By Laurie Paolicelli
There’s a shopping center in Chapel Hill that’s fun to visit because many longtime Chapel Hill retailers are at the helm and their experience adds to the feeling of community. University Place (formerly known as University Mall) is anchored by SilverSpot Cinema. The mall originally opened with Ivey’s and Belk (Belk-Leggett Horton) in 1973, and Roses Stores as a junior anchor. It was developed by E. N. Richards and originally featured 78 stores.
The mall was purchased in 2018 and its current owner (Ram Realty) has a far-reaching vision on the negotiation table with the Town of Chapel Hill that includes turning all of the storefronts to face the mall’s exterior and later demolishing part of the former Southern Season store anchoring the east wing.
At a May 2021 Town Council meeting, Ram Reality clarified that between 300 and 500 apartments are possible, plus 150 hotel rooms, 150,000 square feet of offices, and between 300,000 and 450,000 square feet of commercial space. Here is a link to the draft design guideline submitted to the town.
University Place Today, Summer 2021
Today, University Place is still rich with seasoned retailers, committed to their shops and devoted to their customers. Pam Williams has owned and operated Night Gallery-Branching Out since 1970 – 51 years! She is the last of the original tenants of University Mall (now University Place). Her store is an eclectic mix of women’s clothing, unique cards, exotic soaps and home decor. She still regularly works the Monday through Saturday schedule. Like Pam Williams, many of these University Place businesses are defined by their spirit—which is community-focused – and resilient. They open their doors each day and welcome guests with a smile, despite the uncertainty ahead, because it’s what drives them.
Local radio host Ron Stutts retired last year from WCHL. Their studios are in University Place, right next to the iconic jewelers, Wentworth and Sloan. Opened in 1945, Wentworth & Sloan is Chapel Hill’s Oldest & Finest Jeweler. “Working at University Place I was always happy to see the loyal customers who shopped at Wentworth and Sloan, largely because of their reputation for supporting community and their commitment to excellence. I have known Ken Jackson (the owner) for 40 years and he is one of the nicest people I know.”
University Place is bustling with these sorts of retailers, tried and true, worthy of our support now and into the future.
Shops Currently Open at University Place
- Alfredo’s Pizza Villa
- Aveda Institute Chapel Hill
- Bartaco, inspired by the beach cultures of Brazil, Uruguay and southern California.
- Chick-Fil-A Chapel Hill
- The Frame & Print Shop
- FRANK Gallery
- Hawkers, Scratch-Asian Street Fare
- Kidzu Children’s Museum
- Branching Out-Night Gallery
- Gerrie & Company
- SilverSpot Cinema
- Stoney River Steakhouse and Grill
- Wentworth & Sloan
- William Travis Jewelry
See a list of shops here: https://www.universityplacenc.com/directory
Laurie Paolicelli is the Executive Director of the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau.