Preservation… Greensboro style

The curious thing about the impending demolition (N&R) of the circa 1875 Arbor House is that it doesn’t have to be this way.

Although today’s article makes no mention of it, developer Chester Brown owns two sites suitable for his condominium project – one right across the street from the other.  The second site, directly across Market StreetIMG_0342.jpg from the irreplaceable Arbor House, is currently a parking lot which could be built upon immediately, but Brown chose to build on the Arbor House site instead.  Ironically, and in the wierd and twisted developer tradition of naming their projects for what was destroyed to make them happen, Brown’s Arbor House Condos will rise on the very property that contains the doomed development’s namesake structure.IMG_0343.jpg

Having set their eyes on land that holds historical properties, developers know all-too-well that preservationists can be a bull-headed lot.  However, it takes time for us ‘hysterical’ types to marshall the myriad resources that must come to bear in order to save historic structures such as Arbor House.  When an unimaginative developer has ignorantly determined that adaptive re-use of important structures just can’t possibly happen, we get down to where the Arbor House finds itself: a plan to relocate must be in place by Friday, or it will be demolished.

To his slight credit, and in a nod to show he might have some concern for the fate of one of Greensboro’s most storied homes, Brown has offered money to help with the cost of relocating his structure.  However, the amount offered is not much more than what it will cost to tear the structure down – so it would be nearly a wash to his bottom line either way.  I am not impressed with such an offer.  He wants the home built by John Motley Morehead gone …and the sooner the better.

I recently asked Preservation Greensboro director Benjamin Briggs why he thought Brown decided to develop the parcel containing Arbor House when ground right across the street could be broken and only some pavement would be demolished thereby giving Briggs and others time to save the house.  Briggs’ reply was terse and perhaps confusing until you think about it.  He said, “Because the other property doesn’t have a historic structure on it.”

Chester Brown knows all-to-well that delays can occur when the preservation community gets a full head of steam such as they did with the recently successful relocation of the UNCG Chancellor’s House and the much publicized effort to keep War Memorial Stadium as a minor league venue.  So I guess he figured it was best to set some reasonable sounding, but ultimately impossible to meet, move-or-demolish deadline to feign the airs of being some kind of quasi-preservationist, when he could just as well be busy building on his other lot across Market Street and give preservationists ample time to save the Arbor House. 

But that wouldn’t be the Greensboro way, now would it?

Editing note - 9:38a: I made some factual and grammatical changes to the first paragraphs without noting them in the body of this post at the time of the changes.  These occured right after Greensboro101 picked my post up for its front page.  I should learn to never hit the ‘publish’ button until I am finished with a post.  My apologies for any confusion.

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  1. BC
    Posted March 28, 2006 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    When Brown Investment Properties first bought the Arbor House property, Trip Brown (Chester Brown’s father and the Chairman of BPI) said in an article in the N&R something along the lines of “Whoever is responsible for tearing down the Arbor House will be run out of town on a rail” (or something to that effect). So, when BIP first began development plans, Chester proposed selling the house and the small patch of ground it was one to someone willing to rehab it. The condos would then be built on the rest of the lot. When someone sttepped up and made an offer to BPI to do just that, Chester declined the offer and insisted that the house be moved instead (so he could make even more money). As you stated, the whole affair has reaked of Chester Brown and BIP generating political cover for the inevitable demolition of the house. There is no need to tear down the Arbor House. It is structually sound and, more importantly, an irreplaceable piece of the history of Greensboro. Additionally, that corner is a very odd place for 50+ condos.

    I hope Trip Brown has his rail all sharpened up, because the loss of the Arbor House rests exclusively on the shoulders of his son Chester. Thank you Chester Brown and BIP for tearing down one of Greensboro’s treasures.

  2. David Wharton
    Posted March 28, 2006 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

    Stay tuned, David. The Arbor House may yet find a landing spot in a place near to your heart . . .
    in the Aycock neighborhood. The possibility was raised at Sunday night’s neighborhood
    board meeting.

    Talk to Benjamin some more. Developing . . .

  3. Posted March 29, 2006 at 5:34 am | Permalink

    Thanks David… I’ve heard of Mindy’s idea and am rooting for it to come to fruition.

  4. Bert
    Posted March 29, 2006 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    Umm, I really like preservation, and agree that the house should be saved. However, I DO NOT WANT THIS ROTTING HOUSE to be placed in Sternberger Park as a “Project” house, or a center. That park is precious, and there are plenty o places in this hood to put an antique house–right across from Mindy, even, or on the corner of Park and Dewey.
    But not in the Park. Please David!

  5. David Wharton
    Posted March 29, 2006 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    The whole neighborhood should and will have some say on whether and where the Arbor
    House ends up in Aycock. I’d personally like to see it replace some of that underused office space
    in the 600 block of Summit.

    People at the meeting simply said they were open to exploring the possibilities further.

  6. Bert
    Posted March 29, 2006 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    Yes, or the blue house there. As long as there is input, I am okay.
    Didn’t mean to be shrill, but I would really rather some of the minds behind this idea would concentrate on making our neighborhood better by fixing their own broken windows and not by introducing new projects for us to undertake.

    Thanks for hearing one neighbors concern. I really do hope that house is saved.

One Trackback

  1. By Hogg’s Blog » What’s in a name? Dust on April 20, 2006 at 5:37 am

    [...] Even though I wasn’t in Greensboro to witness the event, my Jinni informs me that Chester Brown finally had his short-sighted way with the Arbor House yesterday.  In short order, the bulldozers leveled another one of downtown Greensboro’s oldest and most significant structures. [...]