Local Politics

Chapel Hill town council to consider $32 million downtown economic development project

Posted September 30, 2020 7:18 p.m. EDT
Updated September 30, 2020 8:05 p.m. EDT

— The Chapel Hill Town Council on Wednesday was expected to make a $32 million decision that will affect all of downtown, public parking and the economy.

The town is considering building a new parking deck as part of a development with office space along East Rosemary Street. While some believe it will spark a much-needed boost in downtown economy, others think the project is too risky.

“You see everything start to get back to normal a little bit," said Reginald Riggsbee, who lives in Chapel Hill.

Things are starting look up in Historic Downtown Chapel Hill as more businesses begin to reopen. This also draws more attention to a problem longtime residents said they have faced for years.

“It’ll take you at least 10 minutes ... because you’re going to ride around in a circle before you actually find somewhere to park," Riggsbee said.

In the proposal, Chapel Hill would acquire property across from the Wallace parking deck. A proposed land swap with developer Grubb Properties would consolidate two East Rosemary Street parking decks into a new 1,100-space garage with room for food trucks and two pocket parks.

Grubb would replace the town’s Wallace deck at 150 E. Rosemary St. with a six-story office and wet lab building for startups and research companies. It would complement Grubb’s Innovation Hub in the former CVS building next door.

“I think it is one of the largest capital investments project of the town of chapel hill. If not, it’s the most expensive one," said Hongbin Gu, a town council member.

The estimated cost is $32.9 million. Gu still wants more answers about the potential impact on the town’s long-term financial health before a decision is made.

“The total revenue generated by these two parking decks is around 700,000 per year. The projection that is given to us for this new deck is three to four times more than that," Gu said.

While the town sorts out the pros and cons, some business owners are looking forward to the possible new development.

“Of course it would mean more traffic, which is always welcoming for a business," said Jamie Sanchez, owner of Epilogue Book Store & Coffee Shop. "I’m hoping to just expose more people to downtown. This is a step in the right direction," he added.

If approved, the construction of the deck would begin in March or April of 2021. It would be self-financed through the town’s parking enterprise fund.

Our commenting policy has changed. If you would like to comment, please share on social media using the icons below and comment there.