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The Daily Tar Heel

Greenbridge development raises concerns

Developers seek to help economy

Greenbridge, an environmentally friendly residential community in downtown Chapel Hill, had its official ribbon cutting ceremony Oct. 1.
Greenbridge, an environmentally friendly residential community in downtown Chapel Hill, had its official ribbon cutting ceremony Oct. 1.

This story appeared as part of the 2010 Year In Review issue. The Daily Tar Heel resumes publication Jan. 10.

James Richardson has lived in Northside neighborhood for five years and has seen the impacts of a newly constructed development in the area — Greenbridge.

“I can walk someone through the neighborhood and point to houses that have been bought by investors,” he said.

Richardson said he was recently asked to vacate the property he was renting because his landlord was looking to sell to investors.

“Greenbridge is part of a larger system of changes,” said Richardson, who is involved with groups opposed to the project.

“Chapel Hill has the pretense that we are a liberal utopia where there are not social conflicts, but that’s just not true.”

Planning for Greenbridge, a 97-unit environmentally sustainable living project in Chapel Hill, began in 2005, and an official ribbon cutting ceremony was held Oct. 1.

Since then, the development has generated a great deal of controversy.

The historically black neighborhood that hosts it is home to some who said they saw Greenbridge as the gentrification of a storied community.

Some community members said they are worried that the new development will change the character of the neighborhood by bringing in businesses that did not market to its working-class residents.

“The neighborhood is on the decline because of the developments and the goals of the town,” Richardson said.

But Jim Norton, executive director of the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership, said Greenbridge will have a positive economic impact on the downtown area, though it will take time.

“Over time the residents and their spending patterns will create economic opportunities for new businesses,” Norton said.

Mildred “Mama Dip” Council, who owns Mama Dip’s southern food restaurant, said she hasn’t noticed any effect on her business.

“None at all because those peoples up there cook for themselves,” Council said.

But Council said she thinks her property values have gone up since Greenbridge began construction.

Frank Phoenix, a partner and resident of Greenbridge, said he believes that the project is beneficial for the community.

“There were two abandoned houses on the property and if you wanted to buy crack in Chapel Hill, this is where you came,” Phoenix said. “We took a liability and turned it into an asset.”

To ensure that members of the community were given a voice during the development, public hearings were held throughout the approval process.

But groups like United with the Northside Community Now are still campaigning against Greenbridge and any similar future developments.

“Greenbridge tries to excuse itself by saying it is only a small part of the problem,” Richardson said.

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