December 2008

  • Dec
    31

Best of 2008

December 31, 2008

By Charles Passay, via Palm Beach Post (Excerpt)
Charles Passay’s Annual Dining Awards: The Hungries!

What’s the best new dining hot spot of 2008? Who’s got the best appetizer? The best entrée? The best dessert?
BEST CONCEPT
Pizza Fusion: 4783 PGA Blvd. (in Midtown), Palm Beach Gardens; (561) 721-0123; pizzafusion.com. (Another location in Wellington.)

This green-minded chain – it even delivers its pizzas using hybrid cars – wins plenty of points for helping save the planet. But the fact that it weds such eco-consciousness with a tasty, stylish and all-organic approach to pizza-making gives the concept an extra boost.

Honorable mention: First Watch, 6240 W. Indiantown Rd. (in Chasewood Plaza), Jupiter; (561) 746-5960; firstwatch.com. (Other locations throughout Palm Beach County and Treasure Coast.)

  • Dec
    28

Urbanites, professionals among potential tenants at 140 West

December 28, 2008

By Elizabeth Shestak – Correspondent

CHAPEL HILL — Hulene Hill, 60, and her husband, Ed Akins, 72, are not sure how many more summers they’ll be able to spend in Manhattan.

The jet set couple has rented an apartment there for eight years, but realistically understand they won’t be able to travel as easily as they get older. But they’re not upset — they have Chapel Hill to look forward to, along with the urban, apartment lifestyle they enjoy so much in New York.

The couple has reserved a two-bedroom, two-and-one-half bathroom condominium in 140 West Franklin, a development that will be located where public parking lot 5 currently sits at the corner of Church and West Franklin Street.

“It’s because we like city living,” Hill said. She and her husband live in the downtown historic district just a few blocks from the new development but are looking forward to having everything they need on one level. No more taking the trash to the curb or fussing with the yard.

You think Chapel Hill is about as opposite as Manhattan but it isn’t,” Hill said. Theater, restaurants, and free public transportation are all readily available downtown. It’s also close to the airport, she said, and perhaps most importantly, not full of old people. They did not want to recuse themselves from a diverse, energetic society just because they are moving into their retirement years. This is just one of the demographics taking an interest in 140 West Franklin, said Phil Patterson, broker in charge of the development. Others include young professionals, folks looking for a second home, UNC alumni, empty nesters and people just looking to make an investment.

Mike James and his wife, Barbara, fit into a number of those groups.With their children grown, and him nearing retirement, the couple plans on using their fifth-floor condominium as a second home for the foreseeable future. Their four bedroom house in Raleigh isn’t going on the market anytime soon, but they liked the idea of having a place to “crash” in Chapel Hill when they come into town for all of the football and basketball games they attend.

Raleigh pharmacist. “There’s a uniqueness, as you know, about a college town.” It also seems like a good investment. “I’m an optimist at heart,” he said. He hopes the economy will turn around, but even if it doesn’t for a while they’ll be OK. As an added bonus, the condo will overlook the N.C. Pharmacy Association building where he often speaks.

When asked if the downturn in the housing market and economy has affected sales, the answer from Ram, the development company behind the project, is not really. Ram has 25 percent of the units pre-sold with $5,000 deposits. Michael Hammon, chief development officer for Ram Realty Services, said if the economy were stronger, they perhaps would have needed 30 or 40 percent of the units reserved before breaking ground.

Now, the banks wants 50 percent. Traffic has been steady since the sales gallery opened at 126 W. Franklin St. in early October, said Patterson. The gallery lets potential buyers see what design options are available for carpets, hardwood flooring, cabinets, tiling and other aesthetic details. There are more than 40 possible layouts, but you can see a model living room, kitchen and bathroom, as well as the BlueVue fireplace that will be in the BlueVue lounge, a bar that will be open to both residents and outside patrons.

The condos range from 931 square-foot one-bedroom units to 3,334 square-foot, two-story penthouses, priced from $360,000 to $1.8 million.

