Chapel Hill ‘Taking A Serious Look’ At Purchasing Legion Property

The future of the 36-acre American Legion property has been a hot-button issue throughout 2016 in Chapel Hill.

A developer, Woodfield Investments, has proposed building 400 apartments on the property along with commercial and multi-purpose space. Some residents have voiced opposition to that plan – instead, they would like to see the town buy the property and use it as park space.

The American Legion entered into an agreement to sell the property for a price of no less than $9 million last year. But the town had a right of first refusal for the property, which a previous version of the Town Council passed over last fall. That decision and the way it was made has drawn criticism from some residents.

So the American Legion has offered the property to the town once again for $9 million. Legion Post 6 Commander Bill Munsee put the offer before the council, once again, at a public hearing last Monday.

Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger spoke with WCHL’s Aaron Keck last Thursday and said the town would seriously look at options to purchase the land.

“I think it’s still very much a bigger conversation,” Hemminger said. “I know there’s a lot of community support behind that, but we need to see what that really looks like – in terms of financing, in terms of land planning and so we will be taking a serious look at it.”

The council submitted feedback to the concept plan, but Woodfield has not yet submitted an official application. The council would have to rezone the property if Woodfield will be allowed to build the site as it has been proposed.

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.

American Legion Development Proposal Goes Before Chapel Hill Community Design Commission Tuesday Night

A scaled-back version of the original development plans for the American Legion property will go before Chapel Hill’s Community Design Commission on Tuesday.

The concept plan, which was submitted by Woodfield Investments on July 26, calls for a maximum of 400 multifamily units – down from 600 originally – on the approximately 36-acre property.

Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger said the proposal was adjusted after community feedback.

The site has been a point of contention in the community since early 2016, when the original plans were being discussed. Community members have been divided between those supporting the plan to develop the land and those calling for the town to purchase the property and utilize the entire property as park space.

The previous version of the Chapel Hill Town Council voted in 2015 to forego the town’s right of first refusal to purchase the property for $9 million.

The proposal documents say that Woodfield has been in “ongoing discussions with the Town” regarding the potential development of the property. The development company also held a community meeting in January to allow citizens to voice any concerns they had of the development plan.

Hemminger said the scaled-back plans may not be enough for some Chapel Hillians to embrace the project.

“It scales back, [but] I think people were still hoping that there was an opportunity for something completely different,” Hemminger said. “I don’t know what that looks like.”

Hemminger said she was “interested” to see the presentation Tuesday night after the concept plan was submitted earlier in the summer.

Hemminger added the town staff had been busy over the summer collecting data including a needs assessment, the regulating plan for the area and other information. She said that means the Town Council will be very informed when the plan is presented to the council in September.

“By the time the council meets and sees this proposal itself,” Hemminger said, “we’ll have more information and a better grasp on what’s actually going on over on that side of town.”

The Community Design Commission meeting Tuesday night is scheduled for Town Hall at 6:30 and is open to the public.

Discussions Continuing Through Summer for Carrboro Lloyd Farm Project

The request to rezone the Lloyd Farm property was taken to a public hearing last week at the Carrboro Board of Alderman’s final meeting before the summer. The neighboring community brought much concern to the discussion.

This request has been in place since 2011. The proposal went through a mediation process in an attempt to answer some of the initial questions before coming back to the board.

Those who live on the streets nearby expressed the concern of more traffic within their neighborhood. Carrboro resident James Emory said he would be concerned for the pedestrians walking in that area.

“What I’m much more disturbed about is the traffic, especially with counts of 3,000-plus cars – vehicle trips – per day. Because those cars are basically going to be exiting and maybe if we only take half of them as returning to Carrboro they will more than likely cut right through Carol Street,” Emory said. “That is a small, unsidewalked road; it is fairly close; it gets a heavy pedestrian traffic – children, small dogs, etc. It’s very alarming to me.”

