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New Hotel Plan Draws Praise From Those Once Opposed

By Elizabeth Friend Posted September 16, 2013 at 11:07 pm

CHAPEL HILL- When developer D.R. Bryan first suggested building a hotel in the heart of Southern Village back in late 2008, residents of the neighborhood responded with such vehement dismay that the proposal was tabled.

Fast forward five years and the concept of a hotel in the mixed-use village has resurfaced, though this time it would be at the edge of the development instead of at its center.

Barbara Crane lives and works in Southern Village. She told the Chapel Hill Town Council on Monday that though she fought the prior plan, she’s changed her mind.

“Since the difficult times in 2009 when I and others questioned whether there was a market for an additional hotel, the market has improved greatly,” said Crane.

The new proposal is slightly smaller, and in a different location. Bryan wants to build a five-story, 112 room hotel on four acres along 15-501 across from Solar Strata.

At Monday’s public hearing, residents and business owners were lining up to praise the plan, which many said would bring much needed business to the merchants on Market Street.

“As an independent business we face a lot of challenges, and now we have big box stores like Wal-Mart encroaching on our territory,” said Micki Cashman, the store manager at Weaver Street Market’s Southern Village location. “We are looking for an additional anchor on the commercial center to really help strengthen all of our retail businesses.”

Gary Kahn, a Southern Village resident and town council candidate, was the only speaker to criticize the plan, warning it could generate unwanted traffic in the area.

“I encourage the mayor and the town council to act very slowly on granting the permit for the Southern Village hotel, or make it part of the Obey Creek process and let the community say whether we really need a hotel,” said Kahn.

The council was largely supportive of the hotel concept, although some questioned the idea that hotel guests would drive into the center of the Southern Village commercial district instead of driving.

“Real walk-ability is about passing places that are interesting and seeing windows and seeing activity and having the option of popping in and stuff,” said Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt. “You make a five minute walk feel like a 20 minute walk when you don’t have those things and so people won’t even take the five minute walk.”

The project will return to the council for a vote on October 28.

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