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Apex land development falling short of big promises

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I-Team investigates in Apex. (WTVD)

It was a big promise from the start. Based on a press release put out in 2009, the project would pump $6 billion dollars into Apex's economy by doubling its property tax base, add 30,000 jobs to the local economy, and become a model for the nation when it comes to sustainable, urban, mixed-use developments.

But like many big promises, the project called Veridea has hit a series of roadblocks.

"We're just waiting to see what's happening," said Kim Tew, a homeowner on Old Holly Springs Apex Road, two miles to the south of the town center.

"This was a dirt road when I grew up," Tew explained, almost tearfully. "I hate that areas like this are going away. It's very sad to me. There's not a lot of places like this to go anymore and we're just all getting pushed out."

Tew says she grew up on the land now bordered by I-540 and US 1. "This is my land I grew up on. Everybody here was tobacco farmers. I grew up with them."

In the late 2000s, Tew says she and her family sold their family land to developers who wanted to build a brand new, mini-city on her property. But after almost 10 years, Tew may be in for more waiting.

"We were going to show how you could go from green field, undeveloped land, to urban," explained Raleigh businessman and Veridea master-developer Tom Hendrickson. "If you just imagine Streets of Southpoint, those tenants, but with the form of North Hills."

Hendrickson says he wanted to build a place people could live, work and play; a place they could go to their jobs, go shopping on their way home, and pick up their kids at school, all without getting in a car. And he wanted to do it sustainably, using cutting-edge, green technology.

Ironically, one of Tew's major concerns is something Hendrickson says he cares about deeply: open space.

"I'm a big outdoors, wildlife person and there's a lot of wildlife here that I really care about. When they start the project, I'll never come back here again because I don't want to see it."

But Hendrickson, who grew up in rural North Carolina says his project is all about protecting open space and farmland. "If you want to protect farming and open space, like I do, the way you deal with continued growth is to create appropriate live work areas of concentration that are attractive to all generations from millennials to people who are looking to retire."

So what happened to the plan? Hendrickson says the recession set them back a couple years; then, he says, there was the access point off 540. That's being built now.

But there's also a disagreement about the vision - that first, big promise.

Hendrickson says his current investors want to build a neighborhood of houses on a different part of the land first, instead of the mixed use, urban, sustainable "Veridea." That's something Tom Hendrickson says he wants no part of. "They are looking at how to monetize their investment in a quicker way and the low hanging fruit is single family residential."

Hendrickson says because of the disagreement, he's trying to find new investment partners. "I am working on a plan to bring new capitol in to continue the project as we had envisioned it. All I can do is the best I can to honor the commitment I made."

"The sustainability part of it is still an important part of the project," said Apex Mayor Lance Olive.

Olive was an early supporter of Veridea. In 2009, he helped create a then-brand new "sustainability district" just for that project. He says it would be hard to support building homes before (or instead of) the mixed use, urban, sustainable design proposed by Hendrickson.

"Reuse and recycling within the confines of the project are important ingredients. So, do some buildings have their own power supply, solar or wind power? Is that part of the proposal? Are we going to be able to reuse water? Grey water? Are we going to be able to use pumps to recycle within the site?" Olive says those are the kinds of questions the town council will have to ask.

And they can't do it soon enough for Kim Tew, who just wants to know when she'll need to leave the place she's called home all her life.

"I grew up here. I don't really want to move, but if I'm going to move, I want to know when that's going to happen."
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