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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Chapel Hill, the 3rd major player in the Triangle (behind Raleigh and Durham) has received very little representation in the forums, if any. This town has maintained the best main street (known as Franklin Street) in the Triangle and the most popular downtown district, a true mixed-use destination. So far, the town has not seen major residential developments in its core, but things are about to change!!! The article below provides some insight:

Chapel Hill receives 'best, final offers'
By MATT DEES, Staff Writer

CHAPEL HILL -- Armed with pastel renditions of their bold visions, development teams vying for the chance to turn two downtown parking areas into shops and condominiums marched into Chapel Hill Town Hall on Monday morning.

Representatives from Grubb Properties of Charlotte and Ram Development Co. of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., fielded questions from the Town Council in the first face-to-face encounter between the would-be partners.

Downtown will change markedly no matter which team the council selects. Hundreds of condominiums and tens of thousands of square feet of retail space will replace what's now just asphalt.

Business and political leaders are counting on an infusion of people living on and near Franklin Street to give businesses in the historic commercial district steady customers and reduce turnover.

"We've been focused on creating a downtown that functions both as a crossroads and a destination for the region," said council member Bill Strom, chairman of the committee that has worked for more than a year to define the scope of the project. "We are fortunate to control some key parcels. These parcels are quite obviously underutilized. The committee and the council have decided to proactively support downtown, and these redevelopment projects are vital to that effort."

The council is scheduled to choose a developer June 15.

'Excellent' and 'poor'

Round 1 appeared to go to Ram. The company got high marks for its inviting, parklike public space and for letting the town retain ownership of a parking lot at Church and Franklin streets and the Wallace Deck on East Rosemary Street, something Grubb is not offering.

And Ram's proposal would cost the town only about $1 million, despite an overall project cost that's $12 million more than Grubb's. Ram President Casey Cummings even said Monday that the company could cover that $1 million if it was a sticking point.

Grubb's $62.6 million proposal calls for a public-sector contribution of $19.3 million, some of which federal grants could cover, the company says.

John Stainback, the Houston-based consultant the town hired to help negotiate the redevelopment project, termed Ram's $74.7 million bid "excellent." He called Grubb's offer "poor."

"I think they're both strong in different ways -- there's nothing inherently bad about either one," council member Mark Kleinschmidt said after the five-hour session. "But the financial part is probably one of the most important things to look at."

Grubb officials cast their proposal as the more realistic of the two. They said lenders see mixed-use redevelopment projects as risky compared with tried-and-true commercial ventures in suburban areas.

"We could do free-standing Eckerds and Wal-Marts in the suburbs in our sleep," said Jeff Harris, Grubb's vice president of investments, adding that his company probably has completed more mixed-use developments in North Carolina than any other company.

"We believe in the mixed-use model," he said. "Like I tell my children, things that are worth doing usually take a little extra effort."

Grubb's projected profit margins are much higher than Ram's.

In the most stark example, Grubb's financing model would produce a 21.77 percent return on its $10.5 million investment in condominiums on the Wallace Deck site. Ram sees only a 2.98 percent return on its $23 million investment there.

"If they're willing to do it for that," Harris said, "God bless 'em."

Even if the company wanted to, Grubb couldn't make a counteroffer, Stainback said, explaining that the proposals are considered "best and final offers."

Two council members asked Cummings whether Ram's financial model was too good to be true.

He said no projection ever is exactly right but that his company hopes to ride the growing trend of people returning to downtown.

After the meeting, Ivy Greaner, Ram's managing partner, said the profit margins are healthy enough to sustain the project.

But Ram also is seeking a foothold in North Carolina. The company is willing to make less money in Chapel Hill to get a centerpiece project in the Triangle.

"This is a special town," Greaner said, in a suitor's tone. "We love Chapel Hill."

Staff writer Matt Dees can be reached at 932-8760 or [email protected].


For more information, see the images and descriptions below:


LOT 5 SITE - RAM'S PLAN: Aerial perspective, Franklin and Church streets. The Lot 5 proposal from Ram Construction Co. of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., would cost about $50.2 million to build. It is 234,256 square feet, of which 174,388 is for 124 condominium units, 27,320 for retail and 32,550 for open space.


