A developer’s proposal for a three-story retirement center on Estes Drive could bring the town its first construction project for the Central West focus area.
Developer Hawthorn Retirement Group has submitted a concept plan for a 120,000-square-foot, 136-suite retirement center on 6.26 acres at the corner of Estes and Somerset drives. A site plan shows 93 potential parking spaces, including 12 that would be covered, and an entrance on Somerset Drive.
A concept plan is an unofficial look at a project so that the developer can get feedback from the Town Council and advisory boards. The town’s Community Design Commission reviewed the plans Tuesday. A council review is tentatively scheduled for April 20.
The plan states the Chapel Hill Retirement Residence project largely would serve seniors in their late 70s and 80s with studio, one- and two-bedroom units; the suites would not have kitchens.
It would be designed for those who are still able to get around but may need some support, the plans state, and offer activities and services, including housekeeping, daily meals and 24-7 transportation and staffing. The site is next to a Chapel Hill Transit G Route bus stop.
Hawthorn, based in Vancouver, Wash., operates 42 senior living centers in 18 states – including six in North Carolina – and five centers in Canada. The development team has been in touch with neighbors, plans state, and the site plan has been revised to address some of their concerns.
The concept plan shows a landscaped buffer between the site and nearby homes, however, walking trails, sidewalks and green spaces could connect it to the surrounding community. The trails also could provide future ties to Chapel Hill’s greenway system, Phillips Middle School and nearby athletic fields, plans state.
The Central West area is 97 mostly undeveloped acres surrounding the intersection of Estes Drive and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Its future development is governed by a small area plan that the council adopted in 2013 to allow up to 270,000 square feet of commercial and retail space, 620 new residential units and three- to four-story buildings. Taller buildings are possible along steep slopes south of Estes Drive.
Chapel Hill resident Whit Rummel owns the site and another 7.5-acre tract on the opposite side of Somerset Drive. The small area plan would allow the senior center site to be developed with up to 150 residential units and 20,000 square feet of civic and office space. Rummel served on the 17-member Central West steering committee that helped design the small area plan.
The site also lies in the town’s airport hazard mitigation zone – UNC’s Horace Williams Airport is less than a mile away – and will require the Federal Aviation Administration to sign off on any development plans.
Rummel shared a concept plan with the FAA last year – based on the town’s small area plan – that shows a three-story office building and two four-story condominium buildings.
FAA officials responded in a letter that the building heights appeared acceptable and would not require additional markings or lighting. The letter also stated that any height exceeding 50 feet would result in a “substantial adverse effect and would warrant a Determination of Hazard to Air Navigation.”
The FAA likely would review any new plans, and the council also would have to approve the usual permit and rezoning applications before anything is built.