By Gregory Childress, via The Herald Sun
The 140 West Franklin project under construction in downtown recently reached an important milestone when its 100th residential unit was sold.
That means developer Ram Realty Services has sold roughly 70 percent of the 140 residential units planned for the project, including 18 affordable housing units controlled by the Community Home Trust through a partnership with the town.
For Ram, officials say the sale of the 100th residential unit is reassurance that the project has resonated with buyers and the community at large.
“It signals public confidence in this project as well as the long lasting allure of the quintessential college town that is Chapel Hill,” Ram Chairman Peter Cummings said in a statement announcing the milestone.
The good news for Ram comes as the developer prepares for an April 26 grand opening that will feature music, dancing, and the unveiling of the project’s public plaza and public art.
When the project is completed, Ram and town officials say it, along with the redevelopment of University Square and other revitalization efforts along Franklin and Rosemary streets, will be transformative.
“We’re really only a piece of that along with 123 [University Square] across the street and the rebooting of Greenbridge,” said Casey Cummings, chief executive of Ram.
Casey Cumming noted that the project has been in the making since 2005. The project is now at a point where its presence along West Franklin “feels nice” and as though it belongs, he said.
“It’s just Chapel Hill itself,” Cummings said when asked to explain why he thought the project has been able to generate so many early sales. “We couldn’t have just plunked that building down anywhere.’’
Casey Cummings said Ram’s $55 million investment is a show of confidence in the market and that when potential customers visit 140 West, they see a quality product.
“When they walk through the building and see what we’ve created, it’s clear we didn’t take any short cuts,” Casey Cumming said of the luxury apartments.
Also, a key selling point for the project has been its location. It’s within walking distance to the UNC campus, Kenan Stadium, Memorial Hall, UNC Healthcare and even the Smith Center.
In addition to the 100 housing units, 140 West has also landed three retail tenants — GiGi’s Cupcakes, Lime Fresh Mexican Grill and the Eye Care Center – which will take up a portion of the 26,000-square-feet of street-level retail space that will be available in $55 million project.
When the project is completed, it will offer up to eight retail shops and restaurants.
“We have some others in the works,” said Kendria Sweet, a spokesperson for 140 West, noting that she is unable to talk about the retail tenants until deals are signed. “Ram [Realty Services] has paid close attention to picking businesses that will boost up Franklin Street even more.”
Dwight Bassett, the town’s economic development officer, said 140 West will help the town as it tries to become a year-round destination.
“We think we can do a better job of attracting Chapel Hill residents downtown on a regular basis,” Bassett said. “It’ll help us shift the market from just being a student market to being a student and resident market.”
Set back from the corner of Franklin and Church streets, 140 West stands four stories tall along Franklin Street before stepping back to eight at the center.
And, in addition to 26,000-square-feet of retail space, the project has a two-level, 337-space underground parking deck with a dedicated public parking level owned and operated by the Town of Chapel Hill.