Discussions continue on ways to preserve the Higgs House


A preservation organization is working with the owners of a Greenville landmark to sell the property to someone who can renovate it.

Preservation North Carolina, a nonprofit that works to protect buildings, landscapes and sites important to the state’ heritage, must first identify all the heirs of the J.W. Higgs House at 1112 Dickinson Ave. and have them agree to sell the property to someone who wants to rehabilitate it, Greenville Chief Planner Chantae Gooby told the Greenville Historic Preservation Commission.

The heirs of two families, the Browns and the Hartsfields, have ownership interest in the house, a Queen Anne/Colonial Revival built at the turn of the 20th century and made a local historic landmark in 1993. The house is associated with Jacob W. Higgs, a prominent Greenville businessman and developer of the Higgs neighborhood.

It’s also remembered as the Faith House, a location that provided housing for people in need.

The house is considered dilapidated because its repair costs, more than $300,000, is more than 50 percent higher than the structure’s value, Gooby said.

The Greenville City Council in January adopted a resolution seeking a certificate of appropriateness from the historic preservation commission to demolish the structure. The resolution also authorized staff to demolish the home if the owners didn’t do it and to place a lien on the property to recoup the city’s costs.

Maggie Gregg of Preservation NC’s eastern office is working with owners of the house and was present at Tuesday’s meeting.

“Since it’s a local landmark it comes to you,” Gooby said. “Your only option is literally to delay the demolition up to 365 (days). We’re going to allow Maggie and the buyers to get this accomplished as quickly as possible.”

But starting in March there will be a time clock, Gooby said. The only way to stop the clock is for the City Council to reverse its decision.

Carlos White, a local resident with connections to the house, urged the commission and staff to do everything possible to find the heirs. White said some of the heirs don’t live locally and don’t understand what is at stake.

Gooby said both certified letters and traditional letters are being sent to the parties involved.

James Brown, one of the heirs, told commission members last month that the family wants to repair the home but they don’t have the financial means.

Gregg, who is talking to James Brown and a member of the Hartsfield family, said both have asked about the availability of grants. There are none available.

The city’s grants are only available for owner-occupied properties and max out at $70,000, she said.

“For those of us who have being do this for a while know there haven’t been state grants, anything for private homes for decades,” commission chairman Jeremy Jordan said. “The only help is state and federal tax credits which only help a person if they have a considerable income.”

Commission member Larry Hall asked if the commission could set a 90-day extension instead of a 365-day, saying that people sometimes work more quickly when the timeline is short.

“I am more worried about the 365 days not being enough instead of lighting a fire,” commission member Andrew Morehead said.

The board did not vote on an extension. I will take up the matter again in March.

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