Comfort? Conscience?

Perhaps it’s my Midwest, Protestant upbringing that prevents me from enjoying a party unless everyone is invited.

Every year, I go on the Parade of Homes, touring only the priciest entries. I love seeing what people with more money than they know what to do with do with it. The economy has had its effect this year, for sure. The highest-priced homes are less ostentatious than in years past but still are beautiful places to call home. And that is no less true at Greenbridge, which not only has its $1,011,000 condo open for Parade but all the lower-priced units on that floor open as well. By lower-priced, I mean high $600,000s to about $800,000. And that doesn’t include the monthly maintenance fee.

The high prices surprised me. When I got home, I got on the Internet and saw that condos in Manhattan were a much better deal. And Manhattan has more public green space than Chapel Hill.

Looking out toward the horizon, you’d wonder why Chapel Hill needs a tree ordinance. From the vantage point of eight stories up, Chapel Hill and Carrboro appear to have a tree canopy of about 95 percent. It was only when I looked down that I got a little uneasy.

Views of the street show the rooftops of modest businesses and the houses and yards of a neighborhood that is a mix of working class, once-were-and-would-like-to-be-again-working class and given-up-hope-of-ever-again-working class.

The Greenbridge brochure I picked up when I entered the building read “Comfort. Conscience.” The adjectives were synonyms if you looked up and over at the grass-topped roofs of the adjacent wing of Greenbridge, but antonyms if you looked down.

No doubt about it, you’d have to be well off financially to buy a unit in Greenbridge. And maybe siting a luxury apartment building across the street from residents who could never aspire to live there unless they won the lottery is part of the “Conscience” half of Greenbridge’s marketing campaign. Maybe every time they enter their condos, Greenbridge residents remember how fortunate they are, and that inspires them to volunteer at the shelter or write a sizeable check to a human services nonprofit.

This is the last weekend of Parade. Tour Greenbridge. And make sure you look down.
– Nancy Oates

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  1. Here’s a photo from Greenbridge looking down on Northside’s Graham St.

    From Greenbridge

  2. Steve Brown

     /  October 15, 2010

    Eco-bats are the biggest snobs going these days. “comfort-conscience” – yeah. And if they ignored all the marketing drivel they would probably see what a huge negative environmental impact that building has, in spite of claims otherwise.

    They should rename it Hypocritical Arms Apartments.

  3. Mark Marcoplos

     /  October 15, 2010

    Some more info to round out the reporting:
    From the N&O,
    The building includes 97 condominium units, most of which have been bought, and 36,000 square feet of retail and office space. While the market-rate condos range in price from $259,000 to nearly $1.5 million, 15 are priced at less than $100,000 – affordable units mandated by town guidelines and sold through a collaboration with the Community Home Trust.

    “This is a terrific opportunity,” said Robert Dowling, executive director of Community Home Trust. “Most of the people who have bought these are young single people or couples who work at UNC and can walk or bike almost everywhere they go. We sold these units and all the ones at East 54 much faster than I expected.”

    Read more:

  4. Mark Marcoplos

     /  October 15, 2010

    Steve – here’s a link to Greenbridge’s web-site where some of its green features are listed. Maybe you could critique those features for us and also provide an example of what you would consider to be a non-hypocritical structure.

  5. Geoff Green

     /  October 15, 2010

    Make sure you don’t get stuck in the elevator for 90 minutes, like I did… (In fairness, they wrote me a nice letter of apology and sent a small gift basket.)

    I find the condos overpriced as well, but I suppose I’m not the target audience. I don’t particularly understand the complaints about its environmental impact. It’s got a much smaller environmental footprint than however many number of equivalently sized houses on half-acre lots.

  6. Steve Brown

     /  October 15, 2010

    Mr. Marcopolos- I will try to find the recent study that stated that LEED buildings are no more energy efficient than non-LEED. Shocking, I know.

    Mr. Green- by your logic then, the world would be better off and have a smaller “environmental footprint” if everyone lived in a place like Hong Kong, correct? And do you have any factual data to say that the environmental footprint is in fact smaller for such a place?

