It will be months before the Town Council is ready to vote on 54 acres of apartments, stores and offices at Eubanks Road and Interstate 40, members said Monday.
The Edge is a complex project that could take multiple presentations, council member Jim Ward said after nearly four hours.
“There are all sorts of issues that I need a greater comfort level with for me to consider being supportive,” he said. “Because of the complexity of this project, it needs a dialogue between the applicant and the Town Council ... to get at the scores of details that we’re having to buy into.”
Northwood Ravin’s project would be next to the town’s Eubanks Road park-and-ride lot and across the street from the Northwood neighborhood and Chapel Watch Village. The Town Council will continue the public hearing Dec. 3.
The council and residents raised many questions Monday, including how cars, pedestrians and bikes would navigate the busy road and the already failing intersection at Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Eubanks Road. Other questions focused on parking, green space, how big the signs would have to be for visibility from I-40 and the cost to the town of a heavily residential development.
This fourth version of the Edge proposes 600,000 to 932,000 square feet of floor space (two to three times the size of University Mall) and buildings up to 90 feet tall. The project mix is estimated at 43 percent to 75 percent residential, 15 percent to 44 percent retail and hotel space and six percent to 29 percent offices.
It would cover most of the largely wooded site with streets, parking and 18 to 35 buildings.
The proposed retail is not a trivial amount, said John McAdams, with The John R. McAdams Co., but the site has access and visibility challenges.
“The applicant’s greatest desire is to have retail there, but if the retail cannot be got, then the applicant needs to have the flexibility to provide something else there, considering the huge amount of investment required to get this development started in the first place,” he said.
The plan sets aside 50 apartments – 7 percent to 13 percent of the proposed housing – to be affordable to those earning 80 percent or less of the area median income. The area median income for Chapel Hill is $65,700 a year for a family of four.
Members of Orange County Justice United and low-income Chapel Hill and Carrboro residents questioned that commitment to quality affordable housing at Monday’s public hearing.
The group has been working with Carrboro since 2011 to resolve concerns, ranging from mold and poorly maintained units to absentee management, restricted access to amenities and punitive treatment, at The Landings at Winmore. The low-income housing tax credit development, located on Homestead Road, is owned by Crosland LLC and managed by WRH Realty.
They have the same concerns about Dobbins Hill, another affordable Crosland community in Chapel Hill, said Stephanie Perry, a member of Justice United’s strategy team. The concern is former Crosland senior officials are now at Northwood Ravin and may be continuing Crosland’s “culture of indifference to the well-being of low-income residents,” she said.
Landings resident Brandy Hunter said the complex has had five managers in five years and created a hostile environment for lower-income residents. The current manager is “unprofessional, lacks knowledge of maintenance repair issues, poorly trained and often unavailable,” she said.
“There are more unhappy and unsatisfied residents than you see here from both complexes. But since intimidation and retaliation are a huge factor, as well, they remain silent,” Hunter said. “I honestly feel as though our own management looks down on us, because we are in affordable housing.”
Carrboro will be following up with the nonprofit N.C. Housing Finance Agency about conditions at The Landings, Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle told the council. Chapel Hill has an opportunity to avoid the same issues, she said, and ensure its affordable housing complexes are well-run.
Northwood Ravin officials said they learned about the community concerns last week. The former Crosland official left that company in early 2011, Northwood Ravin attorney Michael Birch said. Crosland property manager WRH Realty is a direct competitor, he said.
David Ravin, Northwood Ravin’s president and chief executive officer, worked at Crosland for 14 years and led its multifamily division until Crosland sold it in 2011. Northwood Ravin is a joint effort between Ravin Partners and New York-based Northwood Investors.
Residents and Justice United have raised real concerns, Birch said, but Northwood Ravin doesn’t have any connections to Crosland now.
“We just wanted to set the record straight and also acknowledge that if what we’ve heard is true – and there’s no reason to believe that it’s not – that’s an unacceptable response in property management on their behalf,” he said. “That’s not something that Northwood Ravin would accept as a part of the management of its community and its affordable housing communities.”
The town could annex the site if the project is approved. The developer is seeking exceptions to existing land-use rules, such as reducing the required tree cover from 40 percent to 20 percent and allowing taller buildings, smaller landscape buffers and more signs.
Council member George Cianciolo said he’s not sure visibility will be a big issue for the development.
“I buy more into the fact that, to some degree, we missed the boat,” he said. “There are so many opportunities surrounding us, and I think a potential retailer is not only going to look at the competition from other areas, but also the question is are you going to cannibalize what’s going on downtown, at University Mall and other places.”
The town’s Planning Commission and Housing Advisory Board have recommended support for the project if, for example, it offers more public space, traffic-calming devices on nearby Northwood Drive and extra time to get the affordable housing financed.
Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt suggested adding apartments above the one-story retail buildings to leave more green space. Council member Sally Greene also advised the developer to consider other ways to provide affordable housing, such as paying into the town’s affordable housing fund to working with a public or private partner.
The project also will require big changes to area roads. The developer is working with town staff and N.C. Department of Transportation officials to plan at least two new stoplights; new travel lanes, bike lanes and sidewalks on Eubanks Road; and additional turn lanes at the Eubanks-MLK Boulevard intersection. Northwood Ravin officials asked the town earlier this year to help pay for required road improvements.