University Square businesses brace for redevelopment
Though current University Square tenants will be required to vacate this summer and many already have, Time-Out is still searching for a new location.
“We’ve been here since 1978, and I think we are so much more than just a restaurant,” said Ira Green , catering and special events director for Time-Out. “We are a big part of the UNC experience for a lot of the kids.”
Green said while Time-Out’s owner is considering a move to a space on Rosemary Street, they’re keeping their options open in terms of new locations.
The demolition of University Square, which has been home to several local businesses like Time-Out, is set to start as early as October of this year .
Plans for the redevelopment started in 2009, shortly after University Square was purchased by Chapel Hill Foundation Real Estate Holdings, the University’s nonprofit real estate arm.
The space has approval for 300 residential units , 75,000 square feet of retail and 210,000 square feet of office space.
“We believe it will be a positive addition,” said Dwight Bassett , economic development officer for Chapel Hill. “The space will open a market for retail and restaurants to tap into, and the retail will be a welcomed addition to what already exists in the space.”
Gordon Merklein, director of real estate development at UNC , said he is pleased with the progress in the development.
“This is a large-scale project that, once under way, will further transform West Franklin Street and provide students, faculty, staff, Chapel Hill residents and visitors with a new downtown destination.”
Many of the businesses at University Square have closed or relocated to other major developments such as 140 West and University Mall .
Maisie Coborne, the former owner of Butternut Squash restaurant, sued UNC Chapel Hill Foundation Real Estate Holdings in October after she said the group failed to inform the restaurant about its chances of keeping a location in the redeveloped University Square .
Merklein said the University has been in constant contact with the University Square tenants for the past five years.
“The few remaining tenants have operated on a month-to-month basis as they continue to look at relocation options,” Merklein said. “Through constant communication about the project, we have maintained a good relationship with our tenants.”
Merklein said they have even introduced current tenants to potential landlords at new locations.
But Ken’s Quickie Mart owner Larry Trollinger said he has known the property would be demolished since the University bought it six years ago, but no one has kept him informed about the progress.
“I found out they were working to tear this place down when the newspaper printed it up last August,” Trollinger said. “They didn’t tell me or Eddie Williams from Time-Out anything.”
Though Time-Out will have to relocate eventually, Green said he also wanted to put an end to the rumor that Time-Out will be closing down and becoming a food truck.
“We do have a food truck, but that’s for special events like weddings and fraternity and sorority functions,” he said.
“I want the students to know that we are looking for a new place close to downtown within a two-block radius of where we are now.”
Trollinger said he doubted the University would require him to leave in the summer.
“The day’s coming when I won’t be here anymore, I know it.” Trollinger said. “But I don’t know how long that will be. It could be another year or two.”
When he is forced to leave University Square, Trollinger doesn’t intend to relocate. He said he has decided to retire and close his 44 -year-old business rather than find a different location.
“I’m 66,” he said. “I’m just gonna close it down.”
Trollinger said he bought the business from a man named Ken in 1970 when it was brand new.
“It’s an old faithful,” he said. “I’m not excited. I’d rather go out on my own terms.”
Cynthia Lennon, owner of Cynthia’s Tailor Shop, said she found out she had to move her store out of University Square during a meeting held by the University. She said she was given a year’s notice she would have to move and has since relocated to University Mall.
The business reopened in March 2013 , but Lennon said she lost customers in the move, and business started off slow.
“You have to start over and build business,” she said. “You just have to get busy and build clientele.”