?

Tom Phillips

I would rather have condos next to me than the airplane crash Levy has in his front yard.


ECL, you can download the entire video file here, then do with it what you will. Email me if you need help: curator@greensboro101.com.

If anybody cares, one finds these files by getting them from the RSS feed within the "Agenda, Minutes & Videos" link from the commission's or Council's home page -- a handy tip from Ben Holder.


And once you have that video downloaded, this nifty little package of free software will do all kinds of conversions for you. And the Download Helper extension for Firefox can be helpful, too.

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