The Junction, Chapel Hill: A Hub for Innovation


By Laurie Paolicelli

The Junction amphitheater space.

junc·tion: a point where two or more things are joined.

In September, Innovate Carolina Junction, affectionately known as “The Junction,” opened its doors with a soft launch. Located at 137 E. Franklin St., with primary access at 136 E. Rosemary St. (adjacent to the Wallace Parking deck), The Junction occupies the ground and first floors of a seven-story building formerly housing the N.C. National Bank (and the Flower Ladies back in the day).

The Junction is a pivotal component of a new Innovation district in downtown Chapel Hill, home to trailblazing companies, start-ups, business incubators, and accelerators, as well as a bit of temporary traffic congestion.

Dedric Carter, Chief Innovation Officer of Innovate Carolina.

It features a technologically advanced environment, offering a diverse range of office spaces — from soundproof rooms reminiscent of vintage phone booths to spacious offices, meeting rooms, board rooms, and private contemplative areas. Tenants use the prestigious Franklin Street address as their official business headquarters. The Junction, under the guidance of its highly capable executive director, Sheryl Waddell, is rapidly seeing its spaces filled. At the Rosemary Street entrance, community manager Julia Lutz welcomes guests.

The Junction community manager, Julia Lutz, provides a warm welcome and tour with clients.

Beyond its identity as a co-working space, The Junction is a vital component of a broader innovation district, a result of partnerships with the University of North Carolina, Town of Chapel Hill, and local economic development advocates. The district’s commitment includes the establishment of wet lab facilities designed to handle chemicals, tissue cultures, and other

Innovate Carolina oversees The Junction, LAUNCH Chapel Hill, and other professional spaces in downtown Chapel Hill.

Presently, it hosts a diverse array of companies, including an international surrogacy, fertility, and egg donation company operated by the Tammuz Family. Founded by Doron Mamet-Meged in 2008, Tammuz Family offers comprehensive and guaranteed surrogacy and IVF programs, and it has evolved into one of the world’s leading agencies, with offices spanning the globe.

Dan Soliman, Founder of ESG Ventures.

Among its tenants are authors seeking a private haven for their creative endeavors and also tech start-ups, builders, educators, and innovators. Dan Soliman, founder of ESG Ventures, chose The Junction for its strategic location, community connections, and the opportunity to operate from a world-renowned college town. Soliman, with a track record as an Impact Investor/Social Entrepreneur, has successfully launched and scaled innovative shared-value partnerships, research initiatives, and programs/investments that have unlocked approximately $1 billion of public and private capital, benefiting low- and moderate-income households worldwide.

The facility offers an array of amenities, including shared kitchens, printers, Wi-Fi, and picturesque views of Franklin Street. Additionally, Launch Chapel Hill, established in 2013 next to Blue Dogwood Market on West Franklin, now operates at The Junction. Founded in 2013, Launch has supported the startup community and is now the first tenant in the newest building in downtown Chapel Hill at 137 East Franklin Street.

Launch companies have generated more than $105 million in revenue in less than ten years and raised $63 million in funding. The Town of Chapel Hill and Orange County split a $150,000 annual contribution to Launch.

Durham Technical Community College has set up an office at The Junction focusing on professional development, corporate services, and work-based education and training programs.

Sheryl Waddell, Executive Director of The Junction.

Sheryl Waddell, the director of Innovate Carolina’s Innovation Hubs, articulates the ultimate goal: leveraging research for tangible outcomes, such as new therapies, treatments, devices, and job creation, all initiated by faculty, students, and staff, and all in service of the greater good. Sheryl is also the co-founder of e51, a women’s entrepreneurial initiative. e51 symbolizes an entrepreneurial community powered by women, aimed at harnessing the talent and potential of female entrepreneurs.

Waddell’s background makes her well-suited for the role of executive director. With her father, she co-founded Padcom, Inc., a wireless data communications company in 1992. At Padcom, she held numerous roles, including executive vice president of sales and marketing and director of business development, contributing to the company’s success and eventual merger with a leading data communication company, NetMotion.

As a senior leader of Innovate Carolina, the University’s central team for innovation, entrepreneurship, and economic development, Waddell focuses on enhancing career opportunities for students and creating economic vitality for the local community, region, and state. The relationships forged, knowledge shared, and connections established foster a cohesive network poised to have a lasting impact on innovation and economic growth, both within and beyond the region, connecting it to capital sources and go-to-market partners.

Whether it’s training astronauts (as we did at Morehead Planetarium) or training WWII fighter pilots (as we did at the old airport), Chapel Hill and UNC are not only prepared for the future, they help create the future. And that’s what’s happening now at The Junction. There is still available space, for ambitious entrepreneurs of every ilk.

Innovate Carolina, 137 Franklin Street, Chapel Hill.

Laurie Paolicelli is executive director for the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau, a position she has held since 2005. Laurie has worked in tourism and marketing for twenty-five years, having served in leadership roles in Houston and California convention and visitor bureaus. She is a native of the Twin Ports of Duluth, MN/Superior Wisconsin. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business and Communications from the University Wisconsin-Superior and graduate certification in Technology In Marketing from the UNC-Chapel Hill’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media.

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