Developers asked the town’s Community Design Commission for guidance last week as they plan a potential apartment project for the Ephesus-Fordham zoning district.
Texas-based Leon Capital Group is in the very early stages of a concept plan for the former Crown Honda-Volvo site between Legion Road and the Fordham Boulevard service road. The 6.5-acre site is next to Rams Plaza on the south and Hong Kong Buffet and Quality Inn on the north.
It’s also across Legion Road from American Legion Post 6, where Woodfield Acquistions is under contract to buy roughly 36 acres for several hundred luxury apartments and an office building.
A draft concept plan, a non-binding initial look at a project, for the hourglass-shaped Honda-Volvo site has two buildings: a five-story building wrapped around a five-story parking garage next to the service road and a four-story, L-shaped building fronting Legion Road. Parking could be tucked under the rear of that building, officials said.
It’s too early to know how many apartments could be proposed, said Paul Meder, landscape architect with JDavis Architects, but ground-floor units could have streetside stoops. Other features could include a pool, courtyard, plazas and outdoor seating. The plan also shows a new road with bike and pedestrian connections from the service road to Legion Road. (See detail maps at chapelhillnews.com)
No formal application has been submitted.
The Community Design Commission and town manager approve projects in the Ephesus-Fordham zoning district, using standards for how a project should look and relate to the rest of its environment. The Town Council does not hold public hearings or vote on district projects.
Recent changes to those standards are being taken into account, project engineer Tim Smith said. The latest change, approved last week, limits street blocks to 400 feet long and requires large buildings to have cut-throughs, such as alleys and pathways, at least every 200 feet.
The front of the service road building could be 400 feet long, Meder said, making a cut-through one of the biggest challenges, because of the 15- to 20-foot drop to Ram’s Plaza. Another major issue is the “pinch point” at the center of the site. They are open to suggestions, he said.
CDC member Susana Dancy advised looking at the pinch point – like the middle of an hourglass – as an intersection linking the site to surrounding properties as they are redeveloped. Connections to the shopping center are important, CDC member Laura Moore said.
“You’re going to have a lot of people there that want to shop, and if there was quicker access down that slope, that would be great,” she said.
Other members asked for variety in building uses and exteriors; CDC member Lucy Davis advocated for shops and services.
“I would really like to see some ground-floor commercial that would provide basic amenities for residents of that apartment and others and would encourage people to walk through to get to that, and also would provide a reason for someone to perhaps walk along that road to some of the other commercial on that street,” she said.
CDC member Polly Van de Velde took it a step further, recommending a purely commercial building.
“I don’t see how this works as a apartment building in that setting. It’s just not residential along that strip, and it doesn’t feel mixed use,” she said. “It just feels like an apartment building plopped down next to a bunch of commercial things that are unrelated.”
Meder said after the meeting they would consider more commercial, but the number of existing businesses raises questions.
“There is a question as to the viability of commercial at our location, and because it’s a little bit out of the way, parking would be an issue,” he said. “I appreciate what they would like to see us do, but I’m not sure that it’s the best location for a mixed-use building.”