Redevelopment Planned For Franklin Street In Chapel Hill
Posted December 9, 2005 4:57 a.m. EST
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Franklin Street has been the lifeblood of Chapel Hill for decades, but in recent years, the pulse has slowed a bit.
Along the street, there are empty storefronts and boarded up buildings from where dozens of businesses have moved out in recent years.
"It's not been quite as vibrant as it used to be," said resident Lynn Howie.
The vacancy rate is only about 10 percent, so what retailers say is missing is a key ingredient: customers.
"When school is closed, we're slow," said Rick Cullross, who has a business on the street. "There's even restaurants that close when school's out."
Some believe the town needs to bring in businesses with broader appeal that cater to more than the college crowd from UNC-Chapel Hill.
A new economic development initiative is looking at ways to bring the spark back to downtown.
To jump start Franklin Street, town leaders have major plans for it nearby.
In phase one, the Wallace parking deck on Rosemary Street will be topped off with 100 condos and several shops.
"This is an $80 million redevelopment process," said Bill Strom, mayor pro-tem.
The current parking spaces will stay.
Over the next three years, the plan is to add at least 600 condos to the downtown area, which could increase the tax base by a half-million dollars.
"Our goal is to get folks to live in downtown Chapel Hill," Strom said.
Town leaders say when all is said and done, there will actually be more parking in the area.
Work on phase one is supposed to start in early 2007 and will take about a year to complete.