Chapel Hill may get more affordable housing units downtown—plus regular housing and office space.
The Chapel Hill Town Council held a public hearing Monday and discussed a concept plan for the Amity Station property off of West Rosemary Street – the current location of Breadmen’s Restaurant.
The plan has had some revisions since its last time before the council over a year ago.
Chapel Hill Planning Director Ben Hitchings said the development company looking to buy the property, MHA Works, took different thoughts from different organizations into consideration.
“The applicant has gone before the Housing Advisory Board and the comments that the board provided include the following,” said Hitchings. “One, they ask that there be a clarification that a nonprofit would have to purchase the building and that the land would be donated to the affordable housing organization by the applicant.”
This means that the proposed 17 percent of the property created for affordable housing would be managed by a nonprofit company that would buy the building from the developer for the cost of construction, but the land would be a donation.
Jared Martinson is an architect for MHA Works. He said the company is also listening to requests and worries from community members, like the fact that the original plan only had parking accessible from the back of the property.
“We were informed and learned that this could have a potentially negative impact on the residents of Northside by increasing vehicular traffic at those locations as well as causing conflict at night by headlights possibly going into people’s windows,” he said.
But council member Jessica Anderson said she doesn’t know if parts of the concept plan are different enough from the previous one.
“It feels a little bit like groundhog day,” she said. “That we’re seeing something very similar in terms of the chart. That it looks like the floor area has gone up. A lot of other stuff has stayed the same. I know that there’s been a lot of community input about things that don’t seem to be addressed.”
The plan also included an age restriction on renting the residential units not included in affordable housing, limited to those over the age of 21. But Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger said the age limit should be higher, to keep college students out.
“I feel very strongly about that and I’m hearing some sentiment of the same thing as well, and the community feels very strongly about that as well,” she said. “It’s hard. I think it actually creates a better market for you. I think there will be more interest in seniors and more people wanting to live there if they’re not living next door to an undergrad—I don’t want to live next door to my undergraduate that I have.”
Community member P.H. Craig is a property owner in the area and said he thinks the proposed plan will push too far into the neighboring space.
“I’m against this project as proposed,” he said. “It is gigantic. It goes way back farther into the residential area than anybody has seen. You can look at the plans I have presented and none of the other projects go but about half that way.”
Andy King is the director of the Durham office of MHA Works. He said the project is still in early stages, and that the company is still taking comments and ideas, but they know they want room for affordable housing and room for companies to work.
“At this stage in the process, the use of the commercial and office space has not yet been programmed,” he said. “The same way that we’d like the input of the nonprofit housing partner that will be selected for the project, we’d also like the input of the community—the business community and the entrepreneurial community—to make sure that we’re providing the most appropriate space for the use.”
Town staff is still reviewing the application for completeness before making a determination about next steps moving forward.