WALLACE DECK SITE - RAM'S PLAN: Rosemary and Henderson perspective. Ram's Wallace Deck would cost about $24.5 million. The public sector would pay $8.5 million. About $7.5 million of that could be covered by a one-time fee to the town for use of the land, and other payments. Ram's plans call for 139,232 square feet of development, of which 123,617 would be for 109 condominiums, 12,115 of open public space and 3,500 for retail.


LOT 5 SITE - GRUBB'S PLAN: Franklin Street facade. The proposal from Grubb Properties of Charlotte for Lot 5, at Franklin and Church streets, would cost about $45.3 million to build. It is 391,095 square feet, of which 176,050 would be for 120 condominium units, 36,900 for retail and 40,600 for open space.


WALLACE DECK SITE - GRUBB'S PLAN: Rosemary Street elevation. Grubb's proposal for the Wallace Deck on East Rosemary Street would cost about $17.3 million to build. The public sector would pay $19.3 million of that. Grubb hopes to secure federal grants to pay for some of the public costs. Grubb's Wallace Deck would be 102,630 square feet, of which 82,130 would be for 60 condominium units, 13,000 for open space and 7,500 for retail space.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
I decided to comment after my initial post, leaving any personal views outside the article. Personally, I feel good about both projects. They fit well into DT Chapel Hill's existing fabric and help bring more residents to the town's core. If this trend continues, and I am sure it will, Chapel Hill will have one of the best success stories to share with other towns and cities. With its population showing small increases, almost entirely outside the center, Chapel Hill has only one direction to go: taller, mixed-use infills along and around Franklin Street. May the best proposal win... this is going to be a tough one, although I have a feeling Chapel Hill's leaders will go with Ram's plan.
 

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There's more about the Grubb proposal and Ram proposal on the Town of Chapel Hill's website, including more renderings and site plans and such. Honestly I like the Grubb proposal for "Lot 5" at Frankin & Church better - it's 10 stories vs. Ram's 7, plus the elevation looks nicer. Anywhere else on Franklin St, and 10 stories might stick out too much, but this is right across the street from Granville Towers, so it'll fit in perfectly.

On the other hand, I think that the Ram plan for the Wallace Deck seems better, since it offers more square footage than Grubb's.

It's important to note that both of the projects I like are the ones that require the largest public-sector investment. Of course I don't want Chapel Hill to go broke, but at the same time I hope that money won't be the 100% overriding concern. In either case, as Raleigh-NC noted, Chapel Hill stands to gain a great deal regardless of which project is chosen. Given the "Excellent vs. Poor" ratings, I think it's a foregone conclusion, but I hope they take their time weighing the options anyway.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
Orulz, many thanks for the links... They are truly amazing!!!!! In all honesty, I never expected something of this size to be proposed for Chapel Hill, but the town deserves something of this magnitude. Initially, I thought that an 11-story building may feel too much, but Chapel Hill must see developments above low-rise levels. Franklin Street provides such opportunities, although I do not see a skyscraper being proposed for Chapel Hill any time soon. If a 10+ story mid-rise gets built, it will be hard to kill future projects of similar size. For me, the number one priority is to maintain a facade that will blend with the town's character and won't end up being something we'll regret in the nearest future. I think that both proposals address walkability and mixed-use, which will make this project a great step forward. Hopefully, Raleigh and Durham will get similar projects. North Blount Street revitalization is along the same lines, so the city's leadership is in tune with the needs of this area (Raleigh). It is refreshing to observe Chapel Hill progressing into a more urban place. Between new urbanist projects (Southern Village and Meadowmont Village) and urban proposals like the one we are discussing, Chapel Hill has done many things right. I can't say that the town's leadership is progressive, but they show willingness.

