Chapel Hill News

Talks inspire ideas for Southern Village parking lot

Town Council members gathered around a map of Southern Village and the Obey Creek development site Thursday to imagine how a town park-and-ride lot might be redeveloped.

It could be a compact neighborhood centered around transit, pedestrians and cyclists, they said, with a variety of affordable housing. Buildings could complement Southern Village and offer retail, offices, a coffee shop and maybe a grocery store. A bridge could give pedestrians and cyclists a safe crossing to homes, shopping and jobs across U.S. 15-501 at the proposed, 120-acre Obey Creek development.

The council, now negotiating an Obey Creek development agreement with East West Partners, is taking a look at how to get more use out of the 8.4-acre park-and-ride lot. Dover Kohl and Partners consultants will draft revised options for a future meeting.

The Federal Transit Administration would have to review any plans to develop the 432-space park-and-ride lot.

Victor Dover, with Dover Kohl, presented a series of sketches to get the council started Thursday, including one drawn up with help from Southern Village developer D.R. Bryan.

The park-and-ride lot is a good place for dense, transit-oriented development that earns money for the town, Dover said. Drivers parking there now don’t add much to the economy, he said.

“But if we can entice them before they put their keys back in the door of that car on the way home to spend some time in that environment – to buy a meal or to buy a gift or visit friends – they will contribute economically in that place,” he said.

Bryan recommended the council talk with Christ United Methodist Church, which owns adjacent land with aging office buildings on Market Street, and Scroggs Elementary School about the plans.

Creating a strong line of sight from the Southern Village green to the future Obey Creek green could help tie the developments together, he said. The council might even look at moving the park-and-ride lot farther south, he said.

Southern area residents said they welcome planning for the town’s land. The council should keep its options open, Jeanne Brown suggested, and also look at new uses for other town land nearby.

Her husband Monte Brown, she said, had submitted a few ideas to the council via email. One recommended moving the Sumac Road intersection with U.S. 15-501 just to the south. That would allow the town to add a traffic light, making it easier for buses to exit the lot and leaving the current bus turnound space available for development.

Dover nodded in agreement when resident Susanna Dancy asked the council to set the town’s agenda, instead of deferring to developers about what should be built in the southern Chapel Hill area.