A Tale of Two Churches
By Brent Woodcox
We've already covered on this site what is going on with Hayes Barton Baptist Church and Save Six. The short version is that Hayes Barton has decided they need a new parking lot so they plan to bulldoze six historic homes that they own adjacent to the church building on White Oak Road.
Now comes this story from Joel Brown at ABC 11.
One church wants to knock down houses to build a parking lot so it doesn't have to move in the future. The other is choosing to move because the land around it is becoming so expensive that selling the property could guarantee the church's future.
Raleigh is changing. And no where is that change being felt more acutely and more rapidly than in the neighborhoods in and around downtown.
There is a nuanced conversation to be had about gentrification and how that relates to the concepts of revitalization and displacement.
My question is: Are any of these conversations being had by the Raleigh City Council?
If so, where? Because I have rarely, if ever, even heard the word "gentrification" spoken at the council table.
Now I'm not suggesting that we can build a wall around Southeast Raleigh that will keep our market forces nor am I suggesting that any new housing that is built there can only have negative consequences.
What I am suggesting is that we can have some discussion about what is happening in the area and how people in those neighborhoods are being affected by it.
Because the reality is that people are facing skyrocketing property tax bills that for some are far outpacing any growth in income they might be seeing. Some are facing property speculators who are trying to swindle them out of their property for less than what the market would dictate. Some are facing eviction as rents near downtown go through the roof and, seemingly, there is no plan to replace this formally affordable, market-rate housing with any new units.
There seem to be two development policies in the city of Raleigh when it comes to NIMBY attitudes and they are dictated by geography.
Southeast Raleigh: Development anarchy.
Everywhere else in the city: No to everything.
These two churches are less than 3 miles away from each other.
So why is there so much discussion around a plan to deal with one situation and not the other?
What will happen if Smith Temple leaves the community? What services were they providing to people who live in nearby neighborhoods? What plan does the city have to replace those services for the community? If prices continue to rise in the area, what plan does the city have to replace the affordable units that are being lost? As land prices continue to skyrocket, is there any plan to address the underlying zoning and land use in the neighborhood to support smaller lots that could be more affordable so that people don't get forced out of what may be the only neighborhood they have known for their entire lives?
It seems like the Raleigh City Council should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. We can care about saving six historic houses in Five Points from demolition and also care about what the effects are of rapid change on Smith Temple and the neighborhoods in Southeast Raleigh that surround it.
We need a plan for Raleigh as it grows. That plan can't just be to say no to everything. It should include the values that our city holds dear. It should lead to greater opportunity, access to affordable housing and a more inclusive city.
Right now, we seem to have a blind spot that causes us to squander the opportunity to progress towards those goals because we refuse to take on the tough conversations that are required to get there.