If one needs evidence of the outsized influence the Fisher Park neighborhood has on Greensboro, look no further than the saga of the Julian Price House.
Until just a few years ago, before it was featured on an episode of “Hoarders,” the Price House was an oft-whispered-about-but-never-directly-addressed eyesore, hidden behind unkempt landscapery and infested with a Dickensian gloom associated with mental illness and prosperity in decline. Anyone who saw the hoard unearthed on national TV would not have been surprised to see a rotting wedding cake hauled out of there.
You know the story: After the home was foreclosed, Michael and Eric Fuko-Rizzo stepped up, buying the most architecturally and historically significant home in the city, right up there with Blandwood. They cleared it out, fixed it up, laid on a fresh coat of paint. More than that, they restored Fisher Park’s dirty little secret into a point of pride once again.
But after the redesign, after the showcase, what then is a small family to so with a four-story, 31-room home designed for a turn-of-the-century industrialist?
Why, rent it out of course: for weddings, for Furniture Market, for AirBnB tourists, for shows in the backyard and banquets in the dining room, readings in the parlor and cocktails in the backyard. Even a straight-up bed and breakfast would be a fine use of the property. It’s either that or bust it up into apartments, which would also likely drive the neighbors crazy.
This week, the Greensboro Zoning Commission decided to deny the Fuko-Rizzo’s application for a special-use permit, which would have allowed them to operate the place as a bed and breakfast or event site. According to reporting in the Rhino, about 50 neighbors opposed to the permit flooded the hearing and were able to sway the board’s 4-3 vote.
Now, we all know just how very special the Fisher Park neighborhood and its residents are. But it seems that while they very quickly assembled a commission to respond to the problems associated with the home, not a one of them stepped up with a feasible plan to save this architectural gem from demolition. It looks from here like the Fuko-Rizzos took on considerable risk in saving this house and are being denied the potential rewards by a few residents who feel that their neighborhood should be immune from change.
But without turning the home into a stream of revenue, the Julian Price House can’t even exist. There’s more than 7,000 square feet inside those walls. Preventing its use is just another form of hoarding.
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