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Residents say high-rise apartments will ‘destroy quality of life’ in historic neighborhood

RICHMOND, Va. -- Sarah Driggs and her husband Frank bought their historic home on Richmond's Northside near the Union Seminary 30 years ago.

“Come on in. We are part of the Laburnum Park Historic District,” Sarah Driggs said when we visited the home.

Built in 1919, the house sits among one of the city's first planned communities, which was a street car suburb for families to escape the city.

But the Driggs said the neighborhood's unique character faces a serious threat from a proposed apartment complex.

The Union Seminary wants to sell a large piece of land to a Tennessee developer to build a 301 unit apartment complex.

Twenty-five of the units will be for students.

“It doesn’t fit,” Sarah Driggs said about the proposed complex.

The Driggs and their neighbors shared their concerns at a packed meeting hosted by Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Department about the project.

HUD insures mortgage loans like the one in this project, and they still have to approve the loan.

The City of Richmond already approved the development.

“There’s a whole lot better plan we can do for this area that really honors the historic nature,” one resident said.

“We are more than concerned about this,” another resident said.

“You will destroy the quality of life here, and we simply cannot sit by and nod our heads and let this happen,” another resident said to a big applause.

Nobody from the Seminary spoke at the meeting.

On the Seminary's community page they say they picked this plan to meet future needs of student housing, provide a reasonable financial return to the school and maintain the school's tradition of being a good neighbor.

But the Driggs say this proposal isn't very neighborly, especially when some seminary supporters gave the property to the Seminary in the early 1900s essentially for free.

“Now you’re going to develop it with somebody in Tennessee to make a profit?  It’s just not right for the community, it just seems unfair,” Frank Driggs said.

We reached out to the spokesperson for the Seminary who referred us to their website and said they would provide no additional comments.

We also asked the developer, Bristol Development, for comment, and they referred us to the Seminary.