Let's see a few photos of that area (web finds). The proposed mid-rise will be built across from the tower:



This is an aerial of the block where the proposal(s) will go. Wallace will be at the right of the 6-story building with the "white" roof, (currently a parking deck), while Lot 5 will occupy the entire left side of the 6-story mid-rise. Franklin Street is on the lower part of the image:




There is another proposal for a nearby parcel, called Rosemary Village. Chapel Hill's downtown will shape to be a fantastic place to live, work and play, provided the city manages to attract a few businesses, too. Here are a map and a drawing of Rosemary Village:





Can't help but get excited about the future of this town. Many times I overlook Chapel Hill, but I don't look down on it. In contrary, it is the kind of places I take for granted; it always looks good :eek:kay:
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
It's a fun place and I am sure you'll have a good time. Maybe you will represent that town while there... provided you won't be partying too much :)
 

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:bash: :hammer: :puke:NC State

GO Heels!!

;)

At least we're better in basketball. O wait, we're better in football too now. :tongue3:
 

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Should be interesting; Chapel Hill really needs more housing options close to campus. Hopefully they'll be affordable, but I get the feeling that they won't really cater to students and will be priced a little higher. More importantly, putting more people on Franklin Street should help out the businesses there. Although most of the stores are open again, I can probably point out at least 10-15 spots on Franklin that have shutdown/changed tenants in the last 5 years. This is primarily due to the seasonal nature of the place: 9 months of the year there is plenty of business, but the town really does empty out over summer. Two things I'd love to see on Franklin Street in addition to residential projects: an "adult" arcade (get your minds out of the gutter people, I'm talking something like a Jillians) and a Krispy Kreme (Think of the profits!!!! even if they cook their books, the doughnuts are still GOOD).

Just as an aside, I was walking through South Campus today and it just hit me how it was probably one of the most "urban" areas in the entire triangle. In a land area of about 1 square mile, you have about 10,000 students living with limited parking/cars. In addition throw in easily the best mass transit around and a commercial destination (Franklin) within a mile. This is of course a stretch, (I wouldn't want to live in a Residence Hall or "Dorm" and the "offices"/classrooms really aren't proportional to the number of people around. I'm rambling now, but the point I was maknig is that walking around Chapel Hill/UNC you don't think urban; you see plenty of trees and greenery and minimal parking lots. You don't really ever get the feeling that there are 10,000 people right around you (Unless its Halloween or a National Championship Celebration)
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Chapel Hill needs to diversify its economy, especially in the downtown section. Depending on students is ok, but in the long run the local economy will be hurt. A city/town of 100,000 residents, or less, can manage itself, but as the place grows it needs more than one major source of income. Putting all the eggs in one basket isn't really the smartest thing when it comes to economy and Chapel Hill has a good opportunity to change this now. On the other hand, the town needs to make sure that the options are there for students, so they don't get misplaced.

As an update, let me post this article, from today's N&O. In the last three paragraphs one can see how some people like to twist the truth in order to make their point. Good luck trying to suggest that the proposals fit the skyscraper image. Not that I expect any better from NIMBYs and NIMBY-like individuals. Anyway, enjoy the article.

Changed Chapel Hill is foreseen
By MATT DEES, Staff Writer

CHAPEL HILL -- Opinions varied, but reactions to the redevelopment plans for two downtown Chapel Hill parking areas Tuesday were much the same.

Whoa. Wow. That's huge.

Rafael Diaz stood next to the Wallace parking deck on East Rosemary Street, alternating glances at the brick garage and the conceptual drawings he held of proposed condominiums and shops -- the present view and a peek at the possible future.

"It seems like it'll be really weird here in two years," the 22-year-old UNC-Chapel Hill student said. "That is crazy."

Charlene Sartin, a 1988 alumna of UNC-CH visiting from Apex, did a double take when she saw the developers' visions for parking lot 5 as she stood in front of it on West Franklin Street.

"It's becoming one big brick," she said.

"We drive through South Campus, and it's just so sad to see all those buildings without the green spaces," she added, referring to new high-rise student housing built a few years ago. "But that picture looks pretty nice."

All anyone has to go on right now are those pretty pictures, submitted by two development teams vying for the public-private project.

One company's drawings show colonial-style gables and chimneys. The other's have a slightly more modern feel.

Both are very large, hundreds of thousands of square feet with several hundred condominiums and plenty of space for retail and restaurants.

