CHAPEL HILL- The Chapel Hill Town Council is cautiously optimistic about a plan to build a six-story apartment building behind the Franklin Hotel, but Council members say there are still questions to be answered before the project moves forward.
Jay and Anup Patel of Wintergreen Hospitality want to build 55 apartments on Mallette Street behind the Franklin Hotel. The apartments were originally billed as student housing, but John McAdams told the Council on Monday they are rethinking that concept.
“Franklin Student Housing is a concept name and we will be changing it because it is meant to appeal to more than just students,” said McAdams.
However, Council member Lee Storrow said it wasn’t clear how appealing that mix might be to non-student renters.
“It’s hard for me to imagine that some of our older residents who are low-wage workers, even if you are providing some affordable housing, are going to have the same interests to live in a project that sounds like it is going to be about 90 percent undergrads,” said Storrow.
The developers are proposing a five- and six-story building on just less than one acre of land currently used as a parking lot. They told the Council they need to add density above and beyond what the area is zoned for to make the project economically feasible. In return, they hope to designate 20 percent of the apartments as permanently affordable rentals.
Council member Sally Greene pressed for details about the affordable rental plan, but Jay Patel said that’s still up in the air.
“For us, the priority now is to figure out the strategy and what the intent should be, based on your feedback and the community’s feedback, and then the logistics of figuring out how to make that happen,” said Patel.
Council members also urged the developers to rethink the buffer between the buildings and the Cameron-McCauley Historic District adjacent to the property.
“I don’t know how you do that, I’ve got no clue,” said Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt. “But right now it just seems too high, too close.”
Council member Donna Bell said this could become more of a problem in the future as new properties are developed downtown.
“We should work in coordination with the developer to think about how these bufferings should work and think of it as sort of a pilot program to figure out what we’re going to do long-term,” said Bell.
The Franklin Housing concept is still being developed and no formal plan has been submitted to the town.
A separate plan to redevelop Timber Hollow Apartments on Martin Luther King Boulevard was scheduled to come before the Council on Monday, but developer Ron Strom asked to delay deliberations until February.