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Chatham Park’s developers reveal latest details for the massive project

Rendering of Mosaic, a planned commercial, residential and entertainment development that will be part of the massive Chatham Park project near Pittsboro.
Rendering of Mosaic, a planned commercial, residential and entertainment development that will be part of the massive Chatham Park project near Pittsboro. Courtesy of Eco

A commercial component of the massive Chatham Park development is shaping up to be an arts- and entertainment-focused district that draws on the county’s rural heritage, culture and relatively affluent, rapidly growing populace.

That’s the picture that emerges from details the developer disclosed this week for Mosaic, a 350-acre, $800 million mixed-use project that aims to quell concerns of people who already live in quiet Pittsboro and surrounding areas.

Ever since plans for the 7,100-acre Chatham Park project emerged around 2013, the very size of the project in such a sparsely populated area stunned some people. Opponents sued to stop it, but dropped the case after losing in the state appeals court last December.

John Fugo of Eco Group said in an interview Friday that he spent six months meeting with community groups after being hired to do the commercial portion of the park by Preston Development.

There was a lot of trepidation about how this massive development surrounding Pittsboro would change the culture.

John Fugo

“There was a lot of trepidation about how this massive development surrounding Pittsboro would change the culture,” Fugo said. “What we found was a very deep, real artistic, very creative culture of genuine humanity, is the best way I could put it. We looked to model our commercial center to that, and complement what was already there rather than come in and give the impression that we were going to build what we thought the people needed. We wanted to build what people wanted.”

The first phase, which is going through the site plan approval process, is on 44 acres near the intersection of U.S. 15-501 and U.S. Route 64 and is scheduled to break ground in 2018. All three phases of the remaining 300 acres are set to begin by 2020. The entire Chatham Park project aims for 22,000 residences and 22 million square feet of office, retail, research, education and community space. Its first homes are scheduled to be available in spring 2019.

Tim Smith and Julian “Bubba” Rawl, the co-founders of Preston Development, have been behind some of the Triangle’s most prominent residential projects, including Preston, the Prestonwood Country Club and MacGregor West, as well as a number of retail projects.

Eco Group is a joint venture of Fugo, who owns Durham-based Montgomery Carolina LLC, and Kirk Bradley of Sanford-based Lee-Moore Capital Company.

Mosiac includes:

▪ What marketers are calling “urban-urb” living arrangements – 210 apartments with the feel of urban density integrated with a suburban neighborhood feel – plus 125 apartments that will comprise an “active adult arts colony” named Veranillo, which is Spanish for Indian summer.

Fugo got the idea from a nonprofit group called EngAGE, which has created eight arts-focused living arrangements for older tenants in California. Fugo formed a partnership with its founder to build centers on the East Coast. Veranillo will offer college-level courses in such areas as writing plays or memoirs, painting, sculpting and design.

▪ There will be a stage next door with a resident theater group, movie screens and an amphitheater.

▪ A 120-bed hotel.

▪ A micro-brewery, specialty grocery store and farm-to-table restaurants are among the more than 200,000 square feet of local and regional shops, restaurants and services that planned.

▪ 88,000 square feet of technical and creative office space.

What struck me was all the pavement in an era when we need to be thinking more about sustainability and preserving what we can.

Amanda Robertson

Fugo said a number of tenants have signed letters of intent or verbal commitments, but since leases won’t go out before everything is approved, he is not naming them publicly.

The scope of the Mosaic project will continue to worry people, including Amanda Robertson of Pittsboro, who was one of those who filed suit. “It’s still very concerning,” she said Friday.

She worries that the business tenants could take away customers from local companies, and she remains concerned about the effects of such a large development on the environment.

“What struck me was all the pavement in an era when we need to be thinking more about sustainability and preserving what we can,” Robertson said.

Craig Jarvis: 919-829-4576, @CraigJ_NandO

A previous version of this story neglected to include research, retail, education and community space as part of the 22 million square feet of office space.

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