Council members decide June 15 whether Grubb Properties of Charlotte or Ram Development Co. of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., gets to bring the massive developments to life.

Ken Hales, 53, and a 32-year Chapel Hill resident, loves the idea, even on paper. Both conceptual drawings looked good to him as stood next to lot 5, though he gave the nod to Ram's design, with its park-like space right on Franklin Street.

Do the plans for lot 5 -- somewhere between seven and 10 stories -- look too tall, as many said?

"There's nowhere for Chapel Hill to grow out," Hales said. "It's going to have to go up. Surface parking is really a total waste of land."

But many interviewed Tuesday -- a day after the development teams made their formal pitches to the council -- expressed trepidation, even anger.

"Let's build condos all the way up to that big blue sky, like downtown Chicago," said Bill Murdock, a 55-year-old UNC faculty member who first came to Chapel Hill in 1966 as a college freshman, his voice dripping with sarcasm.

He was sitting with Leland Webb, a fellow faculty member and alumnus, eating a Mexican lunch on the commons area atop the Wallace deck.

In other words, they were sitting in what could be someone's living room two years from now.

Staff writer Matt Dees can be reached at 932-8760 or [email protected].
 

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There are also developments in carrboro. Recently, there were a few low-rise (3-7 story) developments completed. There is also one more low-rise coming up on rosemary st.

But I wish locals would get over it--chapel hill is a great college town as it is and adding more people will only make it better. The notion that these units will be cheap, however, is a little far fetched I think. While the projects may bring hundreds more to downtown--make no mistake that it'll mostly be super-yuppies or old faculty members who want to live intown.

There was also a proposal to build a mid rise ( i think about 10 stories) in carrboro near the Cat's Cradle and people were flipping out. I don't really understand what it is about a few 7-12 story buildings that makes someone think 'Chicago'. It's not losing the town's character--as long as the buildings are designed to fit in.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
NCtarheel, much of the population of Chapel Hill and Carrboro consists of people who like to protest, no matter what. I am not trying to insult anyone, but the hippie mentality of that area needs a reality check. Growth will take place in Chapel Hill/Carrboro, whether some "activists" like it or not. Every time they fight something inside and near downtown, a major "sprawler" will be built around there. What they fear the most is not buildings up to 10 stories, but the growing pains. Also, they don't seem to grasp the concept of stagnant economy associated with lack of growth - not a definite side effect, but it happens most of the times. Without a diversified economy, Chapel Hill will depend on the University and the good will of some business people who still believe in the town's potential. The latter will eventually get tired and give up if they are not given some space to grow. I am not predicting anything negative, but it will be an uphill battle for developers who have a vision.

Another plan that may stir some more controversy as it approaches the final phase is the Carolina North project. I briefly looked into some presentation files and I was pleasantly surprised. Here are a few renderings:





























I don't know how you guys feel about it, but if Chapel Hill gets something like this, it will become the de facto leader in urban development in the Triangle, by far. With Meadowmont Village and Southern Village showcasing the best this area has to offer in terms of "urban" living (outside downtown areas in the Triangle), Chapel Hill can create a strong tax base, without altering its university town image. If someone works in RTP, it makes a lot of sense to live in Chapel Hill, just as much as it makes sense to live in Raleigh or Durham. Commuting for an additional 10 minutes isn't going to make much difference when one has the chance to enjoy good living. It seems to be that this is UNC's answer to NCSU's Centennial Campus... and a very good response, indeed. I hope that NCSU gets its act together and creates something better, and more mixed-use than what they are currently working on. Centennial Campus' residential component is certainly a promising one, but nevertheless not the greatest I've seen; NCSU just hasn't realized yet the potential. Anyway, here is an article from today's N&O:

UNC touts Carolina North study
By ANNE BLYTHE, Staff Writer

CHAPEL HILL -- Although plans for Carolina North are still in a preliminary stage, UNC-Chapel Hill leaders contend the research campus will be a boon to the economy -- generating 7,500 local jobs and $48 million in annual tax revenues by 2020.

On the eve of a campus discussion about the ambitious proposal, university officials released an economic impact analysis done by Market Street in Atlanta that bills the project as a potential big contributor to the state's future well-being.

