140 West development finishing up, set to open in April
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article stated that Lime Fresh Mexican Grill was founded in California. The restaurant was founded in Florida. The article has been changed to reflect this.
In April, almost nine years of planning and two years of construction will come to fruition as 140 West — one of Chapel Hill’s biggest mixed-use developments — finally opens its doors.
The eight-story development will change the face of downtown, bringing retail and housing space to Chapel Hill, while bridging the gap between East and West Franklin Street.
The $55 million project, located at the corner of West Franklin and Church streets, will include 140 condominiums, 26,000 square feet of retail space and 337 parking spaces.
“The goal was definitely to develop Franklin Street — this is some of the first Class ‘A’ retail space available on Franklin Street in a long time,” said Jon Keener, development manager for Ram Realty Services, the project’s developer.
“We also want to pull some of the economic activity in downtown from Franklin Street to Rosemary Street and other parts.”
Keeping it local
Keener said another goal of 140 West was to develop a structure unique to Chapel Hill.
“We don’t want people to be able to pick up our development and transplant it to Houston, for example,” Keener said.
Though a stainless steel wave-shaped sculpture by Californian artist Mikyoung Kim will adorn the center of the plaza, all of the art inside the property will be by North Carolinians, he said.
Keener said he was excited to collaborate with UNC students to schedule live performances in the plaza space.
Dwight Bassett, economic development officer for Chapel Hill, said the development will bring new markets to the town.
The development is expected to bring in $1.06 million in property and sales tax revenue, as well as parking, by its fifth year, he said.
“Chapel Hill still has quite a bit of market that can support business development,” Bassett said. “I don’t think 140 West takes us to the point of being overbuilt.”
Ivy Greaner, chief operating officer for Ram Realty Services, said the developers were looking for local businesses to fill retail space.
“Local doesn’t just mean from this region of North Carolina — to us, it means from anywhere in the Carolinas,” Greaner said.
But Nashville-based Gigi’s Cupcakes, and Lime Fresh Mexican Grill — which was founded in Florida and is now owned by Ruby Tuesday — were the first two confirmed tenants for the development.
Jason Brooks, director of operations at the Raleigh branch of Lime Fresh, said he is excited to cater to Chapel Hill’s distinctive demographic.
“Most college towns are really busy when school is in session, and dead otherwise,” Brooks said. “Chapel Hill is always busy — people raise families there and commute there for research.”
“When you compare Chapel Hill to say, the University of Maryland or Cincinnati, Chapel Hill has much better year-round potential,” he said.
Greaner said the developers are negotiating with several other tenants — including banks, boutiques and medical offices — to fill the remaining two or three spots .
She said the most important factors in approving retail tenants are a proven track record, good credit and the right concept.
“We wouldn’t consider a check-cashing business, for example, because that’s not commensurate with the neighborhood,” Greaner said.
An end in sight
Kendria Sweet, spokeswoman for 140 West, said she believes the businesses are well-poised to be successful in the current economy.
“The economy is making all the right moves now, and the strength of the Chapel Hill market never did waver,” Sweet said.
A total of 99 of the 140 available condominiums have been sold so far, and Sweet said 140 West expects to begin moving people in by April.
Stores will also finish setting up by late April, in time for a public grand opening.
Keener said he is hopeful about what 140 West will bring to Chapel Hill.
“It’s been a tough process, and we have to make sure everyone’s interests are represented, but I think the end result speaks for itself,” he said.
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