As campaigning ramps up, we are again hearing a lot about “ugly” apartments in Blue Hill. The Berkshire, perhaps the most hated apartment building in town, has been driving people crazy for almost 8 years now (nobody lives near the Berkshire, so even if you accept that it is unattractive, it should really only bother people driving by or parking at Whole Foods).

For those who may be new to town, you might be wondering how beautiful it used to be. Here are a few examples:

What the Berkshire replaced

What the Elliot replaced

What the Trilogy replaced

What the Millennium is replacing

Do I love every new building in Blue Hill? No. But I’ve been around long enough to know that the area for decades was a dismal collection of strip malls and parking lots.

It’s difficult to transform a neighborhood like that, especially when there is a major freeway running through the middle of it (15-501 is a state controlled road, so the town is very limited in its ability to reduce car traffic and speeds – and the traffic is primarily coming from Chatham County, not the new apartments). But it’s starting to come together, especially with the opening of South Elliot Rd. In the coming years, trees and landscaping will fill in and we will have a critical mass of new residents with easy walking access to grocers and restaurants and shops – that’s great for our small businesses and our tax base as well as the environment.

I believe aesthetics matter – not as much as ensuring we have enough homes for people who need them – but they matter. And development in Blue Hill can certainly be improved. But we should be careful to elect people who actually want to make improvements, not those whose complaints about a beautiful yesteryear that never was become an excuse to not build the housing we desperately need.


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Stephen Whitlow lives in Chapel Hill. Trained as an urban planner at DCRP, he works for a research, evaluation, and technical assistance firm and focuses on the areas of housing affordability, fair housing,...