A Dallas-based developer is mapping a new project just months after the town approved Wegmans Food Market and while neighbors still worry about the traffic that store will bring.
Sam Costello, a Leon Capital Group development associate, and Pennoni engineer Justin Brown met informally with the Wegmans’ future neighbors about a new proposal this week. Another meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 19, at Christ United Methodist Church in Southern Village.
Construction of the 130,000-square-foot Wegmans store is expected to start this year, with a grand opening set for 2019. Leon Capital Group paid $13.24 million last year for the 14.7-acre Performance AutoMall site on U.S. 15-501 and three additional lots behind it on Old Durham Road. Hendrick Automotive will move its dealerships to the Southpoint Automall near the Streets at Southpoint this spring.
A second Leon Capital Group project on Old Durham Road is being planned now, so it can be built along with Wegmans, Brown said.
They plan to submit a concept plan for the project – a 17,000-square-foot commercial building across Old Durham Road from Wegmans – to the town this month. While a restaurant was rumored, Costello said they are considering retail to replace the existing Min Ga restaurant and two houses. The new building would be slightly smaller than a Trader Joe’s store.
Neighborhood feedback will shape the latest plan, Costello told a dozen residents Tuesday at the Chapel Hill Public Library.
“We want to be positive, we want to be proactive, we want to work with you guys, and that’s why we’ve come down here and tried to solicit your feedback,” Costello said. “We’re trying to do it in a way ... so as to be good neighbors.”
The plan has been revised to address stormwater and parking concerns, the developers said. The biggest change limits a planned parking lot to land near Old Durham Road and preserves wooded lots on Legion Road Extension. The revised lot still could fit roughly 170 parking spaces – with access from Old Durham Road and through a 180-space Wegmans satellite parking lot at the corner of Cooper Street – Brown said.
The town’s Community Design Commission and Town Council will review the concept plan and offer feedback before special use permit and rezoning applications are submitted. The permitting process typically takes at least a year of advisory board, council and public hearings.
The changes do ease his concerns about development encroaching on the neighborhood, Cooper Street resident Eric Deetz said.
“Once you punch through a commercial zoning on Legion Extension, it’s the tip of the wedge,” he said. “There will no longer be a reason not to do the next lot or buy the next lot. Then you’re going to have a Walgreens on the corner or something.
The neighbors also pressed the developers on how they will mitigate Wegmans’ traffic and make crossing Old Durham Road safe for pedestrians. Brown said town staff is supposed to schedule a neighborhood meeting for brainstorming ways to slow down traffic on side streets.
A traffic study estimated Wegmans could generate roughly 10,766 trips – 3,214 more cars than now travel the area. Some drivers already speed through narrow side streets, including Cooper Street and Legion Road Extension, to avoid the congestion at Old Durham Road and U.S. 15-501.
The Wegmans project includes improvements to surrounding roads and intersections, including at Eastowne Drive, where drivers can turn onto the Service Road parallel to U.S. 15-501. But that will be an entrance-only for Wegmans, with all traffic exiting the store’s parking lot onto Old Durham Road, including at a new roundabout just west of Cooper Street.
The developer agreed to work with the town and the N.C. Department of Transportation to monitor traffic changes during and after Wegmans’ construction, and to pay the town $150,000 toward any future traffic upgrades.
Costello and Brown declined to speculate Tuesday how many additional cars the smaller commercial project could generate.
Hillstone includes 328 apartments in two buildings – one four stories and one five to six stories wrapped around a parking deck – off the Service Road at the U.S. 15-501-Erwin Road intersection. It will replace a vacant Crown Honda-Volvo dealership in the town’s Blue Hill (formerly Ephesus Fordham) District.
The town’s Community Design Commission and town manager – not the council – approve projects under the Blue Hill District’s form-based code. The district runs from East Franklin Street to Ephesus Church Road, and from South Elliott Road to Legion Road. It stops short of the Wegmans on Old Durham Road.
Both the Wegmans and Hillstone projects have been submitted to the state’s brownfields redevelopment tax incentive program, which reduces the amount of property taxes due on qualified land for five years after cleanup work begins.