Like all residential developments in Chapel Hill, 15 percent are to be affordable housing units available to residents making less than 80 percent of the median income. Those units will be one or two bedrooms ranging from 560 to 800 square feet, costing $85,000 to $105,000, said Robert Dowling, director of the Orange Community Housing and Land Trust.

The project has been in the works, on some level, since the 1990s when the town began looking at areas to develop in the heart of downtown to both increase the business tax base and also attract people to actually live there.

“One important goal was the creation of a public gathering space,” said Town Council member Bill Strom. The shops and restaurants on the first floor, along with open areas for art installations, outdoor markets and live music will help achieve this, he said, and “the town benefits by having an underutilized asset redeveloped.”

The developers are to include the same number of public parking spaces in the new building as currently exist in Lot 5. And for those who have tailgated there for years, 140 West Franklin plans to give those groups a commemorative brick, and wants to hear from folks about their favorite Franklin Street moments for its website. The plan is for 140 West Franklin to only add to them.

  • Dec
    28

City Living – Urbanites, professionals among potential tenants at 140 West

December 28, 2008

By Elizabeth Shestak, via The Chapel Hill News

CHAPEL HILL — Hulene Hill, 60, and her husband, Ed Akins, 72, are not sure how many more summers they’ll be able to spend in Manhattan.

The jetset couple has rented an apartment there for eight years, but realistically understand they won’t be able to travel as easily as they get older. But they’re not upset — they have Chapel Hill to look forward to, along with the urban, apartment lifestyle they enjoy so much in New York.

The couple has reserved a two-bedroom, two-and-one-half bathroom condominium in 140 West Franklin, a development that will be located where public parking lot 5 currently sits at the corner of Church and West Franklin Street.

“It’s because we like city living,” Hill said. She and her husband live in the downtown historic district just a few blocks from the new development but are looking forward to having everything they need on one level. No more taking the trash to the curb or fussing with the yard.

“You think Chapel Hill is about as opposite as Manhattan but it isn’t,” Hill said. Theater, restaurants, and free public transportation are all readily available downtown. It’s also close to the airport, she said, and perhaps most importantly, not full of old people. They did not want to recuse themselves from a diverse, energetic society just because they are moving into their retirement years.

This is just one of the demographics taking an interest in 140 West Franklin, said Phil Patterson, broker in charge of the development. Others include young professionals, folks looking for a second home, UNC alumni, empty nesters and people just looking to make an investment.

Mike James and his wife, Barbara, fit into a number of those groups. With their children grown, and him nearing retirement, the couple plans on using their fifth-floor condominium as a second home for the foreseeable future. Their four bedroom house in Raleigh isn’t going on the market anytime soon, but they liked the idea of having a place to “crash” in Chapel Hill when they come into town for all of the football and basketball games they attend.

“I think it will be quite enjoyable,” said James, a Raleigh pharmacist. “There’s a uniqueness, as you know, about a college town.”

It also seems like a good investment. “I’m an optimist at heart,” he said. He hopes the economy will turn around, but even if it doesn’t for a while they’ll be OK. As an added bonus, the condo will overlook the N.C. Pharmacy Association building where he often speaks.

When asked if the downturn in the housing market and economy has affected sales, the answer from Ram, the development company behind the project, is not really.

Ram has 25 percent of the units pre-sold with $5,000 deposits. Michael Hammon, chief development officer for Ram Realty Services, said if the economy were stronger, they perhaps would have needed 30 or 40 percent of the units reserved before breaking ground. Now, the banks want 50 percent.

Traffic has been steady since the sales gallery opened at 126 W. Franklin St. in early October, said Patterson. The gallery lets potential buyers see what design options are available for carpets, hardwood flooring, cabinets, tiling and other aesthetic details. There are more than 40 possible layouts, but you can see a model living room, kitchen and bathroom, as well as the BlueVue fireplace that will be in the BlueVue lounge, a bar that will be open to both residents and outside patrons.

The condos range from 931 square-foot one-bedroom units to 3,334 square-foot, two-story penthouses, priced from $360,000 to $1.8 million.

