Save Glen Lennox

Glen Lennox

It seems that Grubb Properties wants to tear down Glen Lennox, a neighborhood of moderately-priced rentals, and rebuild more densely with a mix of uses including presumably higher-priced housing. The neighbors are applying for a Neighborhood Conservation District, which is, um, interesting. This isn't really what NCDs were designed to do - which is to protect the character and quality of neighborhoods as they change - but no-one seems to be using them for the intended purpose anyway. (Grumble.)

On the one hand, highway 54 is a good place to focus more density that will support the transit corridor that Meadowmont and the horribly-named 54 East (under construction) are designed to sustain. I didn't shed a tear over the old motel getting torn down, but Glen Lennox seems like much more a loss to the community. How can this be stopped or at least be done in a way that doesn't demolish the existing neighborhood?

I wonder what Chapel Hill Mayor Kevin Foy thinks of this? He lives about a block away. I'm also curious if there's any relationship between Grubb Properties and Roger Perry's East West Partners. Finally, why are there so many dang Grubbs in real estate around here? (Grubb & Ellis, Chuck Grubb at Magnolia Management, Grubb Properties, etc.) Is this our own cosa nostra?

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Of course, the corporation has a position. The Grubb Properties release sent to the N&O is here. Note their six commitments in the release.

Will this become a case that challenges the rights of property owners to do what our laws allow them to do on their own property?

I understand your concern about the rights of landowners Fred, but I also believe that landowners need to have some responsibility for the community. Gentrification, such as what is now being proposed for Glen Lennox and what is happening in downtown, will change the face of this community forever.
Neighborhood conservation district status is apparently the only available mechanism of hope for ensuring the diversity socioeconomic diversity. Is it an adequate tool? I wish these neighbors the best of luck in the fight.

I take issue with Ruby Sinerich with her suggesting that we are not going along with the intent of NCDs.  There have been two lots on Oakwood that have been transformed recently.  One has had the house bumped out twice and is quite larger than it's orininal size.  The other was torn down compeltely and rebuilt squeezed on the lot.  This is reminsecent of neighborhoods recently in the news in Raleigh.  The character of change was started and is now accelerating because of Grubb's proposal.

We are acting in accordance with the guidlines outlined in the Town's website.  This is an appropriate action for the affected community 

The Glen Lennox residents' petition for NCD status doesn't touch on legal rights. But I wish them the best of luck in saving their homes from the wrecking ball. They might succeed in delaying the process -- unless it's already approved. Is it? If so, then it's too late. Something similar to this happened in Durham, mid-eighties. That group, the Crest Street neighborhood, saved itself from general demolition in the vicinity of Erwin Square development. I recall that they won in court, not City Hall.

We are hoping that the NCD will save the Glen Lennox area.  The develovper, Grubb Properties has not submitted any plans yet to the Town of Chapel Hill.

This is not a NIMBY.  This is turing out to be the forerunner of how Chapel Hill is being transformed.  The town needs to look at Town comprehensive Plan that was crafted 8 years ago and update it and/or make new decisions on the developmental direction of Chapel Hill.  This is the first of it's kind where a long standing community is being torn down to be replaced be high rise, high density re-development.

The citizens and Town Council would be wise to put a moritorium on such projects and others before we become a clone of other communities.

Dan Goldberg's story in this morning's CHH adds some more information.

I'm not convinced that any of the NCDs make any sense, other than the one for Northside. If we search the archives here, there is a thread I remember about what would happen as "greensites" are no longer available and we would rebuild properties.

Some predicted that this very situation would occur - opposition to changing what exists, even if it might be more environmentally friendly and sustainable or a more efficient use of the land. Sure, this company is all about maximizing its profits, but can't they also be responsible citizens at the same time?

First, it's time to call a spade a spade. Regardless of how it was intended to be used, the NCD designation should be renamed to reflect the desired outcome of most who seek to deploy it- a "Never Change District."

Second, the idea that we combat the acceleration of southern Orange County housing prices and tax burdens by preventing the expansion of the housing stock downtown and in Glen Lennox is incredibly naive. The usual suggestion made is that new market rate housing means higher comps in the local market, raising assessments and property values and subsequently taxing people out of their homes. Of course, the never-acknowledged principal flaw in this argument is that existing home sales also create ever-increasing comps as well, accomplishing the same effect without new development.

Anyone who thinks that people are not being priced out of Chapel Hill/Carrboro all the time, and only when new development occurs- is kidding themselves. Even with the economy running out of steam these days, price appreciation in real estate of existing homes in the area is certainly outstripping the rate of wage/income growth for most individuals. We are constantly watching our thirtysomething friends who rent go through the same process- usually it's a childless couple with two salaries that makes just a little too much to qualify for OCHLT housing, but can't afford a condo, never mind a house in most of CH/C, and sooner or later, they move to Durham or somewhere else to become homeowners.

