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

Lane Closures; Charity Calendars; Roller Derby!

Watch out for lane closures on and near campus on Wednesday: one lane of Pittsboro Street will be closed from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. near the intersection of S. Columbia Street and Manning Drive for waterline work, and the left lane of northbound S. Columbia Street will also be closed from 9 a.m. to noon for tree trimming. Town officials are warning drivers to be cautious in these areas.


Would you like to see roller derby in Chapel Hill? If so, there’s an interest meeting on Tuesday, November 5, at 6:30 p.m. in the Lincoln Gym on Merritt Mill Road. Chapel Hill Parks and Recreation is holding the meeting; they’re thinking about launching a city-sponsored women’s roller derby league, provided there’s enough interest.

The idea for the league came from Colleen Carroll, who moved to Chapel Hill earlier this year. She says as far as she knows, Chapel Hill would be the first town to sponsor its own roller derby league.


For the fourth straight year, Chapel Hill textile collage artist Elaine O’Neil will be selling limited-edition 2014 calendars featuring her original artwork to benefit the North Carolina Cancer Hospital.

They’re called the “Luv This Place 2014 N.C. Calendars,” highlighting twelve of North Carolina’s most famous and iconic places. You can purchase them through January at a variety of stores around town, including Flyleaf Books, Southern Season, and FRANK.

Elaine O’Neil is an award-winning collage artist. Since she started the calendar project, she’s raised $23,000 for the North Carolina Cancer Hospital.

How Does Construction Impact Your Driving And Walking In Carrboro?

CARRBORO – Carrboro Aldermen meet Tuesday to continue a discussion on how to regulate construction that impacts public streets and sidewalks.

The board is considering a requirement that some projects have a construction management plan endorsed by the town before development gets underway.

The plan would detail acceptable noise levels and hours of operation, as well as what streets construction vehicles should use and where equipment should be stored.

The board will also designate October as “Carrboro Walk and Bike to School Month.” The meeting starts at 7:30 p.m. in Carrboro Town Hall.


S. Columbia Detour To End Soon; Hillsborough Bridges; Kings Highway Park Closed

ORANGE COUNTY – Your detour from southbound on South Coulumbia Street will soon come to an end.

Next Tuesday or Wednesday the sidewalk on S. Columbia will open to pedestrians again.  All summer traffic has been one-way, north bound, on S. Columbia, but this one-way traffic is set to end on August 13, and two-way traffic will resume again.

Construction crews report that the work on the road remains on schedule and is expected to be fully completed by July 2014.

The project on S. Columbia is meant to make the road safer for all who use it by adding bus pull outs, sidewalks to both sides, bike lanes, and improved traffic flow.


Work to preserve four bridges in Hillsborough may begin as early as August 1 and completion is expected by June 30 of next year.

The NCDOT awarded this contract to Seminole Equipment Inc. of Tarpon Florida along with four more in Alamance County.

The contract includes preservation of the Churton Street Bridge over the Eno River, N.C. 86 bridge over Interstate 85, and I-85 bridges over Orange Grove.

This project is part of NCDOT’s state-funded bridge plan for 2011-2013 which calls for preservation or rehabilitation of current bridges when possible.


Hillsborough has closed Kings Highway Park through the fall to dredge and make repairs to the dam at Lake Ben Johnston.

The work could last until November; during this time citizens are asked not to walk the trails or visit the park.

Road Construction Gaining Momentum

CHAPEL HILL – Construction on roads in Chapel Hill is picking up momentum after weeks of rain.

The three big projects are located at Smith Level Road, Weaver Dairy Road, and South Columbia Street. Resident engineer Chris Kirkman says a little extra work has gotten the projects going again.

“Yea it did slow it down, but in the last week–Columbia street for example–we were able to get a lot done, and get a lot done this week so we’re able to regain momentum,” Kirkman says. “They worked this past weekend Saturday and Sunday.”

Kirkman says he’s use to working against the weather to complete a project.  However, he says the rain this summer has been the biggest opponent while working on the roads.

“This year obviously, looking at the weather data that this has been unbelievable as far as rainfall the past June and July, fortunately we were able to regain a lot of momentum last week and this week,” Kirkman says

Although rain has slowed construction on the roads during summer, hurricanes could pose similar threats.  Kirkman says the construction teams are working to complete the roads by their estimated deadline.

“We would get the section between 86, or MLK, that end of it all the way down to the round about, hopefully that will be done by late August,” Kirkman says.

Kirkman says Smith Level is estimated to be completed in May 2015, and South Columbia will be completed around December 2014.

Culbreth Road Construction Sees Multiple Delays

CARRBORO – Construction on Culbreth Road has hit many delays this summer from soil problems and rain to asbestos water lines.  Assistant Director of Parks and Recreation, Bill Webster, says a meeting is scheduled later this week to share the progress of the project.

Construction on Culbreth road began June 8 and its planned completion was August 25.  Webster says several delays occurred during construction including: rain, an asbestos water pipe, and bad soil.

“The big one right now is we have a serious soil issue that we have to resolve, and as of today I’m not exactly sure how much time it’ll take to resolve it, but we’ll know more by the end of the week,” Webster says.

The soil problems that the construction team faces deal with poor soil found underneath Culbreth Road.  Poor soil is not uncommon in floodplain areas, but the construction crew did not expect to find so much poor soil that they would have to dig another six feet.

“But once the road was excavated we found out there actually large areas within the excavation zone which the soils were completely unacceptable,” says Webster.

The three areas in which the construction crew worried about having delays all occurred, but Webster says only more rain at a bad time could continue to cause delays.

The construction crew now has plans for dealing with the soil on Culbreth Road and if they encounter the same problem on the trails later this year, it will not cause as much delay.

“And if there is a problem we’ll immediately communicate it to the community and the schools and everyone else, but right now we’re just not certain,” Webster says.

For more information on the expansion of Fan Branch and Morgan trails, click here.

Flood Assessments; Construction on W. Main; Local Chef in Competition

CHAPEL HILL – Beginning Thursday, night work is scheduled to begin on the W. Main St. roadway resurfacing.  The project is anticipated to be completed by or before August 13.

Motorists should expect delays and seek alternative routes along W. Main St. and connecting roadways.  Construction on W. Main St. from Jones Ferry Rd. to Hillsborough will take place both night and day.  Construction from Hillsborough Rd. to NC 54 will only take place during the day.


Executive Chef at Carolina Crossroads Restaurant, James Clark, will compete in an “Iron-Chef” styled competition against Dean Thompson of Flights at The Renaissance (North Hills).  The competition will take place on July 15 at 1705 Prime located at 705 East Millbrook Road in Raleigh.  The competition uses a mixture of judges and votes from the audience to determine the winner.

Tickets for all first round battles are $59 per person.  To reserve tickets click here.  The winner of this single elimination contest will be announced on August 19.