By Laurie Paolicelli
Rosemary Street Chapel Hill is a major east-West Avenue, which is actually a contraction of the names of two young girls who once lived on the street, Rose and Mary. (For more on how Chapel Hill streets got their names, see here.)
As Chapel Hill plans for the future, there’s a significant redevelopment plan on the table that will likely shift a significant portion of Rosemary Street to a futuristic streetscape with equal parts wet labs, flex space, office space for the data scientists, and a new parking deck.
The plan has the Town of Chapel Hill giving Grubb Properties the current Wallace Deck in exchange for a Grubb-owned parking lot and CVS building that would be used for a new parking lot with connectivity to downtown.
Grubb would build 200,000 square feet of new office space where the Wallace Parking Deck currently sits.
At its virtual economic sustainability committee meeting on Friday, June 5, the council discussed the project.
“The larger the number of residents and businesses in a downtown, the more activity there will be in many spheres: More shopping, more cafes and restaurants. There has to be a critical mass of people (residents, business executives, business travelers, etc), shops, restaurants, and leisure and cultural activities to make a core vibrant,” said Dwight Basset, Economic Development Director for the Town of Chapel Hill.
It is estimated that the new six-story deck would have 1,143 parking spots, a 156-spot increase from the existing two Rosemary Street parking decks combined. New details to the concept plan include two entrances to the deck off Rosemary Street, as well as an access points off North Street.
Cost estimates for the project are at $32 million for construction and the land swap. The Chapel Hill Town Council is still discussing which additional amenities to include with the deck. Amenities range from solar panels on the roof, public toilets, car-charging stations, and streetscape improvements.
Town staff estimates the development will ultimately pay for itself when factoring in Grubb Properties’ additional developments and parking revenues. While the net cash flow for the parking deck might be negative in the first few years due to debt payments, revenue from the deck being at 65-100 percent occupancy would lead to more than $24 million in revenue by the 20-year mark.
UNC, which is currently reserving 100 spots in the parking deck, is also considering paying Chapel Hill approximately $2.4 million up front for the construction of its designated spots. These spaces are specifically allocated for university employees working in the new downtown admissions building.
“The Economic Development Agreement framework has been presented to Council for discussion and the draft Agreement will be presented to Council on June 17,” confirms Basset.
The Town of Chapel Hill’s Community Design Commission has already reviewed the project several times and Council has reviewed and held several work sessions to address key elements of the design. The Concept Plan for the office building is expected to be received by the Town in July.
Key Points of East Rosemary Street Development
- Exchange Wallace parking deck/land for 137 (CVS) parking deck and adjacent parcels
- Build a new parking deck at 125 E Rosemary.
- Grubb constructs a new wet lab/office building of 200,000 square feet in downtown.
- Increase connectivity among walking, bicycling, and multi-modal networks
- A deal between Chapel Hill and the developers must be struck by June 30 in order for the project to fit a designated timeline utilizing the space within the federally-designated Opportunity Zone, which would provide Grubb Properties with special tax benefits. Opportunity Zones are qualifying census tracts as originally established under the Markets Tax Credits program and confirmed by the Treasury Department to be used for this program. Governor Roy Cooper’s target was to have at least one designated opportunity zone per county. This is the only Opportunity Zone in Orange County.
Laurie Paolicelli is the Executive Director of the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau.