A Community up for Grabs

There’s an interesting piece on the news yesterday and today about a community of 22 homes near Charlotte, North Carolina that has agreed to sell all of their homes collectively to a major developer. The residents realized that by selling their entire community collectively, versus as individual houses and lots, it will result in each home being sold for two to three times as much as they’d get individually.

Not bad. I’d be up for that.

Their goal is for a single developer to buy the whole thing, demolish the homes, and build a development filled with McMansions.

Yet, there’s something about it that scares me.

Fortunately, the “community” that is being sold is more of a development than a neighborhood. There were no local markets, no schools and no churches. And despite the two news reports I saw (on separate networks) claiming that this was the “all American neighborhood” (with frequent uses of words such as “charming” and “beautiful”), I found this community to be anything but charming or beautiful (unless you’re into ranch houses on flat landscapes and streets with no sidewalks). It looked as if this was just your typical commuter-oriented residential development with no amenities. I guess it’s not big loss that it will be gone soon.

Besides, the fact that 22 adjacent home-owners are willing to sell their properties is a pretty good sign that a “community” really didn’t exist here…it’s just a bunch of houses.

The part that scares me, though, is that this could potentially happen more frequently and in places where actual communities exist. I mean, losing a development is not much of a loss. But it would be tragic to lose what I would consider the true “all-American neighborhood”. The kind where you can walk to the library, market, post office, church and school. The kind where you wouldn’t want to sell your home because that would mean moving away from the neighbors you’ve come to know and enjoy.

I don’t know. Maybe I’m getting all Norman Rockwell on you. Maybe it’s because I was raised in what I would consider a real neighborhood and would hate to see that way of life disappear. And maybe it’s because I detest McMansions and that’s precisely what will be developed when all is said and done. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s because if I had the opportunity to make three times as much on the sale of my property, I would do the same thing.

On an unrelated note (or perhaps it’s more related than we think), Massachusetts was rated one of the least obese states in the country. In fact, 4 out of the 6 New England states were near the top of the list. It appears that one of the reasons is the density in the area – which encourages more physical activity (walking to places versus driving, etc…). Food for thought.



  1. Comment by Doug on August 24, 2005 10:59 am

    Is Normal Rockwell that rebellious cousin of Norman? LOL…I have heard his art work is more avant garde….

  2. Comment by Karl on August 24, 2005 11:06 am

    Ooops. he he. My bad. It has been corrected!

  3. Comment by David on August 24, 2005 12:07 pm

    And most of the McMansions are ugly anyway.
    All those huge freakin’ windows with the chandeliers or half moon windows..

  4. Comment by Will on August 24, 2005 12:15 pm

    Actually, the fact they all got together and coordinated a group negotiation with the developer may indicate there WAS a community there. Also, they may have seen the handwriting on the wall in the wake of that highly questionable Supreme Court ruling that Eminent Domain can be brought to bear on private property for the profit of a private developer.

  5. Comment by chrispy on August 24, 2005 1:12 pm

    youve obviously never been to charlotte. bulldozing any of those older neighborhoods wouldnt be a bad idea…….but as you know, many new-er american cities with space to grow just went ahead and did that, they grew. hence sprawl. downtowns (see charlotte, atlanta,houston etc)never developed because people didnt want to or need to live close together, in boxes one piled one on top of another (the american dream still includes a house, a yard, and a fence). and in the case of many americans, they STILL dont want to live close together, and sprawl grows, and commute times worsen and gasoline bills creep ever higher…. the community youre writing about may already be dead. but thats not to say it cant be revived…i think that theres a larger social issue at hand other than not living close together thats at stake.

  6. Comment by chrispy on August 24, 2005 1:25 pm

    see also: bowlingalone.com and bettertogether.org

  7. Comment by matt on August 25, 2005 3:59 pm

    Tho, I didn’t really care for it, there is a great scene in BROKEN FLOWERS where the lead character has dinner with a former flame in a McMansion — very funny and an ambiguous statement regarding these “communities”

  8. Comment by Donny on September 17, 2005 1:50 am

    Very interesting blog!

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