Haywood nixes deal to sell historic downtown property to Garner

kjahner@newsobserver.comNovember 5, 2013 

The foundation for the house at 207 Main has been there since the late 1870s, when Allen Haywood, a black teacher believed to be an ex-slave, built on land he bought in 1877. In October, his great-grandson Bertron Haywood pulled out of a deal to sell the property to the town for historic use.

FILE PHOTO BY KYLE JAHNER

— A property owner balked at selling a historic house that the town wants as part of its downtown revitalization plan, because, he says, of its historic and sentimental significance.

Dr. Bertron Haywood pulled out of an agreement to sell to the town the home and land at 207 Main St. for $115,000 the day Garner’s Town Council had planned to approve the sale. The foundation of the home on the property was built in the 1870s by ex-slave-turned-teacher Allen Haywood, Bertron’s great-grandfather.

The land falls under a proposed new Southeast Regional Library. Haywood sold two neighboring, undeveloped plots to the town, which will become part of a new recreation center funded by bonds approved in March, but said history prevented him from pulling the trigger on the other property.

“I was looking at the pictures of my great-grandfather, so I pulled it off the market,” Haywood said. “They couldn’t give me enough money ... I’d just hate to let it go.”

Garner Revitalization Association executive director John Hodges said he has not spoken to Haywood since the item was abruptly pulled off the Oct. 22 agenda.

“It was out of the blue, it took us off-guard,” Hodges said.

Hodges said the Haywoods have all along favored putting the library at the proposed site, and negotiations have included how to memorialize the Haywood family’s connection to the land, which pre-dates the town’s incorporation.

“They said and are continuing to say that they want the library there,” Hodges said of the family. “They have told us repeatedly told us they want the library here ... to say they have refused to sell the property is not accurate.”

A proposed library at the site was far from a done deal. Funding for such a project would have to come from the county. Hodges said Garner had brought up the idea of the town offering the county the space for the library in the spring, but that there have been no concrete plans for rebuilding the library there.

The town already owns all the land needed to build the three-gym recreation center at Montague and Main, along with funding from bonds and a ConAgra gift. Hodges said it couldn’t be known what would happen if the town could not acquire the house, or how high was too high a price.

“We will continue to investigate any and all anchor projects that could enhance the development of the downtown area. It’s what we’ve been doing since we adopted the (Historic Downtown Garner) plan in 2010,” Hodges said.

Haywood does not live on the property. He said he understands that Garner is trying to revitalize the area. He also said he understands that “they’re a little upset with me.”

Though Haywood said Garner “couldn’t give him enough money,” the retired physician also said he had another offer in to Garner, one he figured they’d reject. He said he’s going to “hold onto it as long as I can,” but he didn’t have confidence he could keep it.

“I can’t say I don’t need the money, but I don’t need it that badly,” he said. “They will probably condemn it and give me what they offered in the first place.

Jahner: 919-829-4822; Twitter: @garnercleveland

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