The $375,000 Watts-Hillandale teardown highlights how insane the real estate market is right now

The Indy has an article about 2308 West Club Blvd, a property on which currently sits a 1400 square foot bungalow. The owners plan to tear it down.

Upon first hearing about this story I was wondering if we’d see a Durham version of the hilariously controversial Oakwood modern home in Raleigh, but the proposed structure on Club doesn’t seem to be architectually interesting at all. In fact, the plans indicate a completely generic, two story suburban house (I don’t know what you’d even call this style of architecture; maybe “bland”).

The reality, though, is that any new development here would piss people off, because some folks are attached to the existing 1920’s era bungalow. Some WHH residents and Preservation Durham criticized the plans, noting that the current house is a “contributing structure” to the character of the neighborhood.

According to WRAL, Durham’s Historic Preservation Commission has approved the plans to demolish the house, albeit with the maximum delay of 365 days. I’m not even sure I understand what “approved” means in this context; my understanding is that there was no way to block demolition, so maybe it was just a pro forma procedure.

This is where I tell you what I think.

First: there are hundreds if not thousands of similar bunagloes in Durham (heck, I live in one). They’re cool and all, and it’s true that each one has its own quirks and character, but I’d hardly consider such bungalows integral to any neighborhood. There are real advantages to modern construction and it’s understandable that the owners would want to take advantage of them.

Second: but… $375,000 for a teardown? Are you kidding me? I know everybody loves WHH, but that’s a boatload to shell out for a parcel of land with negative value sitting on it (seeing as how they have to pay to get rid of the old house). The lot is larger than typical, though, so at least they’ll have a big yard.

Third: Man, if you’re going to piss people off by tearing down an old house, you might as well create something interesting in its place. The Oakwood house became kind of epic and it’s a landmark in its own right now. I’d put something sweet on Club, not just some generic cut ‘n paste job.

I do wonder if this could be a sign of things to come. The one year delay is certainly inconvenient, and it might give some developers pause, but if developers think there’s money to be made by tearing down well maintained old houses and putting up new ones, it’s going to start happening more often. Losing a few bungalows may not be a big deal, but in thoroughly gentrified areas like WHH, they could start losing more than just a few.

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