Putting The Ease in Easements: How To Save Modernist Houses From Future Bulldozers

redchair smJuly 22, 2009 (RALEIGH, NC) — Property easements aren’t sexy, but they are important, especially when they concern property with historic value. Easements protect historic structures by assuring that the property’s intrinsic values will be preserved through subsequent ownership.

To help the general public understand how easements work, what they protect, their advantages and disadvantages, Triangle Modernist Houses.com (TMH) will present a workshop and panel discussion in the new addition to Pullen Memorial Church, 1801 Hillsborough Street in downtown Raleigh, on Saturday, August 15, from 10-11:30 a.m.

Members of the panel will include TMH founder and executive director George Smart; Elizabeth Sappenfield, director of Urban Issues for Preservation North Carolina and the National Trust for Historic Preservation; J. Myrick Howard, executive director, Preservation North Carolina; and Sig Hutchinson, a Wake County insurance agent who is best known for his work in protecting and preserving open space and expanding Raleigh’s greenway system.

TMH’s George Smart is particularly interested in how preservation easements can save mid-century Modernist houses from being razed in the Triangle.

“Many people have a deep personal connection to their house or property,” he said. “It is a part of their family legacy or the cherished result of a life’s work. A preservation easement assures a beloved property will be preserved forever.”

Panelist Elizabeth Sappenfield explained that a preservation easement is “a legal agreement filed with the county register of deeds that protects buildings. Easements are flexible tools and can be custom-designed to meet the personal and financial needs of the property owner. In some cases, the owner may choose only to protect the exterior of the building, but a preservation easement may also protect a building’s interior and important landscape elements.”

Through the panel discussion, Smart hope to make “easements easier!” he said. The group will discuss the role of easements in local historic districts and the National Register of Historic Places, along with the length of easement protection, parties involved and costs required.

"Green" addition, Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, Raleigh.
"Green" addition, Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, Raleigh.

Special guest Ellen Weinstein of the architectural firm Dixon Weinstein Friedlein in Chapel Hill will also be on hand to discuss her firm’s design of the new modern hall at the historic Pullen Memorial Church, which was built using recycled materials and features a “green” roof, rainwater cistern, geothermal heating/cooling, and natural lighting. The church campus is located at the corner of Hillsborough Street and Cox Avenue.

Advance tickets are $5.95 per person and can be obtained at www.trianglemodernisthouses.com/register.htm.

About Elizabeth Sappenfield:
A Raleigh native, Elizabeth Sappenfield is working on preservation issues in the City of Raleigh, including protecting historic neighborhoods, advocating for preservation in city planning, and working directly to preserve historic properties. She is particularly interested in the preservation of Raleigh’s Modernist architecture, working with owners of Modern homes on their preservation options, including easements, and educating the public on Raleigh’s Modernist architecture legacy.

About J. Myrick Howard:
Myrick Howard and Preservation North Carolina’s revolving fund has protected more than 270 historic properties in 60 counties since 1977. Howard has written numerous articles, including a chapter for an international book on American preservation. Each year he teaches a course on historic preservation planning at UNC-Chapel Hill.  He is the 2006 winner of the AIA Triangle Isosceles Award.

About Sig Hutchinson:
Sig Hutchingson has worked to promote not only Raleigh’s world-class greenway sytem but also multi-modal transportation options such as connecting sidewalks, bike lanes and greenways to an expanded bus and light rail system. Hutchinson successfully led four bond referendums totaling more than $140 million in Wake County for open space and in the City of Raleigh for parks and greenways.

About Triangle Modernist Houses:
TMH is the website for Triangle Modernist Archives, Inc., an award-winning nonprofit founded by George Smart in 2007 that preserves, advocates, and builds community around modernist residential design in the Triangle area of North Carolina. Through its online archive and frequent tours of modernist houses in the area, TMA spotlights the beauty and value of modernist residential design and the need for celebrating and preserving the area’s finest examples.  www.trianglemodernisthouses.com.

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