An architect has been selected to design a new University Square in Chapel Hill.
The Chapel Hill Foundation Real Estate Holdings and its development partner, Cousins Properties, have hired Boston-based Elkus Manfredi Architects.
Manfredi will soon begin designing an entirely new mixed-use development for the swath of land between Columbia and Mallette streets in downtown Chapel Hill rimmed by Franklin Street and Cameron Avenue.
The 12-acre tract is currently home to the University Square shopping center and Granville Towers, a private residence hall complex.
The Chapel Hill foundation is a non-profit arm of UNC-Chapel Hill. It purchased the land recently for about $46 million and now plans a massive redevelopment project.
The Manfredi hiring is a critical step; the firm has experience with similar campus projects including one at Ohio State that caught the eye of Chapel Hill officials evaluating a handful of architecture firms, said Gordon Merklein, UNC-CH's executive director of real estate development.
Design will continue until spring and construction likely won't start for three years, he said.
The project will bring retail and office space closer to Franklin Street, creating a more urban feel, and will include a parking deck, officials say.
"It needs to reconnect to Franklin Street and reconnect to campus," Merklein said of the new development. "It doesn't do that at all now. It's just a suburban office building sitting back from the street."
The Atlanta-based Cousins Properties conducted a market survey, selected Manfredi, and ultimately will develop the project.
Erskine Bowles, the UNC system president, is a member of the Cousins board of directors. He has not been involved in this project, Merklein said.