Monday, October 8, 2007

More sides to the story...

The historic district - I have been avoiding naming it but anyone from the Roanoke area knows it's "Old South West" - is ever interesting to me because of the model it provides for what could happen in my own neighborhood.

A friend who rents an apartment in OSW was telling me the story of how OSW was being destroyed, and I don't believe this is too strong a word, by slum lords who were buying up old Victorian houses and chopping them up into sub-standard housing. Crime was rampant and lovely old historic buildings were being torn up. The neighbors were in agreement that designating the district historic would save those old houses and the neighborhood. Here is a link to an article at written by a local man who lives in the Historic District. I've read a few of his online articles and frankly find him strident much of the time, but I think this particular piece is pretty well said in terms of how that designation has created a class rift in OSW.

It's a tough call. Gentrification is something that is obviously happening in Roanoke and it can really be seen in OSW. I really hope that Mr McCLure at the Journal is proved wrong and that the ARB doesn't end up running the elderly and working class folks out of the city. The neighborhood plan as seen here:

shows that the ultimate goal is to eliminate multifamily housing and establish only single family dwellings. Having seen this happen in Philly back in the 80s, it means that lower income residents will have to move elsewhere, which means that the artists, poets, and other artistic types will leave. The heart of a city is its residents, and its soul is the artists and creative thinkers.

Anyway, back to my friend, who according to the OSW neighborhood plan will soon need to look elsewhere for affordable city living. Said friend is grateful for the lovely homes and safer neighborhood. I have to ask, however, couldn't this goal have been attained by enforcing already existing laws? The historic designation is a tidy way around what had to be some very messy battles with the local slum lords but at what cost?

It will be interesting to see how things play out. In the meantime, I've already started attending neighborhood meetings and have decided to go ahead and paint my porch door in some kind of artistic statement. Maybe I'll get a single Leisure Suit Window and take my time restoring the rest of my old funky glass single hungs.

here is a link to the neighborhood planning page for Roanoke:

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