The Town Council authorized the town manager this week to transfer land to a developer for the construction of a new fire station and 45,000-square-foot office building near Glen Lennox.
Developer East West Partners submitted the only proposal for the public-private project on Hamilton Road, off N.C. 54, staff said. The council still must rezone the 1.12-acre tract and approve future development plans. The developer has not submitted a formal plan yet.
East West Partners would pay $10 for the land plus the cost of demolishing Chapel Hill Fire Station 2 – a 3,710-square-foot structure built in 1959 – and building a new 9,000-square-foot station. The town would lease the station for 99 years at $1 a year, with an option to renew the lease.
During construction, East West Partners will provide a temporary fire station at the corner of Finley Golf Course and Prestwick roads.
Town staff estimated a new station built to town, state and national fire standards, could cost $2 million to $2.5 million. Perry, the developer of East 54 and nearby Meadowmont, said the cost might be closer to $1.6 million if built as part of the whole project.
East West Partners would be responsible for exterior upkeep and landscaping. The town would equip the station, at a projected cost of $150,000, and maintain the interior. The town already has a firetruck and plans to buy a new ladder truck in the future, staff said.
The 90-foot-tall office project is expected to increase the property value to roughly $12 million and return everything, except the fire station, to the tax rolls. The property, as built now, is worth roughly $370,000, an appraiser estimated; without the station, it’s $540,000.
While the Town Council voted unanimously for the project Monday, council member Jim Ward said the 175 proposed parking spaces could pose traffic issues. The site, located behind East 54, is adjacent to a shopping center, bank and elementary school. It’s also along the path of Triangle Transit’s future light-rail station.
Ward and council member Lee Storrow also wondered how to give future town leaders more control over what happens when the deal ends. The land might fill some public need that we can’t imagine now, Storrow said.
“I think the value of getting a new fire station is worthwhile. The developers have to be able to make a return on investment, on their decision to purchase this land from us and move into this transaction,” Storrow said. “The town will still have a need to own civic space for the public good and for the benefit of Chapel Hillians that might not directly relate to a fire station.”
Council member George Cianciolo suggested investing some of the project’s future property tax revenues to meet those needs.
Station 2 is the first of three aging fire stations the town wants to replace, potentially through public-private partnerships. The others – Station 4 at Weaver Dairy Road and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, and Station 3 at Elliott Road and East Franklin Street – also occupy prime real estate.
The town also could sell those properties and use the money to buy other land for new fire stations. At least one site – 1.5 acres next to a proposed affordable housing project on Legion Road – has been identified.