Like all residential developments in Chapel Hill, 15 percent are to be affordable housing units available to residents making less than 80 percent of the median income. Those units will be one or two bedrooms ranging from 560 to 800 square feet, costing $85,000 to $105,000, said Robert Dowling, director of the Orange Community Housing and Land Trust.

The project has been in the works, on some level, since the 1990s when the town began looking at areas to develop in the heart of downtown to both increase the business tax base and also attract people to actually live there.

“One important goal was the creation of a public gathering space,” said Town Council member Bill Strom. The shops and restaurants on the first floor, along with open areas for art installations, outdoor markets and live music will help achieve this, he said, and “the town benefits by having an underutilized asset redeveloped.”

The developers are to include the same number of public parking spaces in the new building as currently exist in Lot 5. And for those who have tailgated there for years, 140 West Franklin plans to give those groups a commemorative brick, and wants to hear from folks about their favorite Franklin Street moments for its website. The plan is for 140 West Franklin to only add to them.

  • Dec
    21

Money well spent for public art

December 21, 2008

Heraldsun.com

The gloomy economic news just gets gloomier. The unemployment rate in North Carolina has reached a 25-year high. The Dow continues to tumble. More and more businesses — here and elsewhere — are going out of business. Local governments and state officials keep talking about the hard cuts to come.

Which brings us, if somewhat circuitously, to the question of public art. Or rather, to the literal question of can we afford public art?

The other day, environmental artist and landscape architect Mikyoung Kim presented a revised, final design for the public art project that will be the centerpiece of the downtown redevelopment project now known as 140 West Franklin. (For those of you not familiar with the name, it’s the old Parking Lot 5 mixed-use project.)

The art installation, a 75-foot-long, mist-spraying stretch of folded steel, is, by most accounts, quite beautiful. By most accounts, “Exhale,” as it is called, should well serve its intention, to be a signature conversation piece in downtown.

To pay for the piece, the project’s developer, Ram Development Co. of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., and Chapel Hill, will contribute 1 percent of its approximately $75 million investment in 140 West to public art.

In this case, that’s a lot of money — $750,000.

Considering the economic circumstances, is it also a lot of unnecessary luxury? Shouldn’t we be cutting back on what some might consider “frills” at a time when we need to hunker down economically?

The answer would, of course, be yes, if we were too literal-minded and did not understand the broad value of public art.

Public art — aside from its clear aesthetic benefit, in addition to its emotional and communal and moral worth — can also be an economic development tool.

Public art, such as “Exhale,” ultimately can bring people downtown, make it more welcoming and interesting, and serve as a focus for downtown activities. It can help revitalize an area deeply in need of revitalization.

Money spent on such things, at this particular time, might seem frivolous to some, but it is truly an investment in not just who we are, but in who we could become. In other words, it could be money very well spent.

  • Dec
    14

Chapel Hill Adding Public Art

December 14, 2008

By Dave Hart, Staff Writer, via The News & Observer

CHAPEL HILL – It’s called “Exhale,” because in a sense that’s exactly what it will do.

A sculpture designed by artist Mikyoung Kim for downtown Chapel Hill will emit a fine cloud of mist, spritzed upward and dispersed through a series of gently arced, folded stainless steel ribbons perforated with thousands of tiny holes.

The effect, for those standing next to the piece when it exhales, will be like being enveloped in a fine, cooling fog.

The town in 2005 selected Kim, an internationally known environmental artist and landscape architect, as the lead artist for the mixed-used project called 140 West. One percent of the budget for the development will fund public artwork on the site.

Last week Kim shared her revised final plans at a public meeting at the Chapel Hill library.

Kim said she focused on an environmentally sustainable idea because the building is meant to be certified under green construction standards. Rainwater will be collected in underground retention ponds, and some of that water will be released into the air.

The sculpture will stand on a public plaza on the west side of the lot facing Church Street.

