Chapel Hill confirms interest in building

May aid work on library

Staff WriterSeptember 5, 2009 

— A new 70,000-square-foot office building for sale off Weaver Dairy Road could provide a temporary home for the public library and a permanent home for the police department, town officials said Friday.

The Town Council, in a closed meeting, directed Town Manager Roger Stancil to continue negotiating with Red Wing Land, an affiliate of Southern Village developer D.R. Bryan, to purchase Dawson Hall, a three-story building that has been empty since its construction in 2007.

The town plans to borrow $16million to expand the public library on Estes Drive starting next spring, and Stancil said Dawson Hall could provide a temporary home to speed the 37,000-square-foot construction project. Stancil said the town previously looked at what are now the Trader Joe's and Extraordinary Ventures buildings in the Eastgate and Elliott Road area, but neither is available. "We've just explored anything that was open," Stancil said.

Stancil said the council met behind closed doors to preserve the integrity of the negotiations and would not divulge the asking price. Bryan is marketing Dawson Hall as separate office condos for about $150 per square foot -- more than $10million.

New facilities

In January, the council set a goal of planning for a new police station and administrative offices for the fire department, which are now "crammed" into the second floor of Fire Station 1 on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Stancil said. Beyond the library, a new police headquarters is the top priority among town facilities.

"It's in pretty bad shape," Stancil said. "The building itself is probably not in a condition that is reusable."

Stancil also said the Parks and Recreation offices in an old bus garage on Plant Road need to be replaced with more accessible offices and spaces for programming. Those could be at Dawson Hall, he said.

Stancil said the Town Council built about 11 cents per $100 valuation into this year's budget for debt service, and the cost of borrowing to buy Dawson Hall could come out of that.

"It might be feasible, depending on what we were able to negotiate," he said. "We could have great needs, and if we can't figure out a way to pay for it, then it doesn't matter."

Stancil said Red Wing Land contacted him this summer, a few months after it had contacted Mayor Kevin Foy about turning the vacant Dawson Hall into a new library. "My serious conversations really didn't start until this week," he said.

Foy said the town needed to make a quick decision. Listing agent Gary Hill with Grubb & Ellis/Thomas Linderman Graham said earlier this week that his firm is currently negotiating with two potential tenants and a potential condo buyer for parts of Dawson Hall.

Stancil said citizens will have a chance to comment before the council approves any agreement.

"Any decisions have to be made in public," Stancil said. "The town always operates with a lot of transparency."

jesse.deconto@ newsobserver .com or 919-932-8760

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