Volume 15, Number 16
Marty Ludas, who with his wife, Debbie, own two historic buildings on North Avenue, told the Wake Forest Town Board Tuesday night that the plan the town presented to the Historic Preservation Commission for a certificate of approval (COA) earlier this year is a case of “bait and switch” that will irreparably damage their property.
The commission dropped the plan in March but it still remains in limbo as part of the larger Stadium Drive Complete Street Plan. North Avenue was added to the plan to repave the very bumpy street. Also, and very recently, someone spray painted the sidewalk next to his commercial building, commonly called The Corner, to apparently indicate the sidewalk is to be replaced.
The current plan for North Avenue is to:
*Move the centerline of the street 6 feet to the north to accommodate a 6-foot sidewalk that will be built on the current eastbound lane.
*Build a new continuous retaining wall from North Main Street to the entrance to the Ludases parking lot that will take away the steps from the street to the sidewalk in front of the house as well as the loading zone next to the Corner, the steps from the loading zone and the steps from the sidewalk to the building’s entrance patio. As a side note, the date scratched in the loading zone concrete says 1936. And Ludas said he had spoken to Planning Director Chip Russell during the 2014 public meetings and was assured by him that the loading zone would not be removed.
*Eliminate all the current parking spaces on the north side of the street.
*Build a two-lane street with a sidewalk separated from the street by only curb and gutter and no separation between the westbound lane and the new retaining wall.
“This plan is creating a bowling alley of a street,” Ludas said Tuesday night. He said the plan “has bigger traffic and safety issues than us pulling out of our parking lot” with the line of sight to the east blocked by parked cars. “A road-narrowing project to allow for a sidewalk is not a street improvement project.”
Also, the retaining wall “completely cuts my house off from North Avenue.” Ludas said the plan presented to the HPC does not resemble at all the plan laid out in 2014 when the town held meetings for public comment. “I do not recognize what is here with what was presented in 2014.”
When the COA hearing was held in February, the plan drawn up by the town’s engineering department and presented by Wake Forest Senior Planner Michelle Michael was only about the new sidewalk. Ludas said in an email Wednesday, “At the meeting the commissioners were told to not consider my remarks [and] that the COA was needed to enable the lane change and road narrowing for a sidewalk across the street.
That’s what has me totally ticked off.”
He later commented on Wednesday. “I attended the workshops in February and May of 2014. My remarks involve the Kimley Horn map plan of 7/15/2014, dated well after the workshops. It’s my memory that the information on that July map was not presented for review. The project timeline said the design was completed in 2015. I’ve not found one person who knows about the road narrowing for a sidewalk. It doesn’t really matter who remembers what, I just want everybody to know now there is a plan to narrow North Avenue and profoundly change its aesthetic appearance and function. If there is a groundswell of support to narrow it for another sidewalk, I’ll still think it’s the wrong thing to do and fight against it.”
“I think this is a gross violation of what is supposed to be protected,” Marty Ludas said about the current plan Tuesday night. Their home, the 1894 house built by Dr. Benjamin Powers, and the next door commercial building Dr. Powers built in 1897, are the cornerstones of the Wake Forest Historic District that is mostly on North Main Street. The Ludas buildings, all one property, are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and have been named Local Historic Landmarks by the town as well as being part of the local historic district.
Marty and Debbie Ludas have renovated the house, built a public garden between the house and North Main Street and are in the final stages of renovating the Corner to open the ground floor as a restaurant. “I’m just pouring money into the Corner to get it open this year,” Marty said Wednesday. The couple’s intentions in all the renovations were to preserve the integrity of the historic buildings while adapting them to current uses. There are four offices on the second floor of the Corner.
Town Manager Kip Padgett told the Gazette Wednesday that “staff will attend the next work session to review the issue Mr. Ludas brought up last night. Regarding the plan for the COA, it was done and brought forth by Engineering (the Wake Forest Engineering Department). Eric (Director of Engineering Eric Keravuori) will need to address that.”
Keravuori replied Wednesday by email. “North Avenue is a state-maintained road. There several well-advertised, well attended public hearings about the Complete Street project.
“The wall was/is a separate issue. The plans were drawn up and brought to the COA meeting to receive public input. The COA meeting was also well advertised.
“Town Staff is preparing timelines, etc. to bring to the Work Session.”
Wednesday afternoon Padgett sent another email: “Don’t know if I mentioned but staff will be reaching out to Marty in the coming days. Thank.”