The old town hall in Chapel Hill has hosted the homeless for years, but municipal officials are mulling over plans to repurpose the historic building.
A committee was established last year to brief the Chapel Hill Town Council on potential uses for the property, which will soon be left vacant.
Megan Dale, a municipal analyst and staff liaison to that committee, summarized the situation last month to council members during a meeting.
“There was a petition — about this time last year — that came before the council that asked that the council consider colocating the Orange County Visitor’s Center with a revived Chapel Hill Museum in historic town hall,” she relayed.
“Also, the Inter-Faith Council for Social Services, the current tenant in historic town hall, is in plans to vacate that building.”
The Carrboro Board of Aldermen passed a vote last month to allow the IFC to relocate its transient housing operation to 110 West Main Street.
According to Dale, the committee is seeking broad input on the most appropriate way to transform the old town hall after that relocation is complete.
“The committee recommended an engagement process to bring in diverse community members and community groups, and really hear from them about what [the] history-cultural center would need to be to be for them,” she explained.
The financial implications of repurposing the property were considered by Council Member Sally Greene, who also chairs the committee.
“What we realized early on is that for any of the combination of uses that we’re talking about, we would want to gut the building and start over, so […] one question that could be answered is, ‘What would it cost to gut the building,'” she posed.
Fiscal concerns notwithstanding, Orange County Commissioner Penny Rich shared her desire to install more artistic avenues around town.
“There’s still a passion for some creative space in Chapel Hill, and whether this building becomes that creative space, that would be up to y’all, but I think that we should leave that discussion open to where we can have that creative space,” she offered.
Greene also affirmed that council members would explore options that include leasing the property to prospective tenants or selling it outright.
“The council hasn’t really made a decision to keep this building in a nonprofit civic use as opposed to, say, leasing it out long-term for a taxable benefit or selling it,” she noted.
“I think previous council felt pretty strongly against selling it, but we know — the committee knows — that that’s the conversation that the council has yet to have.”
That conversation is likely to take place in the fall as the town manager works with the committee to develop viable courses of action.
Image from Google Maps.