Another concern that was brought up by many residents was the issue with storm water draining around the property.

“It’s what backs up when everything coming out of a parcel like this and from these vicinities around here through a lot of streams that empty into Toms Creek and others trying to work their way down to lower elevations,” Emory said. “When the water backs up, it backs up into a lot of houses and all the houses along here on James Street, along Lorraine Street, we’ve had bad flooding on Carol Street. I don’t believe that this storm water control is enough.”

Some positive comments from those who support this project included former Carrboro Mayor and State Senator Ellie Kinnaird.

“The development of this property is especially important to all who live in Carrboro. Carrboro taxes are high, forcing many to leave and many to abandon any hope of living here. The reason for our higher taxes is that there is very little commercial property to help carry the tax burden, 80 percent of which falls on home owners,” Kinnaird said. “Revenue is needed to provide the services required and that residents want to share our tax burden.”

The Board of Alderman members said they will continue to approach this project with the understanding of all positive and negative concerns. Board member Jacquelyn Gist said she understands both sides.

“We are a community, and I do not want to see our community divided over this. I believe in people’s rights to develop their property. I think we need more commercial growth,” Gist said. “I also believe that people who live in existing neighborhoods deserve not to have their lives unduly disrupted by new development.”

The public hearing for the Lloyd Farm rezoning request has been continued until the fall meetings begin. The Board of Alderman has directed staff to continue considering all concerns and discuss changes that can be made with developers.

This is How New Developments Help Chapel Hill

How do new developments improve Chapel Hill?

It’s a simple question. And it has a simple answer: New developments provide vital spaces that strengthen our community: spaces for people to live, to work, and to shop. When we provide a greater variety of spaces that work for a more diverse population, we’re a better, stronger Chapel Hill.

How Do Developments Help Chapel Hill?

The way we live today in 2016 is vastly different in nearly every way from the way we lived in 1956 or 1976 or 1996 or even 2006. It’s a logical conclusion, then, that the physical character and design of our community has to be different, too.

Here’s why more spaces for people to live in, work in, and shop in are good for our community:

  • New apartments and condos provide much-needed places for people to live. Our housing costs in Chapel Hill are so high in part because we have too many people who want to live here and not enough places for them to live.
  • Because community leaders of the 1980s and 1990s wanted to avoid commercial development, most of it located just across the county line in Durham. To increase our share of private sector jobs and our sales tax revenue, we need new developments to provide space for new businesses to strengthen our local economy.
  • Chapel Hill’s comprehensive plans calls for concentrating new development along transit corridors, like in downtown, the Ephesus-Fordham area, along Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd, and Highways 15-501 and 54. This approach to development provides the most benefits to our town and both current and future residents. By focusing in these areas, we reduce our dependence on cars to get around, meaning we can grow and prosper in a way that’s environmentally sustainable and attractive to new residents. And, it’s important to remember, every new development along a transit corridor is a development that doesn’t alter the character of single-family neighborhoods, which existing residents say they value. That’s a win-win for both new and current residents.

The right kind of development—development that doesn’t sprawl out, but instead is built up and is designed to be walkable, bikeable, and accessible by transit—brings all sorts of benefits to Chapel Hill. We should welcome it to our community so that we can thrive and lead our region and state into the future with new housing choices, new transit options, and new job opportunities, for everyone.

— Travis Crayton


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How Do Developments Help Chapel Hill?

Have you driven along Elliott Road lately? The east end, between the bypass and Village Plaza stores. I have, and I wish I hadn’t. The Village Plaza Apartments, all seven stories of them, are growing fast. This project is moving right along.

Other voices, voices that we respect, tell us that we should stop our bellyaching about developers in Chapel Hill. Developers are not the bad guys, we are told. They create homes and neighborhoods where we live, raise our families, and enjoy our Chapel Hill surroundings. It’s true. They do this. Well, some of them do.

