They seem to be sprouting up all over the community — on Elliott Road, along Fordham Boulevard, in Glen Lennox, down Eubanks Road: sleek, massive apartment complexes.
They are changing the look — and the feel — of our towns.
To some, it’s a sign of welcome growth, both inevitable and desired — more housing opportunities for residents and those wishing to become residents. For others, including some who have written to The Local Reporter, they are “humongous” and unsightly, and the writers doubt these complexes will ever be fully occupied.
What do you think? Are these new developments over all a benefit, expanding housing options locally, or are they disfiguring what we used to consider our unique charm? Will they help the local economy or be a drain on it? Are they going to make us more of an open, available community or less of one?
Tell us your opinion. Write a letter to the editor or submit a guest column. Or just tell us your thoughts; we may include those thoughts in a new story. Let’s get a dialogue going.
Evolution is not limited to finches and turtles. Towns too must evolve, or they die. This is not to say that every change is good…they’re not. But overall, I think Chapel Hill is headed in a good direction, modernizing and trying to diversify the tax base.
I feel the explosion of huge apartment buildings around Chapel Hill is awful. First, they are not architecturally interesting, they mostly look alike. The one in Glen Lennox is quite ugly in my view. Several story buildings built on wood are fire hazards I think. In 20 years people will ask “what were people thinking to allow these buiidings to go up?” Second, they disrupt traffic flow and burden the schools and other government services. There are new stoplights by Glen Lennox that will really slow down traffic on 15-501. The apartments going up on Ephesus Church Road will slow down traffic there. They may increase flooding due to the acres of impervious surfaces they collectively add. Third, I don’t think there is demand for so many large new buildings. I have never spotted anyone going in or out of the buildings near me. Who is going to live in all these apartments? What if the owners go bankrupt, and we are stuck looking at these ugly empty buildings? Our town has lost its charming wooded areas, now replaced by structures whose design is mediocre at best..
I am not opposed to growth, if it is done sensibly and properly, but unfortunately Chapel Hill has not adequately planned for growth and subsequently has not been designed for growth. To accommodate growth and avoid traffic congestion, it needs a road grid, plans for mass transit, like trains, subways, or gondolas, and many more protected bike lanes and sidewalks to connect all neighborhoods and commercial areas, as well as more parks, public green spaces, and street lighting. I am also sorry to say that I think that the multi-story apartment complexes built all over town are consistently devoid of any architectural charm, are mostly hideous looking, as well as being fire traps. I would never feel safe living in a multi-story building made of wood. Thus the beautiful little town of Chapel Hill that we moved to in 1990 no longer exists, having been marred by these unsightly structures that only contribute to congestion, and loss of green space.
I absolutely support these mid-scale apartment complexes along major bus routes to campus in order to relieve the pressure UNC students put on Orange County real estate. People who live and work year-round in Chapel Hill shouldn’t have to compete with undergrads for a few dwindling affordable apartments; new infill construction in already-developed areas is a great way to combat that trend. However, I’m concerned about the longevity of these 4-over-one podium buildings, which use a wooden balloon frame made of wood treated with frame retardant. And let’s be frank, no one’s really figured out how to make them more aesthetic. It also hasn’t escaped my notice that these were built where the Chapel Hill – Durham – Raleigh rail was slated to go; I imagine development was underway before that project was cancelled.
Editor’s Note: The Durham-Orange Light Rail corridor was planned to follow the route of NC Hwy 54, not MLK Jr. Blvd. or U.S. 15-501, where new apartment developments have been built.