Construction begins on Homestead Gardens residential project

Initial site development has started on the Homestead Gardens site, located at 2200 Homestead Road in Chapel Hill. Following the project’s final approval of 89 residential units and 107 parking spaces this past November, developers have begun the process of clearing earth and installing infrastructure such as underground piping. Homestead Gardens will feature 56 rental units with one, two, and three-bedroom floor plans, along with an additional 33 residential units that will be available for purchase. The units will target household incomes falling between 30 percent or less and 115 percent of Chapel Hill’s Area Median Income. Photo By Adam Powell.

GROWTH & DEVELOPMENT; COMMUNITY NEWS

By Adam Powell
Correspondent

CHAPEL HILL – After nearly seven years of planning and various modifications, the ground is finally broken on Chapel Hill’s Homestead Gardens affordable housing project at 2200 Homestead Road. Bulldozers are on the site clearing and grading earth, and various infrastructure installations such as underground piping and gravel are onsite. As the spring moves into summer, the project will kick into full gear, as construction will begin in earnest on Chapel Hill’s latest large-scale residential community.

The Homestead Gardens project represents one of the town’s pioneering attempts to integrate more affordable housing in the area, which has been a considerable problem for years. Due to a lack of affordable housing in Chapel Hill, many people work there but commute to live in surrounding communities.

Homestead Gardens’ roots go back to the summer of 2017, when Chapel Hill’s Town Council dedicated 14 acres of city-owned land at the 2200 Homestead Road site to affordable housing. By that winter, the town had started the community engagement process, reaching out to nearby landowners to get feedback and answer questions.

After securing its development partners in late 2018, Chapel Hill entered into a Memorandum of Understanding in the fall of 2019 with its team for Homestead Gardens, including Self-Help Federal Credit Union, Community Home Trust, Habitat for Humanity of Orange County, and CASA, a Raleigh-based non-profit organization focused on affordable housing.  Soon after, the team began the site planning process just before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the winter of 2020.

“The 2200 Homestead Road project is one of the town’s first efforts to develop affordable housing on town land,” reads Chapel Hill’s website for affordable housing. “The development concept reflects the project vision of an inclusive, mixed-income community offering a variety of housing types that serve a variety of housing needs.” 

“It’s no secret that Chapel Hill faces an affordability crisis, with a severe shortage of affordable home rental and ownership opportunities,” added CASA’s website (https://www.casanc.org/properties/homestead/)  “Homestead Gardens is a public-private partnership to address housing market inequities by providing an opportunity for those who work in low- and middle-income jobs to live near their work and provide access to Chapel Hill’s celebrated public school system.”

Shrinking Scope

Although the Chapel Hill Town Council approved the conditional zoning for Homestead Gardens in May 2021, it has taken three years for the developer to complete preliminary work. This included a reduction in scope in the fall and winter of 2022-2023 and a subsequent modification that required rezoning approval from the council.

In March of 2022, it appeared that Chapel Hill and its development partners would soon be ready to break ground on 120 new units at Homestead Gardens.  But it wasn’t long before the team realized that 120 was going to be too many units for the resources available at hand.

Finally, this past November, the council voted unanimously to approve a reduction in the number of residential units and parking spaces for the project.  The original plans called for 126 units and 175 parking spaces, respectively, but this was pared down by the council this fall to 89 residential units and 107 parking spaces.

The developer, Self Help Ventures Fund, and construction engineering firm Thomas & Hutton indicated that cost overruns required reducing the project’s scope.

“During the original Conditional Zoning approval process [in the spring of 2021], there were conditions put on the approval that can no longer be met due to scope changes related to unforeseen construction cost increases,” explained Thomas & Hutton in a November 2023 letter to the Town of Chapel Hill’s Planning Department.  “Most of the scope and plan changes align with requirements and limits to recorded stipulations.  But reduction of the overall number of units which will be built is a change in density that requires a Conditional Zoning Modification to be approved by Council.”

The property is bordered to its immediate west by the Southern Railway railroad crossing, and to the immediate south by Homestead Road.  Weaver Dairy Road Extension and the Vineyard Square residential townhome community border the property to the east and northeast.

To the immediate east will sit the D.R. Horton Bridgepoint community.  Homestead Gardens will be constructed to interconnect with the infrastructure in place within Bridgepoint, including its future street and sidewalk network. 

Current site plans call for a circular roadway within Homestead Gardens, known as Sweetspire Lane, with three Habitat for Humanity duplexes and a three-story apartment building inside it.  The three-story apartment building will feature CASA workforce one-bedroom apartments, along with a community room on the main floor.  Outside and adjacent to the community room will be a 3,000-square-foot playground, gazebo, and community gathering space.

Sweetspire Lane will connect with Rialto Street, which is part of the neighboring Bridgepoint community.  It will also form Sunflower Lane, which will drop onto Homestead Road to the immediate south.  Surrounding Sweetspire Lane on three sides are a collection of residential buildings, including the townhomes and apartments that will comprise the new community.

To the south, running parallel to Homestead Road, is a collection of 17 townhouses in three buildings of six, five, and six connected units.  To the immediate west are three more Habitat for Humanity duplexes and four townhomes to be constructed by Community Home Trust. To the north is a three-story CASA residential rental apartment building. CASA is collaborating with UNC Horizons to create a space for low-wage local residents, along with local mothers with children who have dealt with substance abuse problems.

Of the 89 units to be constructed at Homestead Gardens, 56 will be rentals of varying sizes, including one-, two-, and three-bedroom floor plans.  An additional 33 units will be sold for purchase, including 21 two- and three-bedroom townhomes, along with 12 three- and four-bedroom duplex units.

Amenities within the neighborhood will include a sidewalk network throughout the community, an adjacent bus stop along Homestead Road, bicycle parking, a community green space with a playground and gazebo, a community basketball court, and an indoor recreation room. The units will target households with incomes between 30% or less and 115% of the Area Median Income.


Adam Powell is a reporter on local news and sports and an education communications professional. A 2001 graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, Powell has served as managing editor of multiple local publications, including the Mebane Enterprise, News of Orange County and TarHeelIllustrated.com. The public information officer for Rockingham County Schools in Eden, N.C., Powell is the author of four books and lives in Mebane with his wife and two children. This reporter can be reached at Info@TheLocal Reporter.press

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