Chapel Hill condos nearing liftoff after 3 years planning
June 30, 2008
By Amanda Jones Hoyle – Triangle Business Journal (Raleigh/Durham North Carolina)
CHAPEL HILL – A $75 million remake of a prime corner of Franklin Street appears to be a go after three years of back and forth between town planners and the developers.
Officials with Ram Development are so near to securing the requisite building permit that they’ve scheduled a June 27 celebration to kick off sales of 140 residential condominiums that will be part of the mixed-use project.
The development will rise on what’s now town-owned parking lot No. 5 between Franklin and Rosemary streets at Church Street.
The building, to be called 140 West Franklin Street, will stand eight stories and, besides the condos, will include 26,000 square feet of ground-level retail space and 337 parking spaces in a deck below the building. “We are fortunate to have gone through this long process and get to this point,” says John Florian, senior vice president of development for Ram Realty Services. “Everybody is really excited about what this means for downtown and for Franklin Street.”
Demolition of the parking lot is scheduled to begin in the late fall, followed by excavation of the site for the construction of the subterranean parking deck. Florian estimates that the complex will be complete in late 2010.
Liz Parham, executive director of the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership, says the 140 West Franklin project not only will add modern retail space, but it also will link the west and east ends of the mile-long Franklin Street corridor. “The more we add in the middle, the more likely you’ll keep walking down the street,” she says. “We have a long, skinny downtown, … and this project will keep you walking.”
While many visitors to Franklin Street lament the loss of the 1.7-acre parking lot that made shopping in downtown easier, about half of the 140 West Franklin parking spaces will be sold back to the town of Chapel Hill for public parking, Florian says.
Eighteen of the condo units will be sold to the Orange Community Housing and Land Trust, which will in turn sell the units to qualified buyers of affordable housing. All other condo units will be priced from $200,000 to $300,000 for the one-bedroom units, $400,000 to $700,000 for the two-bedroom units, and $800,000 to $1.8 million for the 14 penthouse units.
Florian says that despite the housing slowdown nationally, the condos have generated strong interest due to their location. “There just aren’t many other places where you can duplicate this,” he says.
The project will feature a 27,000-square-foot public plaza decorated with commissioned art. Florian says the complex will be built to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards using energy-efficient HVAC systems and lighting, as well as reclamation of stormwater on the site and recycling of building materials. But Ram has opted not to have the project certified by the U.S. Green Building Council because of costs associated with the certification process.
Bill Strom, a Chapel Hill councilman, says the town council’s goal in partnering with Ram on the project is to bring more people to the town’s core and create more energy in downtown Chapel Hill. “The plaza I envision as a crossroads for the community and a destination location,” Strom says. “It will serve as a living room for the community. Franklin Street needs a strong gathering place.”