Published: Nov 17, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Nov 16, 2012 08:54 PM
Two large proposed development projects are at various stages of progress in the town of Chapel Hill’s approval process, and one of them could learn from the other.
Developer Clay Grubb has been at work for more than four years on a plan to redevelop the Glen Lennox community on N.C. 54 East. His original notion was to essentially tear down the longtime residential neighborhood of cozy single-story homes and its small shopping center and replace them with a project that could hardly be more different: an urban development that would include more than 900 homes, a 700-seat movie theater, three parking decks and a high-rise hotel.
Not surprisingly, that plan was greeted with a widespread howl of protest.
And upon further reflection, Grubb came to the conclusion that that he was on the wrong track with Glen Lennox. He withdrew the plan, admitting that it fell short of respecting the neighborhood’s character and history, and apologized for what he acknowledged was a hastily drawn proposal.
For two years Grubb worked with residents to craft principles to guide what eventually became a Neighborhood Conservation District plan for Glen Lennox. It was time-consuming and difficult, involving more meetings and discussions than anyone could count, but it was a genuinely collaborative process that led to compromise, agreement and good will between community and developer.
The Town Council recently voted to move forward with the next step of the Glen Lennox project, a development agreement between the developer and the town. We don’t suppose that the ultimate shape of the redevelopment will be met with unanimous and universal approval by one and all – that would be a first – but it will reflect a spirit of collaboration and respect for residents and their concerns.
At the same Town Council meeting on Nov. 5, the town considered the $500 million Obey Creek project being proposed off U.S. 15-501 South by developer Roger Perry (whose East 54 development, as it happens, stand just across N.C. 54 from Glen Lennox).
In that instance, the council said the project needs more community input, of the sort that came to characterize Glen Lennox. Town staff, Perry and a consultant will draft a plan to incorporate more community discussion.
The two projects, Glen Lennox and Obey Creek, differ in significant ways. Perhaps most obviously, Glen Lennox is an existing, close-knit neighborhood, where the original proposed redevelopment would have uprooted hundreds of residents, while the Obey Creek tract is undeveloped land. The development would displace plenty of birds, mammals and other critters, but no people.
Which is hardly to say it doesn’t matter what happens there. It matters a great deal, not only because open space has value of its own, but because a project the scale of Obey Creek will affect a great many people who live in Southern Village and other nearby areas.
So we hope that as the Obey Creek proposal proceeds, its principals – Perry, residents and the town – will take to heart the lessons learned at Glen Lennox.
All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be published, broadcast or redistributed in any manner.