Teardown city

In early 2014 the Decatur City Commission voted to annex 77 parcels in unincorporated DeKalb County. The Parkwood neighborhood was among the last residential subdivisions developed in historic Druid Hills. A portion of Parkwood had been annexed in 1909 by the Town of Oakhurst. Less than a decade later (1915), the Oakhurst portion of Parkwood became Decatur’s westernmost neighborhood when Decatur annexed Oakhurst.

The portion of Parkwood previously in DeKalb County is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Druid Hills Historic District. Druid Hills also is a locally designated DeKalb County historic district regulated by the DeKalb County Historic Preservation Commission.

Most of Parkwood's homes are brick ranch houses built after World War II. Many folks in Decatur and elsewhere consider these homes disposable. New Urbanist architect Steve Mouzon, writing on the teardown of another Decatur ranch house in late 2013, described it as something that "was apparently built during the 'Dark Ages of Architecture,' which is the half-century between 1930 and 1980."

Most of Parkwood’s homes are brick ranch houses built after World War II. Many folks in Decatur and elsewhere consider these homes disposable. New Urbanist architect Steve Mouzon, writing on the teardown of another Decatur ranch house (in Oakhurst) in late 2013, described it as something that “was apparently built during the ‘Dark Ages of Architecture,’ which is the half-century between 1930 and 1980.”

When Decatur annexed Parkwood’s remaining properties, the neighborhood lost its protection against teardowns. Parkwood residents urged Decatur’s appointed and elected officials to provide protection against the city’s teardown and mansionization plague and in July 2014, the City’s first official legislative and regulatory action involving Parkwood was the creation of a Parkwood local historic district — a limited district that only embraced the newly annexed properties.

Was the rush to designate Parkwood historic necessary? The residents thought so. As soon as local builders and realtors got wind that Parkwood was headed towards annexation, Decatur’s teardown mania spread to the neighborhood:

May 2014 Parkwood neighborhood Facebook posts about teardowns.

May 2014 Parkwood neighborhood Facebook posts about teardowns.

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One response to “Teardown city

  1. So how is it that Parkwood so quickly acquired local historic district status?

    It’s an interesting contrast to the situation across the tracks in Oakhurst, There, residents debated historic district designation for years until a coordinated campaign against such designation by builders and developers silenced the talk. With no barriers to demolition, Oakhurst has now lost so many vintage homes that the character of the neighborhood has morphed into something that likely no longer could qualify for historic district protections.

    Perhaps Parkwood residents learned a lesson from their neighbors a few blocks south and got their ducks in a row by hiring professionals to prepare a historic district application, lobby the city and so forth prior to being annexed. I don’t think that happened in Oakhurst, and the city, as I understand it, doesn’t really encourage communities to apply for protections–please correct me if I’m wrong on that.

    Whatever the case, I personally am glad Parkwood has some protection from wholesale destruction. When I lived in Oakhurst, I often drove through Parkwood on the way to Publix and thought it was quite lovely. Mr. Mouzon’s disdain for homes built during the architectural “Dark Ages” aside, the landscape and solidly-built ranches grew on me over the years. In fact, I even toyed with the thought of moving there one day (unsophisticated design oaf that I am!) to escape Decatur CIty taxes. Thanks goodness I never acted on that idea–the joke would have been on me!

    Parkwood, good luck to you as part of the City of Decatur. You may not appeal to Steve Mouzon, but I wouldn’t worry about that too much because many others love you. And when I visit Decatur from my current digs, my heart will leap to see your familiar streets, while in Oakhurst, unfortunately, my heart will weep for the loss of what was, what might have been, but now will never will be.

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