Tuesday, April 30, 2019

There Goes The Neighborhood

Hello Everyone:

It is a very gray and chilly start to the week.  Yours Truly had to make sure it was April, not November.  Well, it is finally official.  Former Vice President Joe Biden is a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president.  Shall Blogger be totally honest?  VPOTUS Biden is not the perfect candidate nor is he the savior of us all.  No one is.  The best thing Blogger can say about the field of 20 candidates vying for the nomination is they are all constitutionally qualified to run.  Let us make the decision right now, to only focus on their positions and qualifications to meet the challenges that lay before the United States.  Forget who is the flavor of the week or has the best look.  Just pay attention to their positions and experience.  That what Blogger does and, of better or worse, it works.  Alright, now on to today's subject.

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Raleigh, North Carolina
There goes the neighborhood.  That is what residents in Raleigh, North Carolina's African American neighborhoods as they watch newly renovated craftsman cottages and angular modern houses occupy former vacant lots.  To the long term residents the new homes mean higher prices on the horizon, more investors looking to buy their homes, white neighbors.

Emily Badger, Quoctrung Bui, and Robert Gebelofft report, "Here, and in the center of cities across the United States, a kind of demographic change most often associated with gentrifying parts of New York and Washington has been accelerating.  White residents are increasingly moving into nonwhite neighborhoods, largely African-American ones" (nytimes.com; Apr. 27, 2019; date accessed Apr. 29, 2019).

It sounds a little strange when you consider that in America, racial diversity often occurs in white neighborhoods, not the other way around.  The authors cite "Between 1980- and 2000, more than 98 percent of census tracts that grew more diverse did in that way, as Hispanic, Asian-American and African-American families settled in neighborhoods that were once predominantly white" (Ibid).  However, after 2000 this fact changed.

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Changing racial demographics in Toledo, Ohio

Since 2000, "according to an analysis of demographic and housing data, the arrival of white residents is now changing nonwhite communities in cities of all sizes, affecting about one in six predominantly African-American census tracts" (Ibid).  This trend, albeit a modest one, is playing out across the nation in ways that shake up the housing market, the architecture, the value of land.  Whatever the city, one thing is consistent, "a map of racial change shows predominantly growing whiter, while suburban neighborhood neighborhoods that were once largely white are experiencing an increased share of black, Hispanic and Asian-American residents" (Ibid)

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Black-white housing patterns in Raleigh, North Carolina

As White Suburbs Grow More Diverse, Nonwhite City Centers Grow More White

At the beginning of the 21st Century, Nonwhite urban center neighborhoods were relatively low-income and 80 percent were predominantly African American.  However, as downtowns came back to life, attracting more affluent residents with their central location, white home buyers arrived with incomes "on the average twice as high as that of their existing neighbors, and two-third higher than existing homeowners.  And they are getting a majority of the mortgages" (Ibid)

The income disparity is not as obvious in the suburban neighborhoods with a growing Latino, African American, and Asian American population.  Minority borrowers in the suburban communities have incomes that are similar to their new neighbors.  Therefore, they receive mortgages proportionate to that of their neighbors.

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U.S. Inequality
To examine the patterns, The New York Times identified the census tracts that have become more noticeably more diverse since 2000.  They used Home Mortgage Disclosure Act records to chart the changes when white and nonwhite home buyers bring to a neighborhood.  Renters can also change the fabric of a community, but homeowners have more economic powers.

For example, in the lovely neighborhood of South Park in Raleigh, "...the white home buyers who have recently moved in have average incomes more than three tunes that of the typical household already here" (Ibid).  Prior to 2000, whites barely registered as residents but by 2012, they composed 17 percent of the South Park's neighborhoods.  Since then, they received 90 percent of the mortgages.

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South Park home
Raleigh, North Carolina

In communities like South Park, white residents are also changing the economics of the real estate.  Kia E. Baker told The Times, 

That's what finally came to me--it's not just the fact that the neighborhoods look different, that people behave differently,... (Ibid)

Ms. Baker grew up in southeast Raleigh and runs the nonprofit Southeast Raleigh Promise.  She admitted that some of the changes are positive.  Her realization was not:

Our black bodies literally have less economic value than the body of a white person...As soon as a white body moves into the same space that I occupies, all of a sudden this place is more valuable...(Ibid)

White flight and return are not opposite manifestations occurring in American cities, generations apart.  In Raleigh, they are chapters in the same story.

