Commissioners consider demolition of historic district rental property

Published 4:30 pm Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Members of the Historic Preservation Commission are on the fence regarding the demolition of a rental property located in the South Lamar Historic District at 719 South 8th St.

The one-story, five-bay, brick veneered bungalow along with two other outbuildings serves as rental space for college students. However, the property owners Patrick and Shellie Carr are aiming to turn the spaces into a single-family residence.

The primary structure on the site works as two apartments, a second structure also houses two rental spaces and a third structure with two stories works as one apartment space and storage.

The Carrs’ representative Jonathan Mattox of Howorth & Associates presented the owners’ possible plan for the property to the commission members.

“In addition to being apartments, it’s been added on numerous times,” said Mattox. “ … We have worked on a design, converting this into a single-family house with a modest addition.”

The addition would be added to the left side and back of the primary structure and would create an additional room and porch space for a potential family.

However, the property’s inadequate interior structure and lack of upkeep prompted questions from the Carrs and Howorth & Associates on if rehabbing the structure is worth it. According to Mattox, the floor leveling is uneven, the ceilings have different heights because of additions to the original structure and there are walls completely separating the front and back of the house.

 Instead of extensive renovation, the owners could demolish the property and start from scratch. The rebuilt home would be new, but the architects and designers intend to keep the architectural character and style of the historic district.

“I will say my clients are very happy with the overall floor plan and design,” Mattox said. “If we were able to remove that structure and start over, we would build back essentially the same floor plan we would do for the renovation.”

Commissioners agreed that the design plans echo the architectural character and style of neighboring homes and the numerous additions would present a problem for renovations, but they still lacked information to justify a complete demolition of the Carrs’ property. 

“I think [the design] looks wonderful and much better, but I’m really conflicted,” said Chairman Jack Garner. “We’re all about preservation and we make people jump through a lot of hoops to tear something down. I mean it has to be structurally dangerous.”

The commission anticipates more people will come forward to demolish a house in a historic district because it’s a more practical and economic choice.

“I would be really reluctant, I would personally, to set some sort of precedent without really seeing a structural engineers’ report about the house,” said Garner. “It’s a dilemma.”

With all these factors in mind, the Historic Preservation Commission members requested the property owners and Mattox to come forward with more evidence on why demolition is appropriate.