CHAPEL HILL – Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina announced Friday it will close its headquarters, off 15-501 in Chapel Hill, electing to move its Triangle operations to a central campus in Durham.
Though the move won’t be complete till sometime next year, town leaders like Dwight Bassett, Chapel Hill’s Economic Development Officer, are anticipating the economic impact the relocation will have on the area.
“I do not think it’s a positive for our economic climate. We are glad that they are staying in the there area. There will still be some benefit, but it does mean that Chapel Hill will technically will not have those 900 plus jobs inside our corporate limits any longer,” Bassett said.
BCBS spokesperson Lew Borman says this move won’t result in any lay-offs—saying it might result in additional hires.
Mayor Pro Tem Ed Harrison says BCBS is the largest private employer in Chapel Hill and he still considers it a loss.
“We like having large private employers and jobs in Chapel Hill. We like having people to spend money while they are here,’ Harrison said.
The building’s value estimated at $35 million. BCBS pay the town a base property tax of $174,800 a year, with an additional payment $12,000 in storm water fees, according to Bassett. He says if another company were to purchase the property, tear down the existing office, and rebuild, the property value would most likely go down temporarily.
But Bassett says the move didn’t come as a shock.
“We’ve know for several years that they were evaluating their options—that was a part of them selling their offices in East Town Park and we knew that they were looking for space that was more energy efficient and more functional for their needs,” Basset said.
Bassett along with Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, and Town Manager Roger Stancil have been meeting with BCBS for several years to talk about the company’s future with the town.
The company had voiced its frustrations with the facility, saying it was not cost or energy efficient.
“Listening to the issues that BCBS has with the building, I would think there would be a limited ability for adaptive re-use unless there was just one company that liked the iconic structure and would like to keep it,” Bassett said. “But still there are a lot of issues that come with that scenario.”
Bassett anticipates the facility will likely be torn down, due to its high operating costs. Looking at the current demand in the market, he says they don’t plan to target the area for retail or office development—rather they feel the best use for the land would be medium to high-density housing.
In the next coming years, Harrison says Chapel Hill 2020 will have a land use study that would include the BCBS property, as well as land along 15-501, up to I-40. The study will solicit public feedback about the use of that area.