Community Meeting on Southern Village Traffic Study Tuesday

The Town of Chapel Hill is conducting a study to receive feedback for traffic concerns and solutions on the streets in Southern Village.

The meeting is at 6:30 Tuesday evening in Ascension Hall at the Christ United Methodist Church.

Residents can also provide feedback on traffic concerns by taking the survey. For more information click here.

“Holly Jolly Jog” Will Help Make Bucket List Wishes Come True

On Sunday, December 6, an organization called the Fill Your Bucket List Foundation will host a fun run called the Holly Jolly Jog, from 4-9 pm at Southern Village. The run begins at 5 pm with registration starting at 4; activities will include a one-mile dash and a 5K run, plus an auction, food, music and a tree lighting.

The event will benefit the Fill Your Bucket List Foundation, a local nonprofit that got its start just a year ago in August of 2014. Its mission: to help adult cancer patients “fill their bucket lists” by giving them the opportunity to experience the things they’ve always wanted to do.

Executive director Peggy Carroll says she was inspired to start the foundation from her own personal experience. She says she originally hoped to help two people a year – but in the first 12 months, the Fill Your Bucket List Foundation was able to help eight people, and she’s hoping for even more growth in the future. Carroll says most of the people she works with have simple requests – some want to travel or have big adventures, but many simply want the chance to spend more time with distant relatives.

Peggy Carroll spoke this week with WCHL’s Aaron Keck.


Everyone’s invited to participate in Sunday’s event.  Get more information here, including a link to register.

Crews Respond to Fire in Southern Village

Six Chapel Hill Fire Department trucks responded to a report of a structure fire just before one o’clock Tuesday afternoon at 500 Market Street in the Southern Village Neighborhood.

Authorities say the call was received from an alarm monitoring company as a fire alarm activation, before being elevated to a structure fire.

Spokesperson Lisa Edwards said in a press release that the sprinkler system in the unit extinguished the fire and firefighters investigated to ensure the fire had not spread.

The cause of the fire was determined to be cooking related. There were no injuries reported.

Edwards says cooking is the number one cause of home fires and home injuries.

Officials Break Ground on New Southern Village Hotel

After seven years of planning, the Southern Village neighborhood will get a new hotel.

Developers and elected officials leaned on golden shovels Thursday to break ground on the five-story Hyatt Place hotel. The facility will include 110 guest rooms as well as indoor and outdoor meeting space.

Though many were on hand to celebrate the occasion, the road to get to that point was at times rocky. 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 resurfaced, though this time at the edge of the development instead of at its center.

This change made all the difference, as those residents formerly opposed to the plan lined up before the town council to support it. It was unanimously approved in October, 2013, but negotiations over construction pricing delayed the start of the project.

Once the hotel opens in the summer of 2016, business owners on Market Street hope it will add a third retail anchor to the area to complement the Lumina Theater and Weaver Street Market.

“Super Cooper” Fest Helps Families Struggling With Cancer

Photo via

On Saturday, September 20, Southern Village will play host to the fifth annual Super Cooper’s Rockin’ Run and Family Festival – an event to raise funds for an organization that helps families struggling with childhood cancer.

Founded by Southern Village residents Elise and Justin Herman in honor of their son Cooper, the Super Cooper Festival has raised more than $400,000 in its first four years. This year’s event will include a 5K run, live music, food trucks, kids’ games, a live auction with former UNC basketball star Eric Montross, a performance by the Bouncing Bulldogs, and more.

It’s all to raise money for the Little Red Wagon Foundation, started by the Hermans after their own experience seeking medical treatment for Cooper, who was diagnosed with brain cancer at the age of 2. Without the help of friends, family, and supportive organizations, Elise says, the cost of travel and housing would have been as much of a burden as the cost of the treatment itself. Elise and Justin started the Little Red Wagon Foundation shortly thereafter, to raise funds to help house and support families going through the same experience – and even though Cooper passed away this year, at the age of just 6, their commitment to that mission hasn’t wavered.

Elise and Justin Herman joined WCHL’s Aaron Keck on the air Wednesday, along with George Linney of Fleet Feet, which is supporting the festival.


Visit for more details about the event and the foundation.

Register for the 5K at this link.

Chapel Hill Fire Dept Plans Live Fire Training Near Southern Village

You might smell smoke or see flames near Southern Village next week, but fire officials say there’s no cause for alarm. The Chapel Hill Fire Department will conduct firefighting training exercises that will involve controlled burning of three homes.

Deputy Chief Matt Lawrence says that’s rare opportunity for the department.

“It’s really important that we’re able to do this type of training because it’s as real as we can possibly make it for our fire-responders,” say Lawrence.

The houses, located along 15-501 South between Arlen Park Drive and Market Street, are scheduled to be demolished to make way for the new Southern Village hotel. But first, firefighters will have a chance to hone their skills in a live fire.

“The majority of our training is conducted in our training center, which is a concrete and steel building that we can light fires in, but it is very difficult to recreate fire behavior and how fire moves through an actual wood frame structure, so this is a good opportunity,” says Lawrence.

The department will burn one house each day from Monday through Wednesday. All fire crews will have a chance to participate.

