Chapel Hill News

Chapel Hill leaders weigh land options, partnerships

A staff update this week left the Town Council with several options for reusing, trading or selling public land.

Four properties – 100 W. Rosemary St., 101 Weaver Dairy Road Ext., 2200 Homestead Road and 200 Plant Road – were put out for proposals in May, said Jason Damweber, assistant to the town manager. They are among 10 propertiesappraised for a June 2013 report.

The town also got three unsolicited plans for developing downtown parking lots. Sale proceeds could help pay for pressing construction needs, including much-needed police and fire stations, staff said.

The council also could seek $40 million to $50 million in bonds to help with those needs.

The town already disposed of three other properties identified in the report: the old Chapel Hill Library at 523 E. Franklin St., Fire Station No. 2 on Hamilton Road, and the undeveloped part of Chapel Hill Memorial Cemetery on Legion Road.

UNC’s Arts and Science Foundation is buying and renovating the library for its new offices; the town is selling the fire station to East West Partners as part of a mixed-use development that would include a new fire station. The town also is partnering with Raleigh nonprofit DHIC Inc. to build affordable senior and family housing on Legion Road. DHIC is submitting its application for state housing tax credits now, Damweber said.

Councilman George Cianciolo recommended the town get new appraisals before making any more deals. Councilman Matt Czajkowski also advocated for generating as much income as possible from selling the properties.

“If you were to go back to interested parties and say there’s competition here, come back to us with your best bid, as we saw with the old museum building, we had two to three iterations, and every time they went up by very startling amounts,” Czajkowski said.

Staff will provide more information when the council resumes the conversation. The properties under consideration include:

Old Town Hall

Location: 100 W. Rosemary St.

Appraised value: $1.7 million

Current use: Inter-Faith Council for Social Services shelter and community kitchen; a new shelter in under construction near Homestead Road

Caveats: The building needs some work, and the new owner could be limited by its National Register of Historic Places listing

Proposed uses: The Rev. Robert Seymour proposed using the building for a new Chapel Hill museum in partnership with UNC and the Chapel Hill and Orange County Visitor’s Bureau. The county-funded agency, now on West Franklin Street, could move into the old Town Hall, he said.

A private developer with an option to buy several surrounding, privately owned lots has offered to buy the lot for $1.3 million and preserve the building as part of a mixed-use development, said economic development director Dwight Bassett. The project could include fire, police and parks and recreation facilities, he said, under a lease agreement with the developer.

The building also could provide more Launch business incubator space, Bassett said, or be leased to Arc of the Triangle for offices.

Council responses: Council members expressed interest Monday in Seymour’s suggestion for a museum and visitor’s center.

“It has the potential to be the iconic building to represent the town of Chapel Hill, and I think exploring partnerships with other governments and Rev. Seymour’s idea, I think, is a great use,” Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said. “I think if we can get the county to work with us, to bring the visitor’s center over, then we have another property down on West Franklin Street, where I think they are currently underutilizing it.”

Councilwoman Sally Greene suggested adding Parks and Recreation offices to the mix.

The council is interested in hearing more about the proposal. The Arc plan was referred to staff in April and was not addressed Monday.

Fire Station No. 4

Location: 101 Weaver Dairy Ext.

Appraised value: $470,000 (as improved) to $2.2 million (vacated)

Current use: 10,700 square feet of fire station space

Caveats: Building has structural issues

Proposed Uses: The town received a $2.2 million bid to purchase the property, Bassett said. The town also could trade the property for land at Vilcom that has been approved for an 83,000-square-foot building. Vilcom is less than a half-mile from the station.

Bassett said they have talked with police and fire officials, who support the site. There could be a separate entrance and secure parking, he said.

Council response: Members were interested in the trade and how a police department or fire station might fit into an existing office complex.

Sport Art Building

Location: 2200 Homestead Road

Appraised value: $675,000

Current use: HOPE Gardens

Caveats: Town and HOPE officials want the community gardens to stay

Proposed Uses: A group representing more than 64 Triangle dance groups wants to pay $100,000 for three acres of the 14.25-acre and create a permanent space for more than 300 dancers, arts camps and other community and regional events.

The dance groups have outgrown their space at the Carrboro Century Center, representatives said. They would improve the Homestead Road building, including the removal of asbestos and installation of new utilities, a floor, sound system, catering kitchen and new bathrooms. The plan is to leave room for the gardens and a relocated Chapel Hill Farmer’s Market, they said.

Raleigh nonprofit CASA also is interested in the site for an affordable housing project, Bassett said, while Bridgepoint officials see potential there to expand their approved project featuring 23 townhomes and a small shopping center. The Bridgepoint project has not been built yet.

Council response: Councilman Jim Ward said the dance proposal might pose a Parks and Recreation partnership, too, and wanted to know more about the group’s parking needs. Cianciolo suggested there also might be room for Bridgepoint to expand and bring its experience with asbestos removal and renovations to the table.

Parks and Recreation offices

Location: 200 Plant Road

Appraised value: None provided

Current use: Administrative offices; parking for the Chapel Hill Community Center

Caveats: existing stream creates environmental issues; new space needed first for Parks and Recreation offices

Proposed uses: CASA wants to buy the land from the town for $1 and build 45 affordable apartments

Council response: Councilwoman Sally Greene said the location is ideal for CASA’s project, because it’s on the bus line and within walking distance of parks and stores. Neighbors are accustomed to less activity, Councilman Ed Harrison said, and would be interested in how it develops.

The town also should consider adding more recreation space, instead of just housing, Councilwoman Maria Palmer said.