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Gardner Altman combines peace and quiet with urban living in his green bridge rooftop condo.

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Photo by Briana Brough

It was the quiet that brought Gardner Altman to downtown Chapel Hill. The UNC School of Law alum is used to living on a 400-acre farm in eastern North Carolina – a hop-skip from the actual town of Tarheel. “My driveway’s a mile long,” he says of his country home. “Nobody can see my house. I don’t have to see anybody if I don’t want to. I like quiet.”

His involvement with the Carolina Law Alumni Association has kept Gardner frequently returning to this Tar Heel town for years, along with a corporate law practice in Raleigh. Finally, in early 2013, he decided to invest in a permanent space here.

Gardner wanted somewhere close to campus – he gives two annual lectures to law students, among other engagements – and convenient to all of downtown’s amenities. But, remember, he likes quiet. It seemed like a paradoxical quest until he walked into a condo on the top floor of Greenbridge on West Rosemary Street, high enough to be removed from the hustle bustle of the streets below.

He bought the industrial, modern condo because of its peacefulness – despite a personal aesthetic preference for “wood and stone and glass” – and promptly teamed with Cindy Spuria of LIGHT Art + Design to entirely overhaul the interior. Gray concrete columns are now all covered with black combed plaster, which adds character and texture. In his main living space, a den that flows into a kitchen and dining area, columns are now covered in warm stone, to mirror wooden cabinets and an earth-toned backsplash.

And although he has some stunning pieces of art, it’s the floor-to-ceiling windows that steal the show, revealing a view that defines panoramic. “I drink coffee every morning,” he says while pointing out that beyond downtown Chapel Hill, you can easily see the steeples and buildings of downtown Durham, “and watch the sun come up.”

He’ll often go for a walk through downtown after his coffee. After all, the view is stunning, but it’s not why he’s here. “Buildings and trees and streets, they’re the same all over the world,” Gardner explains. “The only thing that makes a location distinguished is the people. I like the interesting people in Chapel Hill.” CHM

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Jessie is a former Chapel Hill Magazine editor-turned freelance culture writer based in Chapel Hill. She tends to structure her days around a morning cup of coffee and evening glass of wine.