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UNCG historic landmark still facing demolition through rezoning

The Commencement House was built by 23 students of the Women’s College in 1958.

Published: Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Updated: Wednesday, February 3, 2010 10:02

The flurry surrounding the city council will continue at the next public meeting at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 9 in the City Council chambers, 300 W. Washington St.

Amidst the chaos regarding numerous rezoning projects involving the Commencement House on N. Elm Street, the Save College Hill initiative, Ole Asheboro Hotel project, and many others, the council will discuss a massive city-wide rezoning, which will hear a vote at the Feb 9  meeting.

The current ordinance was written in 1992, and city leaders feel its time to make the city more “user-friendly and promote such things as development with a mix of commercial and residences and [provide] high-density residential areas access to public transportation,” according to the Greensboro News & Record. “The new ordinance — all 500-plus pages of it — will have a greater impact on new development than existing neighborhoods,” Greensboro’s Planning Director Dick Hails told the News & Record.

The goal is to increase pedestrian activity within new developments, which includes more through-streets, and as Hails’ indicated  “It tends to keep the number of cul-de-sacs limited.”

Additionally, the rezoning will require developers communicate with members of a neighborhood before beginning construction and propose new restrictions on large population buildings, such as mega-churches.
Another side of the rezoning involves the conversion of single family-units to multiple-family and mixed-use, which threatens the zoning initiatives of two Greensboro landmarks.

The Commencement house, designed and constructed in 1958 by 23 UNCG students,  these female attendees of the Woman’s College  (as it was known then) defied numerous gender norms, and received nationwide publicity. In the 50-years since, the house had fallen into disrepair, but was saved from demolition in December 2009.

Plopped right on top of ‘College Hill’ is the site of the former Newman-Whitney Machine company, a hot topic of real estate clamor brought before the council in the heat of the rezoning plan. The Edwards Corporation wishes for the land to be rezoned to allow their development of a massive student housing complex which will literally tower over the rolling college neighborhood.  On the other side,  the College Hill Neighborhood Association, who have banded together with the “Save College Hill” initiative, is working to block the Edwards’ development, and are relying on the single-family zoning to see them through.

As the rezoning is brought before the council, it comes on the heels of a change in the zoning process, which recently adopted the protest petion, granting more power to property owners in a neighborhood. According to the News and Record, “when a valid petition is filed, it requires a supermajority of council members… [and] must be signed by the owners of five percent of the property within the 100-foot area around the land to be rezoned.” Until its adoption in May, 2009, Greensboro was the only city in the state that didn’t recognize such petitions.

In the middle of this rezoning, several council members and city staff are busy celebrating the opening of the International Civil Rights Museum, quarreling over the validity of the Ole Asheboro Hotel project, and conducting business which will impact the future of Greensboro. Be there on Feb 9 to witness what will happen.

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