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North Raleigh neighborhood sees infill homes

Ausmel Hernandez, left, and Carlos Benegas work to connect the sewer line at a new home being built on Langely Circle in Chestnut Hills. The neighborhood has seen many older homes torn down to make way for new, more expensive homes.
Ausmel Hernandez, left, and Carlos Benegas work to connect the sewer line at a new home being built on Langely Circle in Chestnut Hills. The neighborhood has seen many older homes torn down to make way for new, more expensive homes. jhknight@newsobserver.com

When Nate and Niki Kohari started searching for a home to buy, the couple had a tall order in mind.

They liked the features of new houses but also wanted to live in a neighborhood with a sense of community and history.

“It’s hard to find a new house that’s in an old neighborhood,” said Niki Kohari, 32, who owns a software development business with her husband.

Then they came across Chestnut Hills, a neighborhood off of Six Forks Road that’s been around for decades. It’s about a mile north of the stores and restaurants in North Hills and walking distance to Shelley Lake. A mix of young families and retirees live on Shelley Road and nearby side streets.

Since around 2006, builders have torn down dozens of ranch houses and small two-story houses in the area to make way for bigger, fancier homes.

Chestnut Hills is just what the Koharis wanted: a new house in an old neighborhood, and one without an inside-the-Beltline premium on its price tag.

With land scarce in the area, builders expect the infill trend in Chestnut Hills will continue.

Michael Poupard, founder of Grayson Homes, built the house the Koharis ended up in. He said he hears frequently from buyers that they’re seeking easy access to North Hills and the rest of Raleigh.

“Chestnut Hill is that little pocket that’s convenient,” he said.

The neighborhood’s older homes typically are replaced by homes of 3,000 to 3,500 square feet that sell for as much as $750,000.

Paul Baggett, owner of Allure Homes, has built about 15 houses in the neighborhood. He said builders are interested in lots where the houses haven’t been maintained and aren’t likely to draw a new buyer, even if remodeled.

Baggett thinks there may be as many as 100 houses in Chestnut Hills that builders would replace because of their poor condition. But there are also many he expects to remain as is, currently selling for between $350,000 and $400,000.

So far, the changes in Chestnut Hills haven’t caused the kind of pitched debate that emerged inside the Beltline around 2008 about infill housing. Neighbors then said quality houses were too often being torn down and replaced with houses that loomed over the neighborhood.

Today, the city’s development rules address infill housing, whether on teardown or vacant lots, with standards for items such as street setbacks and side wall heights.

Derek Bateson, broker-in-charge at Bateson Realty, represents Grayson in Chestnut Hills. He said some neighbors are excited about how the houses could affect the value of their own homes, while others aren’t still fans.

“I think it’s a mixed bag,” he said. “But I think your average person realizes that progress never stops.”

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