Glen Lennox developer to Town: "just kidding!"

I still can't decide which of Clay Grubb's statements is more ridiculous: the description of Glen Lennox as "in decline" (how does he think it got that way?) or last month's admission that his proposal to redevelop the property was "done hastily" and wasn't really a very good idea. A month ago, I was open to the idea of at least some changes in Glen Lennox, but at this point I kinda want to put a moratorium on development until we can convince the guy to just sell the whole thing.

The president of Grubb Properties said Wednesday night that his company's initial plans to redevelop the Glen Lennox neighborhood and shopping center failed to respect the community's character.

"I do not think the plan was sensitive to the history of Glen Lennox. I apologize," Clay Grubb told the Chapel Hill Town Council. "That was a plan that was done hastily."

[...] "Our current plan does not preserve the unique character that makes up Glen Lennox's heart and soul," he said.

- Plan 'done hastily,' developer says, 6/26/08

Is this really someone we want building an enormous complex of nearly a thousand home and businesses on one of the most prominent and essential thoroughfares in our town?


How about giving the guy some grace for listening and attempting to be collaborative?     I saw his comments as those of someone who is trying to listen and learn and integrate that information into his own plan and see if there is a way to move forward differently. 



In this era that is defined by George W. Bush being unwilling to admit mistakes, many of us are satisfied with a person simply admitting their mistakes. However, there are also those who, rightfully in many cases, believe that simply admitting mistakes is not enough. That a person should have to be held accountable for those mistakes.

This situation is a perfect example of how reasonable people can disagree based on which point-of-view they bring with them. Is he a careless developer that got his hand slapped and is now trying to appear concerned; or, is he a reasonable man that made an honest mistake and now wants to correct it to the satisfaction of all?

Time will tell.

One man with courage makes a majority.

- Andrew Jackson


You can certainly make the argument that the owner let this property decline over the years but as a long-time homeowner in several different parts of the country I can attest to the fact that what some might call decline (and what Mr. Grubb might have been referring to) is really obsolesence associated with age. I think Mr. Grubb even made the point (not sure if it was in print or at the Council meeting) that electric wiring and systems built 50-60 years ago weren't designed to handle the loads generated by always-on (even when off) TVs, radios, computers, etc. as well as larger appliances such as washers, dryers, dishwashers, etc.

Even if you put larger cicuit breaker boxes in, the wiring itself can't handle the load and could actually be a danger in overloaded situations. So decline isn't just measured in sheetrock, and paint, and roofing materials but the basic infrastructure as well.

I think Robert P was correct in that the sincerity of Mt. Grubb's apology and his future intentions will only be able to be measured by his actions going forward.


Did you see Ariana Mangum's letter to the Editor in today's Chapel Hill News?

She makes an excellent point about the possibility of updating without re-scaling. She's got the right idea that one can upgrade and renovate without destroying what is irreplaceable.


I never said that the Glen Lennox apartments couldn't be upgraded. Heck, I've seen 200+ year-old homes and buildings beautifully restored and updated while retaining all of the original charm (from an aesthetic point, at least). But these restorations are usually pretty costly and I have no idea what it would cost to restore and update the Glen Lennox apartments while maintaining the same scale. I'm sure that this issue will be fully discussed when Mr. Grubb meets with the residents, neighbors and town officials. I hope that everyone involved will listen carefully to what each person has to say and that a meaningful discussion will lead to a solution that has at least something in it for everyone. It certainly won't be easy but the alternative is not very attractive.

I & my family lived at Glen Lonnox for approximately one year.  Grubb, et al does a very good job with the place.  A great deal of effort & money is spent on maintaining the landscaping & general appearance.  Whenever something went wrong in our apartment, maintainance was prompt.  The comments about the complex being outdated are accurate.  Not only are the wiring and plumbing outdated, the kitchens are tiny and inadequate and the insulation is non-existant.   Remodeling is probably not a realistic option as remodeling costs usually exceed those of new construction, and with new construction comes the opportunity to create a brand new design unencumbered by the superannunated.  In short, I would like to see the old buildings torn down & replaced by a new concept.

I had Greg Brusseau from Save Glen Lennox on The West End Report (WCOM 103.5 Wednesdays at 6pm

It is not that the neighborhood conservation does not want change or growth or development done to Glen Lennox, it is that they want the "Right" kind of change. They don't want to walk out of their house and see a 9-story hotel and a parking deck.

Do we really need more priced out condos and apartments in this area? Do we need more retail and parking decks? Do we need another hotel to compete with the new Franklin Hotel?

Yes, everyone agrees that something should be done with Glen Lennox--but nobody, including Grubb Properties, is really sure about exactly what needs to be done.

So until there are definite answers, maybe the next best thing is to leave it alone.




Until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each other's welfare, social justice can never be attained.” Helen Keller

There are a lot of opportunities between doing nothing and totally obliterating the neighborhood. Those who say the place is "outdated" lack an understanding of the timeless and unreplaceable presence of 'dwellings at the feet of majestic trees.' The attitude of tabula rasa can only come from some mind and body that hasn't walked in the neighborhood on quiet summer nights - as I just did. The hub-bub of East 54 is some to come and will be enough "updating" around here for a while. While some of the infrastructure serving the buildings could be updated, it simply doesn't not require a 'baby with the bath water' approach. I don't understand why Ruby is quick to look for Grubb to sell it? Clay Grubb and his family have experiences here in Chapel Hill. He has an opportunity to really benefit the Town and neighborhood by improving the commercial section and, possibly, re-forming some of the more edificed-challenged structures. Certainly, the Town and the neighborhood does not need gentrifying. Please don't beg this developer to make another "upscale" neighborhood. We desperately need a maintain a "social scale" orientation. If the residential component could be reformed to create housing opportunities for fire fighters, elementary school teachers, nursing, restaurant workers, service employees who can use local transit options or walk (the neighborhood has a fire station, Glenwood Elementary, and UNC Hospital within bike/walk distance) without destroying the tree canopy or ripping housing from underneath long term tenants, then it could measured it "social" and "green" criteria. The viability of commerical could be enhanced by studying the live/work units that succeeded in Greensboro's South Side neighborhood. If Clay and his team could think beyond the "merely money motivated" solutions, nearly all of us could get behind development. None of us are interested in the pitiful anti-development rhetoric and dance. Let's not throw "hastily drawn" plans out there and call it starting a dialogue. Let's work toward building the Town fabric for the future, for us.

According to :

"Our decision to withdraw the initial concept plan was really made to allow the focus on working together with the neighborhood community on the conservation process before coming together to form a new idea," said Jim Schaafsma, senior vice president of planning and development for Grubb Properties.

When the company announced redevelopment plans last spring, residents of the cottage-style apartments and their neighbors mobilized, sending letters to Town Hall, creating a Web site at and selling T-shirts.

Senior town planner Kay Pearlstein said it was unusual for a developer to withdraw a concept plan before presenting it to the Chapel Hill Community Design Commission, the first step in the development process. The concept plan was supposed to go under review at a commission meeting Aug. 20.

This is good news, and I will give credit to the developer for being open-minded and listening to the neighborhood and the town. It also shows that there is a lot of power in community organizing.

I was surprised to note in this article that architect Josh Gurlitz is working on this project. Josh is very community-minded and although I don't always agree with him, I am surprised he would have been a part of something this out of scale.

The N&O article will be the topic of today's West End Report when Greg Brusseau comes on. Listen at 6pm 103.5 LPFM


“Until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each other's welfare, social justice can never be attained.” Helen Keller


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