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Status report

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Serfdom is coming to Five Points in Raleigh. I guess it's been on the way for quite a while, but until recently, my street has been unscathed. All I can say is, thank goodness I'm of Slavic descent. My ancestors were peasant farmers, and I look the part: solid, ruddy complexion, with a low center of gravity—great for pulling an oxcart. I like root vegetables, too, so I'll fit right in when the feudal lord moves in.

My home is located just one block away from Lilly's Pizza, on a street that my husband and I lovingly called "Eyesore Alley" when we moved here. The modest homes on our street contrast starkly with the manses in Hayes Barton just across Glenwood Avenue.

What it lacks in grandeur, our street compensates for with charm. Each home on the street is unique; our neighbors even more so. These neighbors, some of whom have lived here for decades, have embraced us. They're happy to see younger folks taking an interest in preserving the cute, 1920s-era bungalows that pepper the street. Each home has its own unique history—and we've listened, enthralled, as our neighbors have regaled us with details. The one unifying factor among all our homes is that each is well maintained, simple (read: not ornate) and small. You'd be hard pressed to find one home on our street in excess of 1,700 square feet—until now.

We knew the jig must be up when our artsy neighbor Matt moved out last spring. He'd rented the 700-square-foot house on our street for the better part of a decade. When we saw an "LLC" had bought the property, we cringed. Soon came the bulldozers, the concrete guys, and before we could say "feudal overlord," a 4,000-square-foot castle had been erected on the property. Asking price: $859,000—close to triple the price of any other house on the street.

As I turn the soil in my terraced garden this winter, I stare with face upturned at the towering fortress just one lot away. I feel something primal—like I have been here before. Perhaps an archetypal memory from a serf ancestor?

Who will buy this home, I wonder? Will they want to rub elbows with us 1,500-square-footers? After all, their home may be bringing our property values up, but we're bringing theirs down—like a boat anchor. Will they share vegetables from their garden, or cuttings from their hydrangeas, or power tools for home improvement projects, like we all do? Try as I might, I can't imagine them tending their own yard, much less delving into home maintenance.

I do want to welcome our stately neighbors when the time comes, so I pledge to take them a covered-dish supper on move-in day. I'll surprise them with a dish representative of our tight-knit community: simple, earthy, colorful. Maybe a meal featuring beets.

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