In communities where white households are relocating, reinvestment is possible because the of prior disinvestment.  Many of these neighborhoods were once legally segregated (books.wwnorton.com; date accessed Apr. 29, 2019), redlined by financial institutions.  Their infrastructure was neglected by the municipality.  Federal highway project laid out roadways that isolated them and housing projects were concentrated in these communities.  Kofi Boone, a professor at North Carolina State University College of Design, told The Times,

A single-family detached house with a yard within a mile of downtown in any other part of the world is probably the most expensive place to live.

That history made it a bargain.  This still remains somewhat true in South Park, the disinvestment-reinvestment cycle is evident on either side of any street.

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Shaw University

South Park grew around the historically black college Shaw University (shaw.edu; date accessed Apr. 29, 2019), founded in 1865, and trained African American professors and professionals and home to dozens of black-owned businesses.

Over time, disinvestment took place: "Two major roads severed the neighborhoods; absentee landlords came in; a cherished park built in the 1930s began to deteriorate" (nytimes.com; Apr. 27, 2019).  Previously excluded from suburbs, African Americans began to migrate to the community.  The longtime residents who have remained are now worried that community's reinvention will remove the last vestiges of its history.  Lonnette Williams spoke to The Times,

We don't want to feel like everything is so bad you've got to rear it down,....We want people to value out neighborhood.

Ms. Williams' sense of value is different and often at odds with the rising cost of real estate.  Her stately 1922 two-story home is appreciating in value but that means little to her because she no intention of selling it.  The half million dollar modern homes, in her opinion, detract from the neighborhood's value.

Octavia Rainey, another area long time resident, calls them Gone With the Wind houses, beach houses, slave houses, a reference to the second-story porches going up around her are reminiscent of the overseer's perches (Ibid).  The pace of construction has picked up as have the volume of mailers residents are receiving: We pay $CASH$.  As is !  No cost or fees!  Sometimes the mailers arrive, disguised as bills headed for collection THIRD NOTICE (Ibid).  Amidst the frenzy, a real estate agent told Rosalind Blair Sands that she was not using her property to its fullest potential.  Ms. Sands operates a child development center.  Everyone has a price as the message Ms. Sands heard and she Rosalind found herself battling over the math of what a child is worth.
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South Park neighborhood park
Raleigh, North Carolina

The rise of a new market

African Americans have remained segregated primarily because white residents generally avoided buying homes in black neighborhoods (russellsage.org; date accessed Apr. 30, 2019).  What changed?  "How did the first developer to renovate a home know a new market would be waiting for it?" (nytimes.com; Apr. 27, 2019)  Jason Queen, a developer in Raleigh, told The Times, 
I guess the answer is I didn't know...But I did know that I wanted to be in downtown (Ibid)

Mr. Queen previously worked in historic preservation and rehabilitated and built about 100 homes in the historic corridor east of downtown Raleigh, beginning with the house he and wife lived in; renovated on the fringes of South Park about ten years ago.  Mr. Queen was a market of one: "He rejected long car commutes and cul-de-sacs.  This part of the city was more affordable than anywhere near downtown.   And he wanted diversity" (Ibid).  Jason Queen, who is white, said,

What I didn't want to do is move to a neighborhood where all the kids look exactly as my kids,... I didn't think that was the right thing to do.  (Ibid)

Cities, like preferences, change over time.  In this case, they are are enmeshed.  Crime has dropped since redevelopment began in South Park.  Public housing blocks have been replaced by mixed-income housing and cities reinvested in long neglected downtown areas.  The spike in home prices in the early naughts also left middle class home owners looking for an affordable place to live.  By this time, many of white working class neighborhoods in good locations had gentrified.  Predominantly African American and Latino communities remained untouched.

Older housing stock close to city centers were also approaching the end of their lifespans.  Syracuse University economist Stuart Rosenthal argues "that it's often possible to predict a neighborhood's income level 20 years into the future by the age of its housing stock today" (Ibid).  The older the home, the more likely it is to be replaced.  Typical of the American housing market, newly built or renovated houses go to higher income households.
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Gated home for rent
Raleigh, North Carolina

Thus, South Park was in position to become wealthier: "Many of the houses had lost nearly all their value, as the land underneath them grew more valuable" (Ibid).  In the aftermath of housing implosion, mortgage leading grew tighter especially for African American and Latino buyer (urban.org; Apr. 8, 2015; date accessed Apr. 30, 2019).  White home buyers received more desirable terms and by the time lenders began working with minority buyers, the communities were priced out of their reach.  Jason Queen's clients are part of the process, even if they place a premium on the community's diversity.

