Sunday, November 16, 2008

Meltdown Slows Down Teardowns

The NY Times warns that NJ is in danger of losing it's title as our nation's number one teardown state.
That has been New Jersey’s ranking from the National Trust for Historic Preservation each year since 2002, when the trust began keeping track of how many older houses in historic neighborhoods were being demolished to make way for new and often bigger houses. In August, the trust cited 85 communities — from Alpine to Fair Lawn; from Morristown to Wykoff — where teardowns were heavily concentrated.

But since then, another trend has become a lot more noticeable — even in New Jersey. The overall economic situation and the sorry state of the housing market mean that fewer and fewer people are “throwing away perfectly good houses,” as one preservation-minded architect from Point Pleasant, Verity L. Frizzell, put it.

“Just six months ago,” said Stacey Ruhle Kleisch, who is president-elect of the American Institute of Architects’ New Jersey chapter, “it was ‘the sky’s the limit’ with my clientele. Whenever possible, it was, ‘Tear it down, and make something new.’ ”

But that is definitely “grinding to a halt,” said Ms. Kleisch, whose firm GK&A Architects is based in Rutherford. “Now, it’s, ‘Let’s see what choices we can make to save money, immediately, and over the life cycle of a home.’ ”

It is certainly not as if the bulldozers had gone quiet around the state. Last summer, for instance, a frayed but once-grand 1910 colonial on Park Street in Montclair went down abruptly after a developer bought it. The new colonial now under construction — at 4,200 square feet, slightly smaller than the old house, but outfitted with a full array of modern technological conveniences — is being marketed by Rhodes Van Note & Company for $1.85 million.

Peter Primavera, a vice chairman of the Urban Land Institute in New Jersey, says that although he perceives a lull in teardown activity, that does not translate into a halt.

“When the stock market is up,” Mr. Primavera said, “old houses go down. Now, things are bad on Wall Street and fewer houses are being taken down. But the overall dynamic is still in place of people wanting to build new, big McMansions when they have the money to do so.”

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