Orange County

Organ donations provider to move to Chapel Hill’s new research, industrial district

A plan now under review by town staff will bring the headquarters for the state’s largest organ and tissue donation organization and roughly 70 employees to Chapel Hill.

Carolina Donor Services employs about 130 people to educate the public about organ and tissue donations and provides hearts, lungs, kidneys and other organs to patients at over 100 hospitals and four transplant centers, including UNC and Duke, in North Carolina and Virginia.

Nearly 3,000 North Carolina residents are waiting for organ transplants, the organization reported; there are roughly 113,000 on waiting lists nationwide.

The company, now located on Lyckan Parkway near South Square in Durham, applied for a zoning compliance permit on Oct. 21.

The proposed 10-acre site, at 7000 Millhouse Road, was rezoned for light industrial and research uses in 2017. Plans call for a 56,418-square-foot building with office and clinical space. The building would be set back from the road along a tree-lined driveway, near an existing stream buffer. A smaller portion of the site has been set aside for future development.

The land is adjacent to the 55-acre Carraway Village mixed-use development now under construction and the town’s Public Works and Chapel Hill Transit facilities on Millhouse Road. The location is easily accessible from Interstate 40 and Eubanks Road, which recently was widened.

“We are excited about our move to Chapel Hill,” president and CEO Danielle Niedfeldt said in a news release. “Our new office will enable us to better honor the gifts of life from our donors, increase our meeting spaces, serve our communities, and provide additional surgical suites to ultimately save and heal more lives.”

Attracting research, industry

The facility would be the first project built in the 60-acre light industrial conditional zoning district, which the town created in 2017 to attract industrial, research and commercial uses. Many of those land uses are not allowed in other parts of town.

Developers who want to build in the district must seek a rezoning and negotiate any special conditions with the Town Council. They only need town staff approval and a zoning compliance permit if the land already has been rezoned. The entire process — from project submission to approval — can take about five months.

An adjacent site at 7300 Millhouse Road was rezoned last year for light industrial uses, but no projects have been proposed. Although AskBio Pharmaceuticals was reportedly looking at the property, the company has since moved to Research Triangle Park. The roughly 19-acre site is listed for sale online for $2.8 million.

Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger said the council is “thrilled to see our strategic vision becoming a reality.” Carolina Donor Services considered the site for two years, said Dwight Bassett, the town’s economic development officer. The amount of land available and the established zoning likely played a role in its decision, he said.

The town has gotten multiple inquiries about the Millhouse Road district, Bassett said. He noted the Carolina Donor Services project could attract more companies to Chapel Hill.

“Most people never saw this location as an opportunity,” Bassett said. “You actually can do wet lab in Chapel Hill, which means you can do research. ... The next best step was to provide a place that targeted those opportunities for not only research but light manufacturing, because we’ve never had a zoning district that allowed those types of uses in Chapel Hill.”

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Tammy Grubb has written about Orange County’s politics, people and government since 2010. She is a UNC-Chapel Hill alumna and has lived and worked in the Triangle for over 25 years.