For example, Andrew and Kelly Hudgins, a white couple, purchased one of Mr. Queen's homes in 2017 in South Park.  They considered the racial map of Raleigh when they first arrived in the area.  They saw that the white dots did not overwhelm the area, but they were concerned that they were part of the gentrification process.  Mr. Hudgins, who works for two faith based non-profits, said,

We struggled with that for a long time,... If we didn't, somebody else was definitely going to buy that home. (nytimes.com; Apr. 27, 2019)

Perhaps another couple would place more value on South Park's potential, or what it has been historically.  In the two years since, they have celebrated holidays with their neighbors and their children play with each other.  From their porch swing they hung to get to know their neighbors, they have witnessed four homes cleared for redevelopment.

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Ship of Zion Church outreach
The Ship of Zion Church and Community Center operates a small grocery store and gym in South Park.  Pastor Chris Jones occasionally tries to flag down a white jogger and invite them in to check out the facilities.  Those Airpods permanently embedded in the joggers' ears keep them from noticing Pastor Jones.  Integration has not been successful.  Pastor Jones believes that this will be the story of the neighborhood:

You have a half-million dollar home next to a home that's maybe $20,000.  I wish that could stay.  I wish those families could get to know each,... But because of economics, that can't happen. (nytimes.com; Apr. 27, 2019)

A mere eight blocks away, Jason Queen recently opened his latest development, the Transfer Food Hall which will eventually have a grocery store next door.  The food hall and full service market aims to serve everyone from shoppers receiving social benefits to those more upscale shoppers who just have to have a $12 glass of green juice.

However, even this newest food emporium faces an uncertain future.  Mr. Queen said, "The development was designed to make viable the grocery store the community wanted" (Ibid).  The Transfer Food Hall has not attracted some of the long term residents who are waiting to see what the prices are like.  For its part, the food hall is signalling that everyone is welcome, too-- inside there is a painting of a pair of African American teens from the community--but the residents must walk past the brand new $700,000 row homes to get to the food hall.

As good as these intentions are, they are insufficient in managing change and often wind up adding to it.  The Transfer Food Hall will make South Park more desirable in turn attracting dubious house flippers and property scouts.  Even the city's attempts to invest in formerly neglected neighborhoods can exacerbate the situation.

Raleigh's planning director Ken Bowers told The New York Times,

The city is always the battleground; when it was failing, that was a problem, and now that it's succeeding, that's also a problem. (Ibid)
er whether the city was delivering equal services and infrastructure.  Mr. Bowers added,

Now the debate we're having is 'Are these parks gentrifying the neighborhood?'... That's a very dysfunctional place to be. (Ibid)

In the suburbs, a far different process is driving the population change, as middle class minority families look for more space or better schools, as immigrant neighborhoods take hold, or as families get priced out of the city.  This type of increased integration brings its own set of challenges.  At least among these homeowners there is a sense of stability and security in fact that the new households economically resemble their neighbors.

Kia E. Baker recently bought a home in a suburb east of the city, among the collection of blue tracts.  She calls her community extremely divers and has no reason to believe that the diversity of today will result in a different kind of segregation in the future.  New York University professor Ingrid Gould Ellen said, "Ideally... America could get to a place where the real estate market in any location isn't so sensitive to signals about race" (Ibid)  Prof. Ellen said,

We made some progress by getting to a point where the entry of one black family did not signal that, 'Oh my god, this is a neighborhood that's going to fall apart,'... Maybe we  can get to a point where the entry of one white family is not a signal that, 'This is a neighborhood that's going to have million-dollar condos.' (Ibid)

Near downtown Raleigh, a signal like that seems to have been sent and reception has been mixed.  The future remains uncertain but what is certain that slowly but steadily the American real estate market will reach a point where no one is wringing their hands in despair, lamenting "There goes the neighborhood."

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Lessons From The Fires

Hello Everyone:

It is a very lovely Wednesday afternoon and Yours Truly is still in a very good mood.  The Blogger Candidate Forum will be back at its regular Wednesday time, barring any major breaking story.  Today, we are going to have a look at the restoration efforts of the Mackintosh Library in Glasgow, Scotland to see what can be applied to the task of restoring the Cathedral Notre-Dame in Paris.

