Durham Development Buzzword:
The Teardown

The latest buzzword in Durham residential development is the “teardown”. Emigres from Massachusetts and New Jersey are already familiar with this word and its nefarious impact on communities. Heck, it is probably part of why they decamped for Durham.

The teardown implies buying a house for the express purpose of tearing it down and rebuilding on the same lot.

Teardown Hargrove Street 2

It is a strategy employed by the wealthy to purchase undesirable structures, particular old, small, and/or rundown homes, demolish them and replace them with new construction. Rarely is consideration given to how well the new construction might mesh with the existing homes in the neighborhood.

Teardown Hargrove Street 3

I ran into one such example just the other day in the Durham DIY district; around the corner from Fullsteam Brewery and The Accordion. A small house was being demolished on Hargrove Street.

via Google Maps

via Google Maps

I spoke to the foreman on-site. He told us that this teardown would take less than an afternoon. He added that his company had two more teardowns scheduled that same day on Geer Street. They had already torn a house down on Glendale that day.

Four Durham teardown in forty-eight hours.

This destruction in a city with an eviction crisis?

This destruction in a city with an eviction crisis?

The foreman said the ranch they were tearing down was going to be replaced with a three-story home.

This is another integral part of the game plan -as practiced in the Northeast- if the teardown lot is too small for all the house you want to own, build vertically.

Neighborhood resident Eli McDuffee said, “It’s sad. I cannot welcome this approach to development, probably because it doesn’t feel welcoming… It’s out of touch.”

Almost looks functional

Almost looks functional

The three-story house going up on Hargrove will tower over the ranch homes that comprise the rest of the block.  According to the foreman on-site, there will a rooftop patio deck on the property overlooking the neighborhood. With a first floor garage underneath a tall narrow structure, it will be as if someone took a Wrightsville Beach design and slapped it down in an old Durham neighborhood.

Teardown Hargrove Street 4Teardown Hargrove Street 5


This kind of development chicanery was what prompted Old West Durham to pass a neighborhood protective overlay.

Don’t want for the Planning Commission to save you. Act now.

Or enjoy the North Jersey style development.

The foreman’s last words, “If you know anyone else looking to sell an old house…”


*Author’s Note: Yes, there are some hyperbolic over-claims herein rooted in fear, steeped in my past: gradually watching all of the woods near where I grew up torn down and re-purposed as beautifully Orwellian subdivisions.


Aaron Mandel

Aaron Mandel is a writer and an accomplished public speaker. He is the publisher of the Clarion Content. For more than a decade, the Clarion Content has covered Durham’s arts, politics, music, and cultural milieu. From breaking news stories to the hottest local acts, the Clarion Content is on the scene. The Clarion Content published more than twenty distinguished guest columnists and garnered nearly a million views. Mandel is a volunteer for the Durham Mighty Pen Literacy Project and serves as the President of the Board of Sustain-A-Bull Durham, a local small business collective with more than 200 members. He writes regularly on the Clarion Content and has been quietly writing fiction since the 4th grade. Mandel has been published in the Raleigh News and Observer. He has also produced numerous art shows, including, “Durham under Development”. He was a featured speaker at “The State of Publishing” conference. He has presented to Durham Chamber of Commerce, “Chamber U” on the “New Media”. He has also served as the play-by-play announcer for the D.B.L., a Durham youth basketball league. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Religious Studies from Indiana University in Bloomington. An avid policy debater at Indiana and a Nation Debate Tournament qualifier, Mandel was also a member of the New Jersey State Champion two-person Policy Debate Team. He has lived in North Carolina, New Jersey, California, Texas, Illinois, Colorado, Indiana, and Baja California, Mexico.

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