The gently curved, corrugated piece will be 75 feet long and 3 feet high at either end, rising gradually to about 6 feet tall in the center.

Perforations will let light and the water mist through. Although the sculpture will be made of steel, Kim said it will look semitransparent. A series of LED lights will make the steel and fog glow.

“It’s more like a mist screen,” Kim said. “The perforations will get bigger the higher you go, so you’ll have greater transparency as you go up.”

The sculpture will be turned on only periodically. The misting element will be off altogether during the winter, go on for one minute every 10 minutes during spring and fall, and be on for a total of six hours a day in the summer, including two two-hour periods when it will mist continually.

“We want people to find something new every time they experience it,” Kim said. “Night will be different than day, winter different than summer.”

Aware of the sensitivity to drought in this area, Kim said the schedule will be flexible and that the sculpture will use only collected rainwater.

Kim and her team also designed an integrated pattern of dark paving stones and benches, all echoing the curve of the sculpture, that will form the plaza around the piece.

“I love her work, and I love downtown, so I think this is wonderful,” said downtown resident Maria Lopez-Ibanez. “It’s an opportunity to connect the east and west ends of Franklin Street, and it has great potential as a gathering place.”

  • Dec
    11

Chapel Hill Steps Up Pedestrian Safety Efforts

December 11, 2008

By Rich Fowler, Staff Writer, via The Carrboro Citizen

Improving safety at bus stops and better training procedures are among the efforts reviewed Monday night by the Chapel Hill Town Council at its meeting at Town Hall.

The council heard reports from Chapel Hill Transit director Steve Spade and town traffic engineer Kumar Neppali on steps being made to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety. Two pedestrians have been hit and killed by Chapel Hill Transit buses this year.

Spade said that since the summer, the transit department has been reviewing its internal training procedures to try to find new ways to improve pedestrian safety. They have hired McDonald Transit Associates, a national transit consulting firm, to conduct a safety audit of the department. McDonald will finish its audit in early 2009.

The department is also considering new ways to make getting on and off the bus safer by looking at how bus stops and shelters are constructed and placed next to roads.

Neppali detailed a number of safety improvements planned for next spring including;
> • new bus pull-outs and a sidewalk between Old Mason Farm Road and Manning Drive on the south side of Fordham Boulevard;
• a pedestrian crosswalk and traffic signal on West Franklin Street near McDonald’s;
• two pedestrian refuge median islands in the middle of Franklin Street near Elizabeth Street and Couch Road, and one on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard near Piney Mountain Road.

Neppali also said the town would add a pedestrian-only phase to the traffic signal at Cameron Avenue and Columbia Street. “We are testing this phase as a pilot project,” he said. “It has shown some positive results on the national research.”

If the changes prove successful, Neppali said the town will consider changing the patterns at other downtown intersections, including at Franklin and Columbia streets.

As part of a traffic signal upgrade project, Neppali said his department plans to install bicycle activation loops at 42 intersections starting in the summer of 2009, but a source for funding hasn’t been found yet. The project will also convert all pedestrian crossing signals to countdown timers, like the ones used in downtown Chapel Hill, starting in April.

Future projects, he said, include sidewalks and bicycle lanes on both sides of Weaver Dairy Road, with construction starting in January 2010, and sidewalks and bicycle lanes on both sides of South Columbia Street from Manning Drive to Purefoy Road, including a center turn lane, with construction starting next fall.

In addition to these town projects, the university plans major bicycle and pedestrian safety improvements to the intersection of Fordham Boulevard and Manning Drive in the next two months, including a crosswalk and a pedestrian crossing signal with a countdown timer on Fordham Boulevard, a “Stop Ahead When Flashing” beacon on Fordham Boulevard at Manning Drive and bicycle-activated traffic-signal loops on Manning Drive.

The university also plans to add crosswalks and countdown pedestrian signals at the intersection of Fordham Boulevard and Old Mason Farm Road.

In other action, the council passed a resolution in support of civil marriage for the gay community, similar to the one adopted last week by the Town of Carrboro. The resolution was brought before the council by local teacher Tom Greene.

