Carrboro Board Approves New Plans for Town Commons Renovations

Construction on new renovations for the Carrboro Town Commons has been approved by the Board of Alderman to begin in November or December.

The Town of Carrboro’s Public Works Director James “JD” Freeman spoke at the board’s meeting last Tuesday about the proposed final plan to the area.

“What the upgrades do, it provides a flexible space at Town Commons, of course for the farmer’s market, but also for multiple events, public and festivals, that are held on these grounds,” Freeman said.

Some of the upgrades include: widening the parking lot and creating 90 degree parking spaces instead of slanted, public restrooms on-site, additional storage for the Farmer’s Market and town staff, increasing electrical availability and adding more lighting around the area.

These changes were made after hearing from the board when it was first proposed, as well as hearing from the residents through an online survey created for public comment.

In the initial plans, there were ideas for a second phase of the Town Commons which included a pass through Laurel Avenue but that was changed after further investigation of the current roadways.

The town has decided to do away with the phase two plans until receiving more data from the NCDOT on the types of cars that travel the area, considering the small area that would be created for a pass-through roadway.

The board seemed most excited about the renovations in regards to the Farmer’s Market every Saturday in Town Commons because of its high popularity in Carrboro. Former Carrboro Farmer’s Market Manager Erin Jobe shared her excitement for the new upgrades.

“We are thrilled to see this project go forward. This project will be incredible for the market. It’s the thing that we need, the fresh face of the market, the thing that will sustain the market into the future,” Jobe said.

This project has been estimated at $90 thousand and town manager David Andrews said since the bank would not be able to provide secured debt funding if the project were to go over budget, due to the type of project it is, they plan to use town reserve funds if necessary.

Historic Bellevue Mill Location Soon To Be New Apartment Complex

Despite the devastating fire at the historic Bellevue Mill location earlier this year, documents have been finalized for the sale of the property to a developer for construction of a new apartment complex.

Bellevue Fire

Bellevue Fire. Photo Courtesy of the Town of Hillsborough

Hillsborough Mayor Tom Stevens said the biggest concern was of the tax credit being affected due to destruction of the building but since only one third of the building was burned with most of it left standing, the tax credit would not be affected.

Stevens commended the fire department and their work during the fire.

“When the mill closed around 2000, the owner and the fire marshal continued to make sure fire walls were up and that paid off,” Stevens said.

Stevens said he and the town are both excited for the development and what it will bring to the growing area.

The complex will have approximately one hundred units on the property located on Nash Street in downtown Hillsborough.

“The whole area is a really nice part of the community here in happening Hillsborough,” Stevens said.
Stevens said the developer’s town permits have been confirmed but they are still in the process of completing building permits. Once those are completed Steven says, hopefully construction will begin around the winter months.

40-Day Construction Project Begins Monday in Carrboro

Construction will take place on S. Greensboro Street, north of the NC 54 bypass beginning August 1.

Moffat Pipe Inc., the company in charge of the construction, will be replacing an existing waterline as well as installing a new fire hydrant.

During the 40-day project, vehicular, bicyclist and pedestrian traffic controls such as lane closures and flagging operations will be in place.

S. Greensboro Street is expected to reopen at the end of each work day during this time.

This construction is associated with the South Green Conditional Use Permit which allows for construction of mixed-use commercial development at 501 S. Greensboro Street.

Additional projects will continue throughout fall and winter, such as the installation of storm water pipes within S. Greensboro from the South Green project site to the NC 54 bypass, a new roundabout at the intersection of Old Pittsboro Road and the proposed entrance to the South Green project.

While more notices will be given for these projects, start and completion of work are subject to change due to weather and other conditions.

For more information, visit the Town of Carrboro’s website.

Part of the Riverwalk Set to Be Closed For Construction

A section of the Riverwalk in Hillsborough will be closed this Thursday for erosion-control work.

The work will take place between emergency markers 108 and 109 west of the Stickwork sculpture.

Thursday’s work will not interfere with Friday’s ribbon cutting event for the new bridge connecting Riverwalk to the Historic Occoneechee Speedway Trail.

The erosion-control work is part of the town’s effort to improve the water quality of the runoff in the Eno River.

Shaddox Creek Bridge on Corinth Road to be Replaced

The North Carolina Department of Transportation is replacing the Shaddox Creek Bridge on Corinth Road in Chatham County.

The contractor, Smith-Rowe, was awarded the $1.6 million contract and will be replacing the 65-year-old bridge because it is functionally obsolete, which means it was built by design standards no longer applicable in modern bridge design, according to a release.

The construction for the new bridge is set to start on August 1, and the bridge should be done by mid-October, 2017.

The new bridge is being built adjacent to the current one, allowing the current bridge to remain open during construction.

This is one of 17 road and bridge projects recently awarded to the NC DOT.

Churton Street Construction May Cause Delays

Road construction in Hillsborough will begin this week.

The N.C. Department of Transportation updated work dates to June 7-8, during which Churton Street will undergo pavement patching.

One lane between Orange Grove Road and Margaret Lane will be closed from nine o’clock in the morning until four in the afternoon daily until work is completed.

Motorists should expect delays during work hours.

St. Mary’s Bridge In Hillsborough To Be Replaced

Construction will begin Wednesday January 27 to replace the bridge on St. Mary’s Road over Buckwater Creek between Stagg Road and Pleasant Green Road near Hillsborough.

The construction  is expected to be completed by May.

The current bridge was built in 1953 and according to NCDOT, is functionally obsolete and no longer meets traffic demands. The construction is part of a program to improve the condition of the state’s bridges.

