By Emma Witman
Carrboro Commons Staff Writer
The rows of housing along 503 and 505 N. Greensboro St. are affectionately referred to as Arneville, after Arne Gray, who built them. It’s been a tight-knit student community for years, but now it’s heading into a new phase of life — retirement.
The properties are currently on the market, and the strongest prospective buyer would like to convert them into cohousing units designed for “empty nesters,” or parents whose children have grown up and left home, Gray said.
In cohousing, residents living in the community share certain resources, such as communal dining and cooking. But the units planned for Arneville are different, he said.
“There is the idea of cohousing, and then there’s this project, which is more kind of like for an empty nester. I hesitate to say senior cohousing, but cohousing for people who are downsizing,” Gray said. “It’s looking to that population of people who want to downsize as they get a little older and who want to live in a format where they can take care of one another.”
Cohousing is not a foreign concept to Carrboro. There are at least two other cohousing communities in town, including nearby Pacifica at the end of Hanna Street, where the prospective buyers reside.
Arneville’s specific configuration would be the first of its kind in the area and probably the state, Gray said. The plans won’t be solidified until about six to 12 people who would want to buy the properties can be identified.
But while the change is an interesting option for potential future residents, it’s a bit of a disappointment for the students who love living there already. Current tenants and those signed for next year’s lease won’t be affected.
Alexis Georgeson, a rising senior Psychology major who lives in 505c, affirmed what many residents have often spoken to — the pride and camaraderie of the students who live in Arneville.
“[The cohousing plan] sounds like a cool idea, but it’s kind of sad too, because this community has really been built up and is cherished by the students who live here,” Georgeson said. “It’s a shame that it can’t continue to blossom. It’s an awesomely convenient place for students to live.”
But the same reason the area holds a convenience for students, especially those living without cars, is the same reason it’s attractive to a more senior crowd, Gray said.
“There’s the Harris Teeter right down the road, and a pharmacy. There’s a hardware store, everything a person would need,” he said. “You can live in this part community and never get in a car.”
Gray is familiar with cohousing neighborhoods — or, as he said they were more commonly referred to when he lived in one, “communes.” He raised his children in a cohousing community in Durham and said there were many benefits to the arrangement.
“It’s economical, just a small example being that you can live in a two bedroom house and have access to a lot more than two bedrooms’ worth of services and space,” he said. “There’s an economy to it. That is what appeals to some people.”
And Gray said there are more than just purely economic benefits to cohousing.
“Usually they’re designed so that there are a number of focuses and activities that you can take advantage of, which don’t exist in a standard neighborhood,” he said.
But the demographic shift, Gray said, would nevertheless be a reality.
“It’s going from different ends of the age spectrum, but that’s the interest of these people,” he said.
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