"Carolina North will expand Carolina's multiple missions, boost innovation and redefine our engagement with the region, state and world," Chancellor James Moeser said in a statement. "The great news from this study is that Carolina, through Carolina North, can continue to be a catalyst for the economic transformation of our state."

Some are skeptical of the conclusions, which Market Street drew without knowing exactly what companies would be operating at the research campus.

Carolina North, as proposed, would transform a 975-acre state-owned property nearly two miles from the main UNC-CH campus into labs, offices, shops, restaurants and homes. University planners have estimated that roads, water and sewer lines and other necessary infrastructure could cost at least $100 million.

UNC-CH trustees are to discuss the plans, which have been on and off the table for nearly a decade, today at a board meeting in the Carolina Inn.

The economic analysis, a $27,924 study submitted to university planners in November, has not yet been a part of the public conversation. The consultants concluded that in 15 years the research campus will have generated $26 million in state income tax, $14.6 million in state sales tax, $2.8 million in local sales tax and $5 million in property taxes.

"We just are able to use the best information we have," said Irene Sacks, a Market Street project associate.

Using models and information from university planners about the types of departments, labs and businesses that might be on the satellite campus, the consultants tried to offer university officials a picture of what an investment in such a project might yield -- and the impact on the local and state economy.

Among its conclusions, Market Street projects that Carolina North will create:

* 7,500 full-time jobs.

* $433 million in annual salaries and personal incomes.

* 8,876 construction-related jobs.

* $353 million in construction salaries and personal incomes.

* $600 million in annual business revenue.

* and $979 million in construction business revenue.

But some question the university's reasons for generating such an analysis.

"The decision to do this kind of a study is generally geared toward the legislators," Chapel Hill Town Council member Bill Strom said. "Financial impacts are something the Town Council is not allowed to consider when taking action on [a development] application. The reason is, you can speculate all you want about what something's going to bring in, but the manager needs cash in town coffers to make payroll."

Carolina North, as proposed, would be built where the Horace Williams Airport is. The airport design has been problematic in recent years. The trustees are to get a briefing today on the search for an alternative site.

Moeser tried to close the in-town landing strip several years ago, but state legislators intervened. The Area Health Education Centers outreach program bases its medical air fleet there, and the state insisted that the airport stay open until the university finds a suitable relocation site. AHEC administrators have maintained that a commute of more than 20 minutes from UNC Hospitals to an airport could hurt the program.

Moeser said recently that the university had considered nearly 30 tracts of land in Orange, Chatham and Alamance counties that ranged in price from nearly $35 million to $60 million. With political hurdles to overcome and the possibility of a 15-year construction timeline, Moeser is pushing a Senate proposal that would allow the university to base the medical air fleet at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

Staff writer Anne Blythe can be reached at 932-8741 or [email protected].
 

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This looks nice, I can't wait to visit the area this summer.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Glad you guys see the value of this project. Keep in mind that this is 50-year phased project and will total 8 million sf when finished. It will be a long time before completion, but it is nice to see that someone is doing something right.
 

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Wow! I like all of these! Do you see Colonial Revival making a comeback in architecture? It was by far the most successful style, with an almost 100 year run in popularity. With these village proposals, Colonial Revival makes sense as an architectural style. I think it also works great in historic college towns, like Chapel Hill.
 

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Oh wow! Those are impressive designs. But a 50 year-phase project? Whoa!! I might be dead before then. :goodnight Do you think we will still be posting on SSC when this is completed? :hahaha:
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
@astro: My thoughts, exactly :lol: I didn't want to depress anyone by saying it, but you put it in a very nice way. The good thing is that all the projections concerning number of jobs are between the beginning of the project and the year 2020, 15 years from today. I would like to believe that what we see in the renderings is what they plan for the next 15 years. Otherwise, I will have to start digging my grave :goodnight
 

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A 10 story building would be quite visible from neighborhoods surrounding downtown. You can already see the lights from Top of the Hill restaurant from houses perched as far away as Estes Dr (well, maybe not quite THAT far, but you get the idea).

At any rate, the geography there would really present a tall building well from a distance. I like it!
 
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