More recently, Chatham and Alamance are becoming places they wind up, where the development community builds essentially one type of housing. This housing stock is comprised of completely auto-dependent single-family homes that turn farmland into subdivisions, contribute to air pollution via ever-longer "supercommutes" from Burlington/Graham to Chapel Hill, Durham or RTP, and are permitted in jurisdictions with far lower levels of environmental protection than we find in Orange County.

There is a lot of room between "bulldoze the neighborhood" and "do nothing, pull up the gate and fill the moat, Chapel Hill was perfect 7 minutes after I got here!" Hopefully the discussion of the future of Glen Lennox can proceed with that in mind. In the meantime, I hope the idea of a NCD gets taken off the table. As far as I can tell, especially after watching what happened with Coker Hills, NCDs produce two things: acrimony within the neighborhood, and additional upward pressure on housing price acceleration in southern Orange County.
Leave it to The Onion!
The Chapel Hill Herald's editorial this morning made some key points about Glen Lenox and the Grubb plans. I think this is the great truth:
It comes down, of course, as it frequently does, to money. Grubb Properties, the owner of the Glen Lennox complex at the eastern edge of town, believes it can make a lot more money from the area by redeveloping it.
This is the CHH's hope:
We hope they mean it, and that if Glen Lennox has to be redeveloped, it will be done with care and concern, for those living there and for the entire community.
The Chapel Hill News also had one this morning and they focus on change:
Change, especially change on this scale, is frightening and, of course, enormously disruptive. Grubb will make its job much easier by being respectful of the residents, by communicating frequently and openly, and by actively and involving residents in the process.
What's very interesting to me is that Grubb is responding with their solutions of choice to the same economic and market forces that are also driving the local media to make the decisions that they do. Are the media respectful and making a big push to involve us in their process?  Some earlier threads here seem to say that there is not agreement on this.
I sense an unusual willingness on the part of the Grubbs to do the right thing by the Glen Lennox residents, acknowledging that their plans involve outright upheaval. I wonder if I would vacate my home with a promise of something "nicer" or "better" and still affordable in a couple of years. They're almost certainly not going to foot the bill for moving expenses and hardship. Also, there's no mention of the businesses in the Glen Lennox shopping center.

I believe Grubb is a developer from Lexington, NC. He was a property lawyer who began to pick up properties as he grew his practice. His first efforts here were the condo's at Jones Ferry Road and the bypass. He got Glen Lennox at a bargain price. Who wanted to take on the huge remodeling of those old apartments?

Glen Lennox is a bastion of affordable housing for a group almost extinct in Chapel Hill, retired teachers, government workers, widows and widowers of modest means. We could all of seen what was coming; they were living on borrowed time.

We will get at Glen Lennox a Meadowmont II with token "affordable" units and lots of the high end stuff. So goes Chapel Hill. I haven't seen any density housing in Meadowmont under $400K.  Can we put the restrictions of Northside on Glen Lennox?  Not likely and there's no power base.

The economics of all this is simple: put the most expensive development on Chapel Hill land that you can possible get approved. If the developer doesn't believe in that, his/her banker does.

What we need are development rules/regulations that enormously reward (time & denisty advantages) affordable housing and make mcmansions-as-usual extremely costly and time consuming.

Problem: the developers will still try to do the mcmansions. Marble counters and 6 baths rule.

I sense an unusual willingness on the part of the Grubbs to do the right thing by the Glen Lennox residents, acknowledging that their plans involve outright upheaval. I wonder if I would vacate my home with a promise of something "nicer" or "better" and still affordable in a couple of years. They're almost certainly not going to foot the bill for moving expenses and hardship. Also, there's no mention of the businesses in the Glen Lennox shopping center.

The redevelopment of Glen Lennox needs to have at least 2,934 units. That will be the only way to  provide the same 440 affordable housing units. (2934. x 15% = 440.) If, instead,  the redevelopment has significantly less units, we will not have 15% more affordable units provided, but, instead, we will lose a significant amount of affordable units that are now housing people. Where will those residents live???

There is also the problem of the cumulative effect of all the development planned for 54.  The Council will be hearing a proposed text amendment for Woodmont an alleged mixed-use proposal, across the street from Meadowmont.  That will be added to 54East and Meadowmont.

I agree with you wholeheartedly Terri, that sometimes landowners need to have some responsibility to the community.  Unfortunately, the financial rewards of density create too big a temptation for developers to consider the consequences of a dense development on every corner.  I hope that the Strategic Planning process asks whether this is what we want for Chapel Hill.




Del Snow


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