There are a few rezoning hearings coming up at the Carrboro Board of Aldermen meetings in June. One of them is a project called Inara Court, slated for 102 to 104 Fidelity St, which is right behind the O2 Fitness property, on the same side of Fidelity Street. I am very familiar with the area as I previously lived at two different addresses on Fidelity.
Chapel Hill News reporter Jean Bolduc’s description of the project in the paper was strange, stating:
“The Board of Aldermen will hear from residents this month about a plan to build six homes on about a half-acre on Fidelity Street, behind the O2 Fitness Club. The infill project offered by Yates-Greene, LLC is classified as an ‘Architecturally Integrated Subdivision,’ which would allow for the unusual density of so many homes on so little land.”
The math here is pretty straightforward – six units on 1/2-acre of land yields 6/0.5 = 13 dwelling units per acre. Is this “unusual” in Carrboro? I did some quick checking in Google Earth with the polygon tool to measure acreage, then counted units using Google Streetview.
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Literally directly across the street is White Oak, a condo complex built in the early 1980s with 96 units on about 6.1 acres, or roughly 16 dwelling units per acre.
Immediately next to White Oak, also on Fidelity Street, is Village Square, with about 26 units on 2.4 acres, or roughly 11 dwelling units per acre.
At the end of Fidelity Street at the intersection with Davie Rd, there is Fidelity Court – with 72 units on about 4.5 acres or again, 16 dwelling units per acre.
Just north of the O2 Fitness and Looking Glass Cafe, there is the 605 West Main building, which if you ignore the two floors of commercial above the parking, sports 7 units in about 0.26 acres, which is about 27 dwelling units per acre.
At 13 dwelling units to the acre, the Inara Court project fits in very consistently with residential projects in its immediate vicinity, as well as being consistent with density found at places such as Cedar Court or The Flats on North Greensboro Street. While the “Architecturally Integrated Subdivision” may be a new way of delivering 13 units/acre in town, this is a very commonplace residential density in Carrboro, and has been for nearly 4 decades.
Hopefully in the future, the Chapel Hill News will use simple comparative techniques to describe the relative density of a project as accurately as possible.
Aim higher for infill
While I think this project has a nice aesthetic if they turn out looking like the rendering, I’m also somewhat disappointed that there was not a proposal to combine these properties with the O2 Fitness site for a larger redevelopment project. Having vacant land next to a mostly past-its life suburban strip mall that used to be Piggly Wiggly way back when would have been a terrific opportunity to get at least this many housing units, maybe many more on both the market rate and affordable side, and also build some new office and commercial space in downtown.
The rezoning to the higher density is certainly better infill than the two single-family houses that have gone in on Poplar just behind the proposed Inara Court project, but I think we could have done even better here for the tax base, for affordable housing, and for economic vitality if we had positioned this site as a true redevelopment opportunity and put appropriate zoning in place. This is another reason Carrboro needs a comprehensive plan.
Patrick McDonough is an urban planner who lives in Carrboro. You can reach him at email@example.com or @citybeautiful21 on Twitter. This article appeared on his blog “City Beautiful 21: Urban Planning for the 21st Century” and is reprinted with his permission.