By Louie Horvath
Carrboro Commons Staff Writer
Twenty years ago, when Arne Gray built a cluster of student housing on North Greensboro Street, he never thought the residents would take so much pride in living in his self-made community.
They call it “Arneville.”
“For whatever reason, when I first started this, it became clear that I was focused on a particular block, and then the Town of Carrboro started to call it Arneville,” Gray said. “The mayor and the building inspection guys.”
It was a title that the inhabitants of Arneville were proud to cast upon themselves, and they did it less than subtly.
“Some of the first people that moved in put up a sign that said ‘Welcome to Arneville,” Gray said. “They printed T-shirts. I didn’t know this was happening. They said ‘Oh we could have given you one, but…’ And they printed Arneville money. Much of this went on and I didn’t know about it.”
Even though the sign is not there anymore, the residents still have a sense of pride and community from living in Arneville.
“I would say 50 percent of the people in Arneville stop by my house once a week,” Alex Walters, current renter, said. “It’s easy to drop in. We have TVs so people come over all the time to watch the basketball games.”
That is just the latest edition of the Arneville community.
“My oldest son went to UNC, and his friends were our first tenants,” Gray said.
From there, a trend had been established. Gray said that most of his business comes from referrals and from family lines — as the older brothers and sisters graduate, their younger siblings replace them.
It is all a part of a sense of community that just feels a little stronger in Arneville.
“It was fun and an honor and a pleasure for it to be called Arneville, but I understand there’s a sort of identity to the place,” Gray said about the personality of the development. “That’s important to those dwellers, not how it’s built.”
The people that rent in Arneville usually fit a certain mold. Not by design, but by chance. They usually have a strong sense of community — and if they don’t, they learn to pretty quickly.
It manifests itself in ways that you may expect — last year, when Gray underwent major surgery, the residents of Arneville made a map of the community using markers and crayons, and each resident signed the get-well card.
“I was pleased to get that, and it was just something that they did on their own accord,” Gray said.
And some ways you might not — outside of Walters’ house, there is a chicken coop with live chickens.
Being mechanically savvy is not new for Gray.
He built houses through high school and college because he needed to make money to send himself through school.
When he was in high school, he refurbished his own motorcycle.
“My father was a carpenter, and then he began building and designing boats and inventing things,” Gray explained. “I grew up around that.”
When Gray went to college, he moved to Carrboro in search of lower living costs, and then he never moved away. He lived in the big house with the wrap-around porch behind N. 503 Greensboro St. with his wife and four children.
When renting to college students, it is healthy to maintain a sense of humor.
Former renters described Gray as “crazy in a good way,” and that was something that Gray takes pride in.
“He keeps me off-balance,” Walters said. “There is a lot of things that he does that make sense to only him.”
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