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The neighborhood the South End boom has left behind

The Brookhill Village apartments along South Tryon Street and Remount Road were built in 1951and are in disrepair and many are vacant. They are part of a pocket of South End that isn't being redeveloped.
The Brookhill Village apartments along South Tryon Street and Remount Road were built in 1951and are in disrepair and many are vacant. They are part of a pocket of South End that isn't being redeveloped. dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com

South End’s building boom is spreading farther south and west, with new high-end apartments planned on industrial sites and vacant land. But at the corner of South Tryon Street and Remount Road, an apartment community from a different era sits unchanged, an eyesore to some and an oasis of affordability to others.

Privately owned Brookhill Village was developed in 1951. More than 100 single-story, wood-sided buildings with two to five units make up the 36-acre community, which sits on gently rolling hills with sweeping views of uptown’s skyscrapers.

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The Brookhill Village apartments along South Tryon Street and Remount Road were built in 1951and are in disrepair and many are vacant. They are part of a pocket of South End that isn't being redeveloped. Davie Hinshaw dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com

But Brookhill Village has seen better days. Paint is peeling off many of the green, yellow, pink and blue houses. Some have falling gutters and plywood in the doors and windows. Black heating oil tanks sit behind the low-slung buildings, arranged around courtyards and winding cul-de-sacs.

As South End booms nearby, it may be surprising Brookhill Village hasn’t been redeveloped. It’s at a major intersection five minutes from uptown, two blocks from Interstate 77, three blocks from the light rail and next to a major park.

But a complicated ownership structure could make any prospective redevelopment difficult.

And any redevelopment of the site could force out hundreds of low-income tenants who count on Brookhill as a place to live that’s close to major employment centers and plentiful public transit.

Willie Jones, 82, a retired U.S. Food Service worker, said he’s lived at Brookhill Village almost since it opened – Jones doesn’t recall the exact year – and pays $347 a month for a two-bedroom unit.

“It was beautiful,” said Jones, remembering Brookhill when he first moved there.

Like many residents at the site, he said he expects it will be redeveloped someday soon. And Jones said that wouldn’t be entirely a bad thing.

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Davie Hinshaw dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com

Split ownership for land, buildings

The actual land is owned by Brookhill Land, a company affiliated with C.D. Spangler, a prominent Charlotte business leader with a Forbes-estimated net worth of $2.6 billion.

Dick Cornwell, a representative of the company, said there are no plans to sell the Brookhill Village site and declined to comment further.

A separate company, Brookhill Village Two, actually owns the buildings on the site. Brookhill Village Two is managed by Greg Pappanastos, a real estate investor and developer who heads Argos Realty. In 2008, Brookhill Village Two acquired the buildings and a long-term lease for the property for $3.3 million, real estate records show.

Pappanastos declined to comment on Brookhill Village or any possible plans for the site.

Apartment developer Faison was rumored to be looking at the site last year as a redevelopment possibility. But Chris Branch, who heads apartment development for Faison, said the company isn’t currently involved with the Brookhill Village site. Instead, Faison is planning to build hundreds of apartments on a site across Tryon Street, at Dunavant and Hawkins streets.

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Davie Hinshaw dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com

Affordability is an issue

Charlotte City Council member LaWana Mayfield, who represents the area, said the split ownership structure holds back private redevelopment, and that there is little the city can do.

She said that any redevelopment, however, would risk losing one of the last, large apartment complexes in South End that low-income renters can afford. With apartment rents rising 4.8 percent in Charlotte according to the most recent numbers available from Real Data, to an average of $1,000, affordability is a pressing issue.

While apartment developers sometimes voluntarily include some units restricted to low-income renters to help gain City Council approval, the city can’t require private developers to include a certain number of low-income units. That means that redeveloping Brookhill Village could, in theory, replace all of the units there with market rate apartments.

“My biggest fear is that will happen with Brookhill,” said Mayfield.

Photos: Davie Hinshaw/Charlotte Observer

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