One southbound lane of 15-501 will be closed starting at 9 a.m. during the drills, but the lane should be reopened in time for the afternoon rush hour.

Here’s the full text of the department’s press release:

On August 4, 5, and 6, 2014, The Chapel Hill Fire Department will be conducting live burn fire training along US 15-501 South between Arlen Park Drive and Market Street.  The training will begin at 9:00 a.m. and conclude by 4:00 p.m. each day.

For the safety of emergency personnel involved in the training, the right lane of US 15-501 South will be closed between Arlen Park Drive and Market Street during these exercises.  Motorists are urged to use caution throughout these closures.

Those close to this area may experience the odor of smoke and see flames visible.  There will be an electronic signage board indicating the training area to clearly identify to citizens and residents where the training event is taking place.

While we expect to have smoke and visible flames at the training site, if you encounter a situation that causes you concern, do not hesitate to call 911 and make a report.

Town Leaders Talk Obey Creek, Glen Lennox…And Chatham Park

What is the future of development in Chapel Hill? The Chapel Hill Town Council will be making a pair of big decisions on Monday.

That’s when the Council votes on whether to approve a development agreement for the Glen Lennox neighborhood – and whether to proceed to the negotiation phase on another development in the works, Obey Creek.

See the Council’s full agenda.

Located just across 15/501 from Southern Village, the 120-acre Obey Creek site represents the next big phase of the ongoing discussion around development and redevelopment in Chapel Hill. (Since the town’s new comprehensive plan was approved in 2012, Chapel Hill has begun moving forward on several “future focus” areas, including Central West, Rosemary Street, and Ephesus/Fordham as well as Glen Lennox.)

See an image of the broad vision for Obey Creek, as laid out in the “Chapel Hill 2020” comprehensive plan.

Developer Roger Perry of East-West Partners has proposed a 1.5 million square foot development for the site, with 600-700 residential units, 327,000 square feet of retail (including a large anchor store, perhaps a ‘big box’), and a hotel. The proposed development would cover 35 of the 120 acres, with the rest conserved for public use, wilderness preservation, and a possible future school.

See the most recent development proposal.

Reaction to Perry’s proposal has been mixed, at least so far. (No surprise: the discussion process is still in the early stages.) Residents and town officials generally agree that some development ought to take place at the Obey Creek site, if only to generate more retail spending: fewer dollars are spent on retail in Orange County than in any of the surrounding counties, and that in turn forces Chapel Hill’s tax burden disproportionately onto property owners. (The Town Council, indeed, just approved a one-cent property tax increase.)

But some have objected to certain features of Perry’s proposal. Its large scale is one concern: some have proposed a smaller development, closer to 750,000 square feet than 1.5 million. (Perry has argued, in response, that a certain level of density is necessary to make the project financially viable.) Others have expressed concerns about the environmental effects, pedestrian and bike accessibility, and the impact on traffic on 15/501 (which is already busy in that area). And still others have emphasized the need to make sure that Obey Creek has a “sense of place”: aesthetically pleasing, with a real connection to Southern Village and a feeling of being Chapel Hill’s southern ‘gateway.’ (Some residents involved in the discussion have held up the East 54 development – also Perry’s – as a cautionary example in this vein: the East 54 development isn’t as inviting as it could be, they say, because drivers along Route 54 can only see the backs of the buildings.)

Last year, the Town of Chapel Hill appointed 17 residents to a committee, to study the proposal, solicit public feedback, and provide recommendations on moving forward. On December 16 of last year, the Obey Creek Compass Committee submitted its final 43-page report.

Read the Compass Committee’s report here.

Committee members say they have some concerns about the proposal that’s currently on the table, but they’re confident the disagreements can be worked out before final approval from the Town Council.

And all of these discussions are taking place in the wake of Chatham County’s recent approval of Chatham Park – a massive development that’s set to add about 60,000 residents to Pittsboro over the next three decades. (Pittsboro’s current population is about 3,000.) How that will affect development in Chapel Hill – or the entire Triangle, for that matter – remains to be seen.

Two weeks ago, WCHL’s Jim Heavner spoke at length with Roger Perry about the Obey Creek project and the state of development in Chapel Hill.

(Listen to part 1, part 2, and part 3 of that conversation.)

And last week, Aaron Keck welcomed several key town officials and Compass Committee members into the studio to talk about Obey Creek – as well as Glen Lennox, Chatham Park, and development in general in Chapel Hill.

Listen to Part 1 of Aaron’s conversation with Jeanne Brown and Susan Lindsay of the Obey Creek Compass Committee:

And Part 2:

Listen to Aaron’s conversation with Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt:

Listen to Part 1 of Aaron’s conversation with Kristen Smith of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce:

And Part 2:

Finally, listen to Aaron’s conversation with Chapel Hill Economic Development Officer Dwight Bassett:

The Town Council meets on Monday night at 5:30 in the Southern Human Services Center.

So. Village Commercial Robber Captured

CHAPEL HILL – It took less than 24 hours to track down a man suspected of breaking and entering at multiple businesses in Southern Village.

