Keep character of Cleveland Holloway

Jun. 28, 2013 @ 02:09 PM

Our neighborhood, Cleveland Holloway, has seen explosive growth over the past decade. Many people previously struggled to name our little area, which is bordered by Cleveland Street to Old Five Points and Holloway Street to Alston Avenue, but they would remark that the neighborhood held some of the cutest historic houses in Durham, right near the Durham County Main Library.
More recently, neighbors have dedicated themselves to nurturing this community while scrubbing away years of disinvestment. We planted gardens. We painted houses. We raised puppies. We brought our children into the parks. We became a revitalized Cleveland Holloway.
On July 9, the Durham County Planning Commission will hear a case for the expansion of the local historic district for Cleveland Holloway. Neighbors first petitioned the City of Durham for this in June 2010. Over several years, many old homes in the area had been burned or demolished, so neighbors took this step to ensure that future infill development would be compatible with the existing historic neighborhood.
When the Planning Commission hears this case, they will most likely be asked by owners of the 600 block of Queen Street to take their parcels out of the local historic district. These now-vacant parcels had modest homes less than a decade ago. Over time, the owners of the lots have removed all structures and now plan to develop a large, dense structure in the geographic center of our neighborhood.
By right, they are allowed to build to an average height of 50 feet on the parcels directly across the street from modest, single-story homes. However, because of the slope of the land, whatever is built on the 600 block of Queen Street can be significantly taller. Indeed, this would mean that at its innermost intrusion into the neighborhood, a potential development would be at its highest height. Instead of tapering into the neighborhood, it would tower over the current single-story properties and be the defining structure of the area.
Neighbors are accepting and even delighted with the idea of these vacant lots being developed into more dense residences; however, we want to ensure that anything developed there is congruent and complementary to the existing fabric of the historic neighborhood and provides a needed transition from downtown Durham. It would be a shame to see our remaining houses dwarfed by an over-scaled development.
By keeping these parcels in the local historic district, any future development will have an additional layer of oversight and community input to make sure that it is appropriately designed. This step will be good for Cleveland Holloway, and we contend it will also be in the best long-term interest of the development.
The majority of downtown Durham is located in a local historic district where density is allowed and massive structures can be built, but developments have to appropriately fit the scale of the surrounding area and taper to smaller structures. Neighbors are simply asking that the same care being shown in downtown Durham and in the Ninth Street area be accorded to our beloved neighborhood of Cleveland Holloway.

Natalie Spring and Tiffany Graves are residents of the Cleveland Holloway neighborhood.