Chapel Hill News

August 3, 2014

Changes, price increases frustrate Chapel Hill apartment residents

Residents of the former Foxcroft Apartments say noise, trash and hefty rent increases are driving many out of the community despite a major renovation underway.

Residents of the former Foxcroft Apartments say noise, trash and hefty rent increases are driving many out of the community despite a major renovation that’s underway.

Chapel Hill-based Eller Capital Partners bought the 22-acre complex near Erwin Road and U.S. 15-501 – now The Apartments at Midtown 501 – in November. The renovation of 248 apartments and the clubhouse started May 28 and could be finished by October, said Daniel Eller, president of Eller Capital Partners. The first renovated apartments will be ready this month, he said.

“The result of the project is a more modern appearance, new covered balconies, new siding, new energy-efficient windows and doors, new roofs, better insulation, and improved exterior lighting,” Eller said.

The improvements were needed, residents said, but they are concerned about the amount of work being done at once, the limited information available and the trash and construction debris spread across the 40-year-old complex.

Five-year residents Evan Galloway and his wife Elizabeth Zander are leaving in mid-August.

Doors and windows have been boarded up, patios and balconies closed for the summer and the noise of jackhammers and work crews pounding in adjacent apartments have made it hard for his wife to work from home, Galloway said. The crews work from 8 a.m. until well past 6:30 p.m., he said.

The construction also has kept families and children indoors in the normally active community, he said. They’ve had to rely on friends to do laundry, he said, because the laundry room wasn’t maintained and now is closed for renovations. The pool didn’t open until early July.

Galloway said he wrote management about the issues, but he doesn’t think they really care.

“No doubt, these apartments are just an investment for you. But they are also our homes – the sanctuaries we retreat to, hoping for a bit of peace and quiet,” he wrote. “For some of us, these are also the places that we raise our children, get our work done, or spend the days of our retirement.”

The town has gotten more complaints than expected, inspections manager Chelsea Laws said, but it’s not unusual considering the number of affected residents. Inspectors did stop the work for a few days after finding “some pretty dangerous existing conditions, like rotten deck bands, that makes this construction project necessary in order to ensure tenant safety long term,” she said.

Crews installed temporary roofs to protect residents from potential falling debris, and the stop-work order was lifted July 25, she said. They directed other complaints to civil court or to the Chapel Hill Police Department, she said.

Police Lt. Josh Mecimore said the department hasn’t received any complaints from the complex. The town’s noise rules permit construction between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. on weekdays and between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. on weekends.

Residents said their biggest concern, however, is how to afford the new, luxury apartments.

John Edelen, who uses a wheelchair, moved into Foxcroft nine years ago to care for his aging father. While the construction makes it difficult for him to get around, Edelen said he’s also worried about money, since his father died in December, leaving him on a fixed income.

He already heard the rent for his two-bedroom apartment will go up roughly 60 percent, from $821 to roughly $1,300 a month, he said.

Eller said he doesn’t know how many are leaving, but he understands the frustration. They thought about doing a few buildings at a time, but decided two large phases would be faster, he said. Residents recently were offered yearlong lease extensions at the same rate and a $500 rebate to offset any inconvenience from the construction, documents show.

“Despite the modest rent increase relative to the scope of the improvements that we are making, we do understand that some current residents may not be able to afford the higher rents,” Eller said. “Because of this we have offered all residents the opportunity to move to any other community that we own in Chapel Hill, and we have offered very similar incentives in the event that they want to do that.”

Eller Capital Partners is spending roughly $68 million to buy and renovate 590 apartments at Foxcroft and two other local complexes: the 144-unit Timberlyne Village and 198-unit Timber Hollow Apartments, both built in the 1980s. Eller Capital plans to add 109 new apartments to Timber Hollow.

Town Council members questioned the potential loss of Timber Hollow’s affordable apartments before approving that project May 28. Eller Capital Properties has agreed to keep 14 apartments affordable and limit rent increases for longtime tenants to roughly 3 percent to 5 percent a year.

A two-bedroom Timber Hollow apartment formerly rented for $975 a month. Current rental rates for Timber Hollow and 86 North were not available.

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