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Monday, October 6, 2014

Greystone Inn apartments: big, bulky and we'll say it, ugly

Posted by on Mon, Oct 6, 2014 at 9:10 AM

The project is still too big.

That’s the takeaway from a revised report about the proposed Greystone Inn Apartments, issued by Durham planning department.



Lomax Properties of Greensboro, the developers of a proposed apartment complex at Duke Street and Morehead Avenue, have improved some aspects of the project, but it still has 140 units. It still has three buildings. And it still does not meet all the standards to be built in the Morehead Hill Historic District.

The Historic Preservation Commission will hear the revised proposal on Tuesday morning at 8:30 in the second floor conference room of Durham City Hall. Since the development is proposed for the Morehead Hill Historic District, it must go before the commission to receive a certificate of appropriateness before it can be built.

As the INDY reported in August, Lomax Properties and Horvath Associates, a Durham civil engineering/land planning firm, want to construct the Greystone Inn apartments on a 3.6-acre grassy meadow next to the historic Greystone Inn. Under the plan, the inn, built in 1911, would become a clubhouse and conference center.

A Greensboro developer wants to build 140 apartments in three buildings on this meadow next to the historic Greystone Inn. The inn would become a conference center and clubhouse. - LISA SORG
  • Lisa Sorg
  • A Greensboro developer wants to build 140 apartments in three buildings on this meadow next to the historic Greystone Inn. The inn would become a conference center and clubhouse.


While the revised proposal heeds some of the commission’s previous recommendations—it eliminates a path between the apartments and the inn, moves the swimming pool, switches the window hangings from vinyl to aluminum, and saves eight trees along Morehead Avenue—the size and mass of the project remains a concern. (Judging from architectural renderings in the report, the apartment buildings resemble a Marriott.)

At three and four stories, the apartment buildings would tower over the smaller single-family homes in the neighborhood. At nine stories, the JJ Henderson Housing Center sits diagonally from the proposed site. But Henderson Towers, as it’s known, lies outside of the district. The Durham Housing Authority owns the property.

The analysis did acknowledge that since the proposed apartments are on the edge of the district and along a major thoroug fare—the Durham freeway runs below and behind the land—larger structures could be built there. However, the mass of the buildings still “visually dominate the existing streetscape” and the density would “alter the pastoral character of the landmark site,” the report said. 

At an August hearing, the commission criticized the project for failing to meet even the minimum guidelines. "I would have no idea they even knew we have historic guidelines," said HPC member James Leis on Aug. 5. "There was no indication it was on the radar."

The developers then asked for a continuance until tomorrow’s meeting. In August, Randall Brame, who owns the property, told the INDY he would sue the city if it prevents the project from being approved.






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