The Greenwich Time has an interesting article about the increasing number of teardowns in Greenwich. At the depth of the recession only 50 demolition permits were issued by the Greenwich Building Department in FY 2009 – 2010. This was down from a peak of 192 demolition permits in 2005 – 06. In the last two years they have jumped back up approaching boom time levels. For the last fiscal year 2013 – 14, as Robert Marchant reported in the Greenwich Time article, Greenwich issued 125 building reports.
Driving around town it looks like since the start of this fiscal year on July 1, 2014 this trend is only going to increase in this fiscal year. Central Greenwich, Old Greenwich and mid-country all seem to have their share of tear downs. As the reporter quoted me, “Colonial styles are very popular. But what people want is a more open floor plan, with a large family room, or great room, where you can watch the kids while making dinner. People want higher ceilings, they want color and wood paneling is not favored as much.”
Most of the tear downs are often just that. Houses from the 1920s to the 1950s that haven’t been taken care are of a design that hasn’t aged well. Contemporaries and split-levels are tough sells and often a candidate for replacement by a modern open floor plan which many buyers are looking for in today’s market.
We are, however, also losing some great antique houses from one hundred and even two hundred years ago. Other than a demolition notice posted on the property, neither the town nor the state provide any statutory protection. The Greenwich Historical Society plaques many of these great, older houses, but this doesn’t prevent a new owner from tearing down it only lets the new owner know he has a house of historical significance.
We should have some way to protect these older houses of historical significance without making them worth less to their owners. A tax abatement or some other encouragement to discourage teardowns of these historic houses would be a great idea.