Chapel Hill Police arrested 33-year-old Caleb Hopkirk-Ridlen Hill on 13 felony charges including breaking and entering, larceny, and injury to real property. The break-ins occurred early Thursday morning in the Market Street area of Southern Village.

“We received some surveillance footage of this case. […] Yesterday evening he was located I believe again on Market Street,”  says Lieutenant Kevin Gunter of the Chapel Hill Police Department.

Hill was held in the Orange County Jail on a $25,000 secured bond.

CH Town Council OKs Southern Village Hotel Plan

CHAPEL HILL – The Chapel Hill Town Council unanimously approved development plans Monday for a five-story hotel to be built on the edge of Southern Village.

“All those in favor, say, ‘Aye.’ We have a new hotel,’ said Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt.

The hotel will be five stories, with 112 rooms and 90 parking spaces, and will be built along US 15-501 South across from Strata Solar.

The development plan also calls for a future phase to include an apartment building.

Mayor Pro Tem Ed Harrison excitedly complimented the developer, D.R. Bryan, for seeing the project through and making the necessary changes during the process.

“I think it is a triumph that you came out to this location instead of the other one. I learned a lot about Southern Village, and its residents, and also a lot about Southern Village and its design from you folks,” Harrison said. “This shows that where there is a will there is a way and that something can happen when it needs to.”

When Bryan first suggested building a hotel in the heart of Southern Village back in late 2008, residents of the neighborhood fought against the project and the proposal subsequently was tabled.

This year, the concept of a hotel in the mixed-use village resurfaced, though the new design plan moved the development to the edge of Southern Village instead of at its center.

At a public hearing in September, neighbors in the area had formed a more favorable opinion of the proposed plan for the hotel, and many business owners and residents praised the plan Many said they believed it would bring much needed business to the merchants on Market Street.

Some still worried about how the hotel would affect issues like access to 15-501, pedestrian access to Barksdale Drive, and landscaping concerns.

Sarah O’Brien, representing the developer, spoke to the Council Monday and said that the new plan included revisions such as re-working the right-in/right-out access to 15-501 South.

“This achieves many community-wide goals that were identified in the 1992 Southern [Village] small area plan and most recently, in the Chapel Hill 20/20 plan, including the design principles for Highway 15-501 south,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien added that other benefits of the hotel in Southern will include adding to Chapel Hill’s commercial tax base and improving road connectivity in Southern Village.

So. Village Residents Skeptical Of New Obey Creek Plan

CHAPEL HILL- Residents living near Obey Creek got a look at a new development plan on Wednesday, but many still think it’s too much.

When developer Roger Perry presented a revised site plan to the Obey Creek Compass Committee, he told them that review by the town’s technical team had done much to improve it:

“It is a much better plan than the one you saw on Monday night,” said Perry. “We’re especially excited about figuring out a solution as to how to not turn our back on 15-501, but to integrate this project into the fabric of Southern Village and into town, instead of being an isolated place on its own.”

The revised plan is based on one presented to the committee earlier this week. It features a mixed-use complex with building heights ranging from three to six stories, with underground parking.

Obey creek concept

Revised Obey Creek Development Proposal

A team of consultants lead by Victor Dover reviewed the plan and made recommendations to the developer. The changes include breaking streets and buildings into smaller blocks, buffering 15-501 South with trees, and adding slow-speed circulator roads around the perimeter of the development.

“I think that’s one of the major breakthroughs in the last two days,” said Perry. “Now what we’ve designed is a streetscape along the creek that is really very much of a human scale. Three story townhomes where you could really create quite a pedestrian experience.”

But some committee members, as well as many of the three dozen audience members, said the plan did not address one of their fundamental concerns, that of scale. Robert Strauss questioned why the plan calls for a development footprint the same size as Durham’s Southpoint mall.

“I don’t feel like I have a good understanding, I don’t feel like there’s been a thoughtful approach to why it is the size it is,” said Strauss.

In fact, the revised plan is slightly larger that those the committee critiqued on Monday, though Perry said he’d be willing to scale it back to approximately 1.5 million square feet.

Dover warned the committee not to aim too low, saying the project must reach a critical mass of residential and retail density to succeed.

“You usually think about density like it’s a toxic substance, and that the thing to do is to reduce the dosage so you don’t overdose on it,” said Dover. “I don’t think that’s the situation that you have right here. You actually want to achieve a livable density, which means one that supports transit, one that puts enough souls close together to support neighborhood retail, to support neighborhood congregation. Those are public benefits and you don’t get to those by just taking density out.

Perry agreed.

“You want us to be successful. The last thing you want is a failure here,” said Perry. “So you want us to be successful, we feel like this is a scale that is in the best interests for us being successful and the town.”

The Obey Creek Compass Committee is in the first phase of the negotiation process for a development agreement. The committee’s report, due to go to the town council in November, will help the council decide whether to enter into the second phase of the process, in which town leaders would negotiate directly with the developer to hash out a long-term building plan for the 124 acres site along 15-501 across from Southern Village.

The newly revised Obey Creek map will be presented for public comment at a forum on October 16, from 7- 9 p.m. at Extraordinary Ventures on Elliot Road.