Those of us who worry about all this construction are accused of opposing change, any change. But that’s a bum rap. Of course, Chapel Hill will experience change. Change is inevitable. Some of it is good. Some of it.

Some of it is not. Look around. You can begin with the seven-story monstrosity on Elliott Road. Or drive long the north side of NC 54 east of the bypass.

So I have a serious question about some of these developments, which is simply this: How are they improving Chapel Hill? How are these buildings and altered traffic patterns making our town better? Do they add something positive?

Some do, but it’s very clear that some others fail this simple test miserably.

No, developers aren’t evil people. They would deny that they are out to destroy our once-beautiful community. Some of them just want to make a profit.

Fair enough. There’s nothing wrong with that, unless you spoil a once-beautiful town in the process.


Raleigh Mann


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Bringing High Tech Business To Chapel Hill (Or Keeping It Here)

What must the town of Chapel Hill do to attract more high-tech commercial business?

In the ongoing debate over local development, that’s one of the biggest questions. Chapel Hillians have long been concerned about the fact that residential property owners bear the brunt of the town’s tax burden – which can drive up the cost of living in town and force lower-income residents out. One way to shift that burden is to encourage more commercial and retail development, and there is demand for it: local economic leaders have been sounding the alarm about a growing “retail gap” in Orange County, where residents go elsewhere to spend their money because the products they want aren’t available in town. (The old saw about Chapel Hill: it’s a basketball-nuts town, but where can you actually buy a basketball?) Not all retail development is desirable, though: a Walmart might move the tax-burden dial, for instance, but big-box chains don’t always mesh with Chapel Hill’s desire to promote sustainable, labor-friendly businesses. (Or, arguably, its elitism.)

That leaves commercial development – building offices, labs and manufacturing facilities for businesses, particularly high-tech businesses in emerging industries whose values align with Chapel Hill’s. There’s demand for commercial space too: HB2 notwithstanding, the Research Triangle as a whole has developed a nationwide reputation as a technology hub, and UNC produces a steady stream of high-tech local startups. Regionally, Google Fiber is laying the infrastructure to make the Triangle a tech hub, and AT&T is laying its own fiber network in Chapel Hill as well. The only problem is a lack of space: there may be lots of high-tech businesses who want to set up shop in Chapel Hill, but where’s the commercial space to house them all?

That’s an issue town officials have been tackling for years. Chapel Hill is now home to several incubators for local startups – most notably LaUNCh and the 1789 Venture Lab, both downtown – and the town has already approved the construction of about a million square feet of commercial space. But it’s not easy: some of that construction is on hold until developers secure committed tenants, and prospective tenants generally don’t want to have to wait before moving in. In addition, UNC pharmacologist Rudy Juliano says much of that new development would consist of “dry” office space – but high-tech businesses also need “wet” laboratory space as well. And while smaller companies generally seek Class B or Class C office space, almost all new commercial development is Class A – pricier than they can afford, with more amenities than they need. (Cities like Durham have been able to avoid this problem by renovating old warehouses and other pre-existing buildings – but Chapel Hill doesn’t have as many old warehouses to retrofit.)

With all this in mind, Chapel Hill Alliance for a Livable Town (CHALT) is hosting a public forum this Tuesday, June 7, called “Nurturing High Technology Businesses in Chapel Hill.” Rudy Juliano will moderate the forum; panelists will include Michelle Bolas, UNC’s Vice Chancellor for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, as well as two UNC-based startup founders – Natalia Mitin, who decided to move her business out of Chapel Hill, and Jude Samulski, who decided to keep his business in town.

Rudy Juliano spoke last week with WCHL’s Aaron Keck.


The public forum will take place from 6-8 pm at Extraordinary Ventures on S. Elliott Road. It’s free and everyone’s invited.

Chapel Hill Town Council Discusses Rosemary Street Development

Jared Martinson from MHAworks Architecture presented his company’s plan for a new development on 322 West Rosemary Street, the current location of Breadmen’s.

