A nine-story residential and commercial building is too big and, if not carefully designed, could draw more UNC students to West Rosemary Street and the Northside neighborhood, residents and Town Council members said this week.
“We’ve had it with taller buildings,” Northside resident Clementine Self said at Monday night’s council revew of the developer’s concept plan. “We want a hometown community, and if you want to build some more tall buildings, go to the other end of Rosemary Street, in the other neighborhoods.”
The council provides developers with feedback during concept plan reviews. No official application has been submitted.
The project could replace Breadman’s restaurant and the Amity Apartments immediately to its north. Brothers Roy and Bill Piscitello, who own Breadman’s, have not said what would happen to the restaurant.
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The Piscitellos are working with developer Larry Short to redevelop the 2.2-acre site at 322 W. Rosemary St. The building, as proposed, would step down from nine stories to three stories near neighborhood homes, which would lie on the other side of a 30- to 35-foot greenway buffer.
The men also developed Shortbread Lofts, a seven-story student apartment building across the street.
Amity Station would require a rezoning to allow taller, more dense buildings. The site is in the Northside Neighborhood Conservation District, which controls building size, use and other neighborhood characteristics. The district limits buildings to 50 feet tall.
Project officials said the plan has changed to meet town advisory board concerns.
It now proposes up to 165 market-rate apartments for any renters (not just student)s, 340 parking spaces, and 7,500 square feet of retail and office space. The developers also could partner with the Launch incubator across the street and the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership on 10,000 square feet of business space.
They are offering to lease the town up to 10 affordable apartments for $1 a month per unit. The town could sublease the apartments to lower-income families, said Phil Post, of Philip Post & Associates Inc., and the profits could subsidize other affordable housing projects.
Roughly two dozen people spoke, most of them worried the project could increase student residents and property taxes, pushing out what’s left of families who have lived in Northside for generations. Amity Station does not promote diverse development, reflect the community’s vision for Rosemary Street, or continue efforts to protect Northside’s character, they said.
The town also needs the right mix for residential diversity, said Mark Crowell, a former UNC economic development expert.
“While many great decisions have been made, we may be at a tipping point ... with respect to creating a sustainable environment where we can attract and retain the highly educated knowledge workers,” he said.
Landowner Donald Lang encouraged the council to consider an “ambitious” project.
“This is the direction the town’s been going,” said Lang, who owns a rental house next to the site. “It’s large project, but I think with what the plans are and how the space would be used, it will be a real advantage for this town and that area.”
Council members agreed the proposed building is too big and could become student housing. Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt urged the developers to look at – in addition to the ratio of bedrooms to bathrooms – including larger living rooms and smaller bedrooms that families want.
The council also questioned rezoning land that buffers the neighborhood from downtown. They urged the developers to talk with neighbors on both sides of Rosemary Street about the needs, including senior or low-income housing, a daycare or social justice space.
“I think they’re trying to sweeten the deal with the incubator space and the retail,” Councilman George Cianciolo said, “but it’s like taking a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and putting a few fresh blueberries on it. It still doesn’t make it a healthy snack.”