GREENSBORO — Local developer Roy Carroll promised Monday to keep residents in the loop as he considers what to build at the high-profile intersection of Hobbs Road and Friendly Avenue.
The developer earlier this year bought 6.6 acres on the northwest corner of the intersection from an Atlanta company that tried and failed to hit the sweet spot for the site.
The corner has for years drawn fervent attention from local residents worried that growth would bring too much traffic and unsightly development where several homes once stood.
On Monday night, Carroll spoke to more than 60 residents who packed a meeting room at First Lutheran Church’s community center and told them he doesn’t have any firm plans for the site yet, but he doesn’t expect to build retail on the scale that Halpern Enterprises had once proposed.
“My goal is, it’s not going to be geared toward a big retailer,” Carroll told the group.
Residents had dozens of questions and suggestions ranging from turning the land into a park to making it all residential.
Carroll said the property isn’t large enough to yield much of a profit from only residential.
But he is adamant that the retail he may build there would be what he calls “accessory retail” that doesn’t include a big grocery store or other kind of major retail as many residents have feared since before Halpern bought the property four years ago.
And he promised the group that, as his company studies options, he would hold more meetings to keep them informed as the plans come together.
One resident said that neighbors “sighed a breath of relief because you do quality work,” to the applause of many in the audience.
Still, others were worried about traffic and the impact of a major development on that corner.
One man said, “we have several hundred apartments down Hobbs that are now being leased and I don’t know how they’re going to handle the traffic.”
Carroll told the group he would support “traffic calming” measures that would slow down drivers and make his project more of a place where people could park their cars and walk to explore the new development.
He opened the meeting by telling residents that his company doesn’t have a timetable for when it might be ready to develop the land and that means he is free to collect as much neighborhood input as possible.
Carroll said that he doesn’t expect to satisfy everybody, but that he wants to build a “legacy project” that has the Carroll name on it and is something he’ll be proud of.
“My goal is, we’d like to create an interesting enough environment that you’d want to leave your cars at home,” he said. “We’re not going to build a strip center.”
It was a stark contrast to a similar meeting Halpern held in the same room nearly five years ago when it was first considering a project with a major grocery store surrounded by shops.
During that January 2015 meeting, angry residents shouted and frequently interrupted a Halpern executive who was presenting concept drawings for the site.
Under pressure, Halpern made extensive changes to its original proposal, emerging with a development plan that included 48,000 square feet of retail space and 22 housing units.
The site did not include plans for a grocery store.
And even after Halpern successfully rezoned the property, the site didn’t make financial sense for the developer, which offered the property to Carroll earlier this year.
In January, the Carroll At Hobbs LLC partnership bought the land for $5 million.
Before Halpern bought the property, other developers had considered developing it and Trader Joe’s was rumored to be considering the site for a grocery store. But neighborhood reaction to the suggestion was so negative that the company told some members of the community that it would not consider coming to Greensboro.
Trader Joe’s never made a move to build a store there and opened a new store earlier this year on Battleground Avenue.