“Where we are today is with a multi-generational and mixed-use building,” he said. “That included affordable housing that targets 50 percent AMI, as well as market rate apartments. It also includes community use, mercantile and business opportunities, specifically fronting Rosemary Street.”

The developer has not officially submitted an application.

The presentation given in the Chapel Hill Town Council meeting Monday evening was for the council to give suggestions on the project.

“As we look at Rosemary Street, while it may not be Franklin Street, it should be the second most important street in town,” said councilman Michael Parker. “We have to start working at that proactively so my major concern is probably the lack of street activation.”

Under the plan presented to the council, the developer would not build the affordable housing units, but would donate the land to an organization that would.

Parker, along with other council members, said the developer would have to have an agreement before they would approve the building permit.

“I would have a very hard time approving a project such as this, absent some firm commitment from somebody to actually fund it,” Parker said. “Rather than hope you’ll fund it and two years go by and the project either fizzles or you come back with a modification.”

Community input at the meeting was mixed, with some residents supporting the expansion of affordable housing, while others expressed concerns over the impact on the Northside Community.

Councilman George Cianciolo said his vote for the project hinged on the acceptance of the community.

“This really needs to be project where the community comes forward and says ‘we want this,'” he said. “That they feel they’re getting what they need out of it while (the developer) is getting what (the developer) needs.”

The developer will host 5 focus meetings throughout June and July to try to work with residents and alleviate their concerns.

Town Council Considers Franklin Street Development

After issuing a request for proposals, Chapel Hill will investigate the financial impact of a proposed six-story development on Franklin Street.

“It’s about 95,000 square feet,” said town manager Roger Stancil. “With the first floor being a retail, music venue-type use, the second floor being office space and music venue-type use, the third floor being office space.”

Floors four, five and six will be dedicated for affordable housing. Each floor will have 13 affordable housing units.

Still in the early stages, the potential development would be at 415 W. Franklin St., which is the current location of a public parking lot.

“To make this project work requires a parking deck to be built to add parking capacity to downtown,” Stancil said. “The proposal is to build a 450-space parking deck to replace approximately 150 existing surface spaces.”

The town currently owns the space where the building would be, but mayor Pam Hemminger said the town does not own the space where the proposed parking deck would be.

She said there was still a lot the council needed to know before making a decision on the property.

“There are property tax implications, which will be part of the financial model,” she said. “There’s also parking income versus leasing versus how it all shakes out whether the town ends up owning the lot or whether the developer ends up owning the lot.”

The town council unanimously approved a motion to allow Stancil and the town staff to continue learning about and discussing the possible development.

Stancil said in June he would present the council with his findings.

At that point the council would decide whether or not to proceed with the development.

Retail Superstore Target Could Come To Chapel Hill

When it comes to the rumors of a Target coming to Chapel Hill, mayor Pam Hemminger can’t say much.

“I can’t confirm or deny the story,” she said. “But I will tell you, wouldn’t it be exciting to have what’s called a Metro Target? I’ve been to a few in other cities.”

If a Target were to move in to Chapel Hill, it would be at Carolina Square, formerly University Square on Franklin Street.

Hemminger said it could take up nearly 16,000 square feet of retail space in the complex, which would be almost all of the retail space available.

“It’s usually a two-level store that provides groceries and other types of things,” she said. “Wouldn’t that be fabulous for our downtown residents that live there in Northside and along Franklin Street and students to be able to have some grocery opportunities there?”

Hemminger said the possibility of a Target has not changed any development plans.

“It’s still going to have the commercial office space,” she said. “Still going to have the residential space. Still going to have the performing arts center. Still going to have the green space. Still going to have 880 parking spaces.”

Construction on the 123 million dollar mixed-use space began in October.

UNC has been a major partner in the project so far, already committing to half of the office space when it is scheduled to open in August 2017.