A primer for Carolina North

October 3, 2007 

UNC-Chapel Hill will hold a public information session on Carolina North on Thursday, the first community meeting since the board of trustees approved plans for the research campus Sept. 26.

Carolina North will be built two miles north of the main campus. The trustees' approval moves the project to the next phase, working with the town of Chapel Hill on permits and planning. Here is a look at the project and what some people are saying about it.

What is it?

Campus leaders say Carolina North will be a research, corporate and residential campus. Eventually it will house university research programs, startup businesses, a public school, housing, retail and recreation facilities.

The university has been holding public information sessions over the past few months. You can see the plans and read the comments at cn.unc.edu.

Where is it?

The site is nearly 1,000 acres, but plans call for developing only about 250 acres over 50 years. The initial development will be centered on what is now the Horace Williams Airport runway.

The development has been in the works for about 12 years. The university began looking at uses for the Horace Williams tract in the mid-1990s.

Why does UNC-CH want it?

The main campus is filling up. The university plans to move some operations that would collaborate with and support industry.

Carolina North also will be an incubator for public-private business partnerships that the university hopes will boost economic development and create jobs.

What's next?

Construction on the likely first building, the 85,000-square-foot Innovation Center business incubator, could begin next year. It would be built by a private developer who would collect rent from tenants.

Other development would happen more slowly. The trustees approved 15- and 50-year plans for the campus.

The university says it might build a law school at Carolina North, as well as research space for the School of Public Health.

What about the airport?

Horace Williams Airport is home to the medical school's medical air operations. Doctors are fighting to keep the 70-year-old airport open and say it helps them serve rural areas. Medical flights account for less than one in four flights, records show. The rest are by private pilots.

The university plans to move the medical air operation to RDU. It says it will take 16 to 21 months to build a hangar there at a cost of $3 million.

What people are saying

BY THE NUMBERS

1,000 ACRES: Approximate size of the Horace Williams tract

250 ACRES: Amount of land UNC-CH anticipates developing

729 ACRES: Size of existing UNC-CH central campus

5,000: Parking spaces UNC-CH wants at Carolina North

$220 MILLION: Estimated infrastructure costs (roads, utilities, etc.) for the 15-year phase

500,000 SQUARE FEET: Estimated amount of housing in the first phase

85,000 SQUARE FEET: Size of the Innovation Center, probably the first building to go up

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