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Proposed demolition of house up for public comment

POSTED: January 23, 2014 12:02 a.m.

Gainesville residents have until the end of business Friday to comment on a proposed demolition of a house in the Newtown neighborhood.

The Georgia Historic Preservation Division says the house is in an area that is eligible to be included on the National Register of Historic Places.

The public comment period is part of a larger mitigation effort required of the city’s Community Development Department before it can proceed with the demolition.

The house in question, at 887 McDonald St., was built around 1938, but the side-gabled cottage property has since fallen into disrepair.

“We purchased it as part of a deal with three other properties” in September using Community Development Block Grants, Chris Davis, housing program manager, told The Times.

Davis said creating a buffer zone between the neighborhood and a metal scrap yard nearby is the intent of the demolition.

“For the betterment of the neighborhood, we have come to the consensus that it probably needs to be demolished,” he added. “That’s our way of trying to help the neighborhood.”

While historic in age (any structure more than 50 years old falls under the auspices of HPD), renovations since it was built, coupled with its deteriorated and dilapidated condition, have made the house a blight on the neighborhood, according to city officials.

“Individually, the house on the subject property does not retain enough historic integrity,” Jessica Tullar, special projects manager for the city, said in an email to The Times. “Evaluating the subject house on an individual basis, it likely would not be eligible for listing in the National Register as an individual landmark. There just isn’t enough significance to meet the listing criteria.”

HPD requires the city to conduct mitigation efforts before proceeding with demolition, including documenting the structure with photographic evidence and holding a public comment period.

“Typically, we ask for documentation when a demolition is going to occur for two reasons,” Dr. David Crass, director of HPD, told the Times.

The first reason relates to redeveloping the property.

“While we don’t want to replicate what was there ... we may want to use records associated with a prior structure to help guide our thinking about what would be an appropriate building to go into that location that wouldn’t visually disrupt the National Register district,” Crass said.

Davis said he doesn’t expect new construction on the property.

The second reason is a matter of historical record.

“Historians 100 years from now are going to be writing about communities in Gainesville,” Crass said, adding it’s imperative to have proper documentation to assist them in their research. “As historic preservationists, people sort of think that we‘re obsessed with the past ... but what we’re really looking toward is the future.”

The city of Gainesville will receive public comments at the Community Development Department office, 311 Henry Ward Way, Gainesville, GA 30503, until Friday.


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