Matthew Brown has restored three historic houses in Raleigh, and has assisted with the restoration of many others. He has financed renovation of six houses for affordable housing.
Matthew spoke to City Council on May 2, 2023 on the topic of Raleigh’s planned Transit Overlay District.
Good evening. Thank you for your service and thank you for letting me speak.
Last Wednesday Planning Staff reported to the Planning Commission regarding the proposed T.O.D. (Transit Overlay District) that will incentivize demolition of hundreds of homes in East Raleigh’s historic neighborhoods. Staff stated that the Longview neighborhood originally had a restrictive racial covenant, as if that justifies demolishing part of the neighborhood. But this covenant was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1948, and Longview has been a harmoniously racially integrated neighborhood for over 50 years. It’s about equal black and white, with other folks as well. This is what America should look like. This is history with a happy ending. This neighborhood should be celebrated, not demolished!
It’s like the gentleman who stood up here a month ago and told you that the beautiful historic Rogers-Pegues House should be demolished because it had been owned by ex-Confederates. But then the house became the beloved home of Rev. Albert Pegues, the dean of Shaw’s Divinity School, and a prominent author and theologian. Then it was owned by his daughter Ernestine Hamlin of Hamlin’s Drug Store, one of Raleigh’s longest-lasting black-owned businesses. This is history with a happy ending. It should be celebrated, not demolished.
I understand there is controversy about whether the City should apologize or pay reparations to our black community for injustices of the past, including slavery, segregation, and urban renewal, which demolished historic black neighborhoods. Well, maybe this issue is difficult, but one thing should be easy: Let’s just stop doing the things that will require more apologies and reparations. Let’s stop demolishing our historic black neighborhoods.
Planning staff says, “The City won’t demolish them. Private developers will demolish them.” Yes, but if you pass this T.O.D., you will incentivize demolition in two ways: The upzoning will increase the tax values of the properties, creating hardship for the current owners and incentivizing them to sell, at the same time incentivizing developers to buy and demolish because they can build bigger buildings. So in effect, the City WILL be demolishing these neighborhoods, and some future City Council will have to apologize for this one, unless YOU, dear City Council members, speak with our planning staff and tell them you cannot approve this T.O.D. rezoning until they remove these historic neighborhoods from it.
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