The devastating fire at Cathedral Notre-Dame had Blogger thinking about the Mackintosh Library at the Glasgow School of Art.  The library was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh in 1909 (gsa.ac.uk; date accessed Apr. 24, 2019).  The library is an iconic example of the Art Nouveau.  In 2014,  a small fire destroyed parts of the building.  Restoration on the affected parts were near completion when another, larger blaze burned the roof and upper floors (theguardian.com; June 16, 2018; date accessed Apr. 24, 2019).  School officials vowed to rebuild, adding that construction could take up to a decade.  In light of the fire at Notre-Dame, it is worth a look at restoration efforts see what we can learn.

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MacKintosh Library interior
Charles Rennie MacKintosh
Glasgow, Scotland
By all accounts, June 15, 2018 should have been a celebratory day for GSA: The pomp and circumstance of graduation and the 150th anniversary of hometown legendary architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh.  The fire burned all traces of the restoration work that resulted from the 2014 fire.  The school and architect are intimately connect because he was not only an alumnus but also the designer of the library.  By the time the last of the burning embers were put out, his "masterwork" (dezeen.com; June 5, 2018; date accessed Apr. 2019), the library was barely a shadow of its former self.

Meilan Solly writes, "The Japanese-influence timber framework of the school's Mackintosh Library, the bright, albeit garish, color schemes [theguardian.com; June 5, 2018] on view throughout the building and clusters of electric lights were so revolutionary at the time of construction are gone,leaving behind only a hollowed out skeletal shell" (smithsonianmag.com; Sept. 24, 2019; date accessed Apr. 24, 2019).  Library board chairperson Muriel Gray vowed to rebuild "to nearly the exact specifications laid out by the art nouveau architect..." (Ibid).  The good news is the school still has access to the original plans and a digital model created during the previous restoration.  The question now is what approach to take, rebuild or replicate?

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Damaged interior of Notre-Dame
Paris, France
As you can see from the picture of the left, the fire damage at Notre-Dame is extensive.  French President Emmanuel Macron brazenly promised to have the Cathedral rebuilt by 2024 when Paris hosts the Olympic Games.  Whether or not that is actually feasible is another matter but how it will be rebuilt is another matter.  For this, our best reference point is the fSecretary of Interior Standards for Historic Preservation, which governs the treatment of historic buildings and landscapes in the United States.  The Standards list four acceptable strategies:

Preservation focuses on the maintenance and repair of existing historic materials and retention of a property's form as it has evolved over time.

Rehabilitation  acknowledges the need to alter or add to a historic property to meet continuing or changing uses while retaining the property's historic character.

Restoration depicts a property at a particular period of time in its history, while removing evidence of other periods.

Reconstruction re-creates vanished or non-surviving portions of a property for interpretative purposes (nps.gov; date accessed Apr. 24, 2019)

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Damage from the Mackintosh library fire

The Glasgow School of Art announce in the Herald Scotland that it plans to restore the library will be "entirely restored 'as Mackintosh designed it, to the millimeter'" (archpaper.com; Sept. 18, 2018; date accessed Apr. 24, 2019).  Restoring the library means returning it to its exact period of significance--the early 20th century--requiring extensive research not only into its design history but also methods of construction.  This may be an easier task than restoring Notre-Dame because the library building is not overlaid with centuries of construction.  However, restoration brings with it concerns of replication and concerns that it could become a museum piece.  This sentiment was voiced by Glasgow-based alumnus, architect Alan Dunlop,

From what I've see, restoration is not an option,... We'd be talking about replication, which is totally against what Mackintosh stood for.  He was an innovator, working at the cutting edge.  He would 
want to see a new school of art fit for the 21st century.  (theguardian.com; June 19, 2018)

Roger Billcliffe (billcliffegallery.com; date accessed Apr. 24, 2019), the author of a series of definitive books on Charles Rennie Mackintosh told The Guardian, 

I see no argument for why you wouldn't rebuild the school of art as it was,... It has been voted Britain's most important building several times over, and we have all the information needed to recreate every detail, following extensive laser surveys after the first fire.  People are saying, 'Let's get a good modern architect instead,' but we've already had one in theory, and we got that Steven Holl monstrosity across the road.  (Ibid)

Mr. Billcliffe argues that, "Despite Mackintosh's meticulous details and sophisticated spatial sequences,..., the school of art would be difficult to rebuild" (Ibid).  Most of the conservation analysis has already been done and the replacement woodwork had not been installed at the time of the fire (Ibid).