    There sure are a lot of folks fooled by the green marketing claims. What would be great is to see where this place comes out a year from now with its claim of “50% more efficient” systems. I think I already know the answer.

  7. Steve Brown

     /  October 15, 2010

    Here is one article that debunks LEED and its claim to energy savings:

  8. Scott Maitland

     /  October 17, 2010

    I take issue with the idea that residents of Northside can’t aspire to live in Greenbridge one day. I suspect Mildred Council could live there if she wanted to. So could Dovonte Edwards. I understand the sentiment expressed in the column and I agree most people in Northside will never be able to accomplish living in Greenside. However, the first step in accomplishing something is to aspire to do it. My experience as a Blue Ribbon Mentor in Chapel Hill was that my mentee – living in Northside – had no clue as to how different life could be. Maybe some other young Northside resident will see Greenbridge and be inspired to live differently than he does now. In that sense isn’t it a good thing that Greenbridge is in Northside instead of in Meadowmount?

  9. Terri Buckner

     /  October 17, 2010

    Did you mean to imply that life in a small house is inferior to life in an overpriced high rise? There may be some who aspire to life in a high rise, but others of us are perfectly happy with our feet on the ground along with our tomatoes. Two different choices–neither better than the other. I would have preferred to see Greenbridge in Meadowmont where it would be more in character with the surrounding community.

  10. Mark Marcoplos

     /  October 18, 2010

    Steve, I am in total agreement with you about LEED certification.

    The Greenbridge web-site actually listed specific energy-efficient and resource-efficient features that are pretty hard tp portray as anti-environmental.

  11. Steve Brown

     /  October 18, 2010

    Well, the water source heat pumps they are so proud and leading-edge about for example have been around forever. There are high and not so high efficiency ones. Wonder which they used? To say they used water source heat pumps is pretty much saying nothing. But of course to most people it sounds cool and green.

    And variable refrigerant systems are much more efficient than either. But of course they are a bit more expensive but if I were buying a Multi Million dollar Green condo I sure would expect if not demand a VRF system.

  12. Geoff Green

     /  October 21, 2010

    Steve: “Mr. Green- by your logic then, the world would be better off and have a smaller “environmental footprint” if everyone lived in a place like Hong Kong, correct?”

    Yes. Of course not everyone would want to live in such a community, but that’s why environmental footprint is not the sole criteria for real estate development.

    Following up on your LEED comments, Steve and Mark, one problem with LEED certification is that it doesn’t take location into account. You could build a very green, LEED-triple platinum certified home in the middle of a 250-acre nature preserve, but it wouldn’t account for the fact that the entire carbon footprint of the household is much greater due to the need to drive everywhere. In that sense, Greenbridge’s location is helpful, because it should reduce the number of car trips that a similarly sized building would produce in a less dense and walkable location.

    Terri: “. I would have preferred to see Greenbridge in Meadowmont where it would be more in character with the surrounding community.”

    Really? Downtown is a walkable community with multi-story buildings lining the main street next to each other, several larger buildings like the ones at University Square, and it’s the center of town. It’s the densest part of Chapel Hill and the most logical place to put a single dense residential structure. It’s got the most convenient access to extensive public transportation. While the Walk Score metric has its limitations, it scores much higher than anywhere else in Chapel Hill, including Meadowmont. It’s difficult for me to think of anyplace else to put such a building. The only thing that Greenbridge would have more in common with the “surrounding community” with Meadowmont than with Northside is that Meadowmont households are, in general, more wealthy (or at least had more assets with which to purchase more expensive homes). That doesn’t seem to be enough of a reason to place it there.

  13. Scott Maitland

     /  October 25, 2010

    Terri, I didn’t imply anything. I was reacting specifically to the following line in the original post:
    “And maybe siting a luxury apartment building across the street from residents who could never aspire to live there unless they won the lottery is part of the “Conscience” half of Greenbridge’s marketing campaign.”

    And the idea that one is better than the other is not only a personal choice but irrelevant to the point I was making, to wit: People in Northside can aspire to live in Greenbridge. Whether they want to come or not is up to them. However, whether they reject it or not, it’s nice that they can see that there are other options to how they live.