A glance west down Rosemary Street confirms the progress of a controversial 10-story development among low-slung businesses and homes.
Future occupants have purchased more than half of the units set to be built in the skeleton framework of the Greenbridge development.
As it takes shape, its neighbors must come to terms with a changing landscape and community dynamic.
Despite a regional slump in real estate sales, the environmentally conscious mixed-use development is on track to finish construction and sell all of its units by its projected opening in June 2010, developers said.
“Our sales rate is the fastest yet,” said Tim Toben, a Greenbridge Developments partner.
Fifty-eight of the development’s 98 residential units had been sold as of Friday, as well as 60 percent of the available commercial space.
About half of the future owners are out-of-towners, Toben said. He said he expects the final units will go to alumni who come into town for sports events.
Toben attributes the sales volume in part to the growing physical presence of the structure. The 10- and seven-story towers topped out in August, and the exterior brickwork and green roof, which uses plants to regulate temperature, are now under construction.
Greenbridge’s development has seen much resistance from the surrounding Northside community and UNC activists decrying the spread of gentrification.
Northside, traditionally a black neighborhood, recently has seen rising taxes and a changing population as families move out and student renters move in, residents have said.
Though Greenbridge development representatives said they tried to engage the community throughout the planning process, opponents have accused developers of manipulating public sentiment in their favor.
Now, as the two towers of Greenbridge climb above the neighborhood, some residents described difficulties as a part of the development’s continued growth.
“Of course there are growing pains,” said Dianne Pledger, a member of the Steward Board of St. Paul’s AME Church. The church lies across Merritt Mill Road from the development.
Through an agreement with Greenbridge, parishioners will have parking spaces in the development’s underground garage, she said.
But not all of Northside’s residents are interested in working together with Toben and his staff.
A strongly worded open letter authored by a group of “concerned residents of Northside” appeared in Sunday’s Chapel Hill News, calling on prospective Greenbridge buyers to reconsider.
“Any residents who move in that building will be unwelcome,” said Elizabeth Albiston, spokeswoman for the group, adding that the group hopes to send a message to future developers.
Toben and his staff insisted that they have the support of Northside.
“These statements don’t represent the sentiments of the Northside neighbors we know,” Toben said.
One of those neighbors is Mildred “Mama Dip” Council, owner of the country cooking restaurant Mama Dip’s, which lies on the edge of the Northside neighborhood.
Council said she is pleased to see the town growing, but the increasing property values of the neighborhood have made it harder for her to see a future for the restaurant. Greenbridge is part of those rising taxes, she said.
“My taxes ain’t gonna come back down, no matter how raggedy the building gets,” Council said. “I got to wonder, ‘What’s gonna happen to Mama Dip’s?’”
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