“As a gay man from Western North Carolina, my partner Adam and I specifically chose the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area to settle down and put down our roots, because we knew in this town we would at least be treated as human beings, deserving rights and responsibilities in the community,” Greene said.

Council Member Mark Kleinschmidt thanked Greene for bringing the matter to the council. He said similar resolutions are being considered across the country.

“Many of my friends who are openly gay and in public office in California of course are very disappointed,” Kleinschmidt said. “And I shared with them this weekend how I wept, as they did, when Prop. 8 passed. But there is a silver lining that has been discovered in this aftermath, and that is this new energy.”

Also at the meeting, Brookline, Mass.-based artist, urban planner and landscape designer Mikyoung Kim presented the final design for public art at 140 West Franklin St.

The inspiration of the piece, called “Exhale,” comes from the shape and form of fog. Fog and blue LED light will emanate from a series of perforated, folded, stainless-steel screens that will form the shape of a low fog cloud. Kim said the piece will only release fog when there’s rainwater to convert to fog.

“It’s actually a piece that exudes fog when there is water and then creates a reminiscence of fog when there is not,” Kim said.

  • Dec
    10

Lot 5 project waiting to ‘Exhale’

December 10, 2008

By Dave Hart, Staff Writer, via The Chapel Hill News
Sculpture will emit collected-rainwater mist

CHAPEL HILL – It’s called “Exhale,” because in a sense that exactly what it will do. The sculpture designed by artist Mikyoung Kim for the Lot 5 project in downtown Chapel Hill will emit a fine cloud of mist, spritzed upward and dispersed through a series of gently arced, folded stainless steel ribbons perforated with thousands of tiny holes. The effect, for those standing next to the piece when it exhales, will be like being enveloped in a fine, cooling fog.

“Because the building aspires to LEED certification,” Kim said, referring to the classification system for green building standards, “we wanted to focus on an environmentally sustainable idea. The site will collect rainwater in below-ground retention ponds, and you have to release that water somehow. The piece will take some of that collected rainwater and release it into the air.”

Kim presented the revised final design for the Lot 5 art project at a public meeting Monday afternoon at the Chapel Hill Public Library. RAM Development Co., which will build the mixed-use project (officially called 140 West), has committed 1 percent of the project budget to fund public artwork on the site.

The town in 2005 selected Kim, an internationally known environmental artist and landscape architect, as the lead artist for the project. She presented her preliminary proposal last January and on Monday showed her revised final plans.

“I think it’s quite beautiful,” said one attendee, James Carnahan. “I’m very impressed. It’s a beautiful form.” The sculpture will stand on a public plaza on the west side of the lot, facing Church Street. The gently curved, corrugated piece will be 75 feet long and three feet high at either end, rising gradually to about six feet tall in the center. The multitude of perforations will let both light and the water mist through; although the sculpture will be made of steel, Kim said, it will look semi-transparent. A series of LED lights will make both steel and fog glow.

“It’s more like a mist screen,” she said. “The perforations will get bigger the higher you go, so you’ll have greater transparency as you go up.”

The sculpture will be “turned on” only periodically: the misting element will be off altogether during the winter, go on for one minute every 10 minutes during spring and fall, and be on for a total of six hours a day in the summer, including two two-hour periods when it will mist continually.

“We want people to find something new every time they experience it,” Kim said. “Night will be different than day, winter different than summer.”

Aware of the sensitivity to drought in this area, Kim said the schedule will be completely flexible and will use only collected rainwater.

Kim and her team also designed an integrated pattern of dark paving stones and benches, all echoing the curve of the sculpture, that will form the plaza around the piece.

“I love her work, and I love downtown, so I think this is wonderful,” said downtown resident Maria Lopez-Ibanez. “It’s an opportunity to connect the east and west ends of Franklin Street, and it has great potential as a gathering place. Chapel Hill has a walkable downtown, but we have no natural gathering place, no place like Weaver Street in Carrboro. I think this could become that kind of place.”