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The spire of Cathedral Notre-Dame
Viollet-le-Duc (c. 1859)

As of right now, no decisions have been made regarding whether to preserve, rehabilitate, restore, or reconstruct. No one has been allowed to go in--for obvious safety reasons--to do an architectural assessment.  Further, Notre-Dame has about 850-years worth of architecture and decoration so deciding which period to bring it back to is going to require extensive research and laser surveys.  UCLA associate professor of medieval art and architecture Meredith Cohen (washingtontonpost.com; Apr. 19, 2019; date accessed Apr. 24, 2019) has some ideas on how to restore Notre Dame without falsifying history.  What happens once the debris is cleared and a proper assessment is done?

The first step is arresting further degradation.  Prof. Cohen writes, 

The building was already undergoing urgent conservation, because of the interventions of 19th-century restorers Eugene-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc and Jean-Baptiste Lassus--including the spire they rebuilt--were causing damage (Ibid)

The 19th-century restorers replaced the stones in the walls and on the flying buttresses, which were eroding at a faster pace than the 12th-century stones they left in place.  In short, Notre-Dame absolutely has to be stabilized against any and all further degradation and a new roof will be necessary so that the stone vaults that cover the nave will no longer be exposed to the elements (Ibid).

Next, once this basic and essential work underway, thoughts regarding replacing the 19th-century spire should be expressed.  The monumental restoration task France is about to undertake raises questions of what to preserve.  Interesting fact, the spire that so dramatically collapsed is 

dated to 1859 and replaced a 13th-century spire that was dismantled in 1786.  It was not a copy of the medieval spire, for which there are no extant plans.  Rather, this neo-Gothic fantasy's artistic merit lay in its conveyance of 19th-century values concerning the unified French nation based on a rationalized form of medieval architecture (Ibid).

The spire can be reproduced today, but should it?  Reproduction brings to mind the specter of Disney-fication, something that Scottish architect Alan Dunlop fears could happen to the Mackintosh Library.  Which of the nearly nine centuries should take precedence?  What should be done with the fact that most of the original building was lost during the French Revolution?  Do you return the cathedral to its pre-revolutionary state?  Remove the electric lights?  You see that all these questions can lead down a rabbit hole in which architects, planners, concerned parties, and government officials spend years deciding what do.  Fortunately, there is a guide.

The 1964 Venice Charter (icomos.org; date accessed Apr. 24, 2019) published by the International Council on Monuments and Sites, laid out a set of guideline for conservation and restoration, declaring,

The intention in conserving and restoring monuments is to safeguard them no less as works of art than historical evidence...Replacements of missing parts must integrate harmoniously with the whole, but at the same time must be distinguishable from the original so that restoration does not falsify the artist or historic evidence  (washingtonpost.com; Apr. 19, 2019).

Therefore, if the spire is to replaced, then why not hold a global design competition to create a spire that respects the period style of Notre-Dame while acknowledging the present?  It may sound a little insane but it could offer a sense of transparency and greater value to each and every period style housed within the cathedral's walls.

Complicating the extensive restoration is the fact that it is a functioning monument that requires constant upkeep, even under normal circumstances.  It is a major tourist site, holds regular services, and is an integral part of the French cultural patrimony.  One of the tasks before the architects is reconciling all of these functions in a way that allows a church goer to attend services without disruption from a selfie-taking tourist.  Easier said than done.  The climate is another major challenge; the heat and humidity generate from the crowds is definitely not good for the building and its structure.

Both the Mackintosh Library and the Cathedral of Notre-Dame are iconic monuments to their period.  Notre-Dame is an extant example of a building built continuously in the Gothic manner between the 12th-and 14th-centuries.  The library is a prime example of early 20th-century cutting edge architecture.  Fortunately, there is plenty of funding available to restore, preserve, rehabilitate, and reconstruct them.  The debate centered around whether to restore the Mackintosh Library or demolish it is a microcosm of the debate facing the French.  Yours Truly can say without contradiction that no will ever insist on demolishing the cathedral but perhaps it might be best to follow the Japanese example of preservation: demolish and rebuild as in the ritual reconstruction at Ise Shrine.  We will see what the future holds.