Local traffic can use a detour through Sharon Church Road and Schley Road.

For construction updates visit : NC-DOT

Designers Needed for Hillsborough Renovations

The town of Hillsborough is looking for designers to renovate several town buildings, including the Town Barn.

The town is seeking a design firm with experience in designing municipal buildings.

Renovation of the Town Barn, Hillsborough’s main public meeting space, will include three or four new offices.

The proposal also includes renovating the former medical and dental center at 101 East Corbin Street into a new Town Hall annex and public meeting space.

Hillsborough has also proposed the building of a new public safety facility. The new building would host police, fire and emergency services. The proposed site is 604 North Churton St., adjacent to the planned Town Hall annex.

Renovation of the Town Barn and new Town Hall annex is expected to begin in June. Plans for the new public safety facility are set to be finalized by August.

Design firms are encouraged to submit their qualifications to the town by January 19 to be considered.

You can view the entire proposal here: RFQ- Town Facilities

Labor Shortage Hitting Local Construction

Even now that the recession is over, millions of Americans are still having trouble finding work. But experts say there’s actually a big labor shortage in the construction industry – and local developers say it’s causing some major headaches.

“We haven’t seen a labor shortage this dramatic since 2001,” says Holly Fraccaro of the Home Builders Association of Durham, Orange and Chatham Counties. Speaking Tuesday at the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce’s annual Orange County Development Briefing, she shared the results of a recent survey of home builders nationwide.

“Seventy-four percent (of home builders) reported shortages in rough carpenter sub-contractors, 73 percent in framing crews, 69 percent in finished carpenters, 59 percent in bricklayers and masons – and the list goes on,” she said at Tuesday’s briefing. (The survey was conducted by the National Association of Home Builders.)

And Fraccaro says that shortage is having a big impact on residential and commercial construction.

“Sixty-one percent of the respondents (to the national survey) were forced to raise home prices,” she says. “Fifty-eight percent had significant delays in delivering their homes on schedule, and over a quarter of the respondents reported projects losing money.”

And Chapel Hill is not immune. On Elliott Road, construction has begun on the new Village Plaza apartments – but developer Lee Perry of East West Partners says the labor shortage has already caused delays.

“We were delayed about a month just getting the crane on site,” he says. “That crane just showed up from South Dakota, of all places – that was the closest place we could find a crane to begin the (parking) deck.”

Jobs in the construction business pay well, but Fraccaro says there’s not much in the way of training programs locally: Durham Tech, for instance, offers carpentry courses, but no certification program. Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools superintendent Tom Forcella says the district has offered vocational classes at the high school level – but students tend not to take them.

So Fraccaro says the Homebuilders Association is launching its own program: the Construction Careers Building Institute, in conjunction with national and local organizations like the Homebuilders Institute, Skills USA, and El Centro Hispano.

“The institute will provide skills-based apprenticeship training for carpentry, HVAC, electric, plumbing and masonry,” she says. “Eventually we will offer programs for construction site supervision, applied building science, (and) English as a second language, just to name a few.”

Fraccaro says the institute will have a physical home down the road – but if you’re looking for a new career, she says it will start offering programs beginning next fall.

Developer Calls For Higher Density

Roger Perry (Courtesy of UNC News Services)

Roger Perry (Courtesy of UNC News Services)

Chapel Hill developer Roger Perry says the Town should be welcoming commercial development with open arms, and if it does, the tax burden on it citizens will begin to subside.

“If you’re going to remain competitive, and if you’re going to keep a tax base that can sustain the community, you must build higher densities, and you must build a bigger concentration of commercial property than we have been building,” Perry says.

Perry says the land has to be developed efficiently because Chapel Hill, along with Carrboro and Orange County, decided about 30 years ago to draw an urban growth boundary to define just how far out it would develop.

The largest portion of Chapel Hill land held by one entity is taken up by UNC, which is tax exempt. Perry says the Town has to be smart about how it uses the remainder of the property.

“In Chapel Hill, we only have 15 percent, plus-or-minus, of our tax base (coming) from commercial property,” Perry says. “Most rules of thumb suggest that equilibrium in that regard is to have at least a third of your tax base come from commercial property tax. In Durham, for example, that number is 40 percent; it’s approximately the same in Wake County.”

The Ephesus-Fordham redevelopment plan was designed to spur economic growth. Perry says those who are against the project are focusing on the wrong problem and don’t have all the facts.

“The issues in flood control in that whole district are a huge problem, but they’re a huge problem today,” Perry says. “The Town’s plan is that, with this redevelopment and the increased tax base that it will provide, it will provide the resources necessary to remedy that problem and fix that problem.”

Perry made these comments in a WCHL News Special with Jim Heavner.

Chapel Hill’s tax rates—city, county, and school taxes–support the city schools, free local busses, and social services, at the highest rate in North Carolina. Local government development policies have made Chapel Hill’s taxes on residences the highest percentage in the state, and commercial taxes the lowest. Orange County exports more retail spending to other counties than any county in the region. In a WCHL news special, Jim Heavner interviews Roger Perry, who has recently been more outspoken on those issues.

Perry, a Chapel Hillian, is the President of East West Partners Management Company, and since 1983 East West Partners has developed more residential real estate than any company in North Carolina. That includes Meadowmont, Downing Creek and East 54 here in Chapel Hill. He’s now trying to develop Obey Creek, so he’s a big player. Perry, a UNC graduate has also served as chair of the UNC Board of Trustees, and that is also a topic of the special interview.

***Listen to Part One***

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4