Chapel Hill News

April 11, 2014

Plans 'reimagine' Rosemary Street corridor

Any one of three suggested plans could bring new life to Rosemary Street, a consultant said Thursday after a public review.

Any one of three suggested plans could bring new life to Rosemary Street, a consultant told 50 people Thursday at a public review session.

The town started gathering ideas last summer about the types of buildings and potential uses, green spaces and other features residents want to see. The Rosemary Street corridor, from Merritt Mill Road to Henderson Street, has been envisioned as an entrepreneurial and high-tech business hub.

Consultants with Raleigh design firm KlingStubbins used that input to draft three different concept plans. Each one reflects 19 community “visions,” including building design, active street life and basic services and commerce.

The Rosemary Street corridor is part of the downtown small focus area – one of six smaller areas identified in the Chapel Hill 2020 comprehensive plan for growth and redevelopment.

Besides additional housing, offices, restaurants and shops, the concept plans show new cut-through street connections and pedestrian greenways linking Rosemary Street to Franklin Street and the UNC campus. The new connections could create “gateways” into the adjacent Northside neighborhood, said Dan Douglas, director of urban planning with KlingStubbins.

Public comments about all three plans and a draft Rosemary Street Vision and Implementation Plan will be accepted until early May.

Those comments will be used to draft a final plan for public review in late May or early June, officials said. The Town Council could adopt a final plan by fall, said Meg McGurk, with the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership.

“We want to hear your passions, we want to hear your ideas pour out,” McGurk told the group gathered at Greenbridge for the presentation, paraphrasing a comment she heard during the project’s planning phase last year.

A common element in all three maps is a future transit center just east of 140 West Franklin. One map shows a bus and pedestrian-only extension of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard heading southwest from the intersection with North Street. The transit corridor would cross Rosemary and Franklin streets, and cut through University Square to Pittsboro Street.

The change would send buses around the congested Columbia Street corridor between North Street and Cameron Avenue, Douglas said. Otherwise, it will be harder to get around in the future, he said.

“You’re going to end up waiting multiple light cycles to get through your downtown,” he said.

Of course, the route will depend on many factors, including the university’s plans for that area, Douglas said. They have talked about the plans many times with university officials, he said.

UNC has a major role in redeveloping Rosemary Street, because it owns several properties and large parking lots.

Esther Karvazy, a resident of 140 West Franklin, said she’s not sure what she thinks about the plans but hopes the changes will end the constant noise and truck traffic on Rosemary Street. A grocery store within walking distance would be great, she said.


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