Plans for one of the last undeveloped and most visible parcels of land in Chapel Hill hinge on the winner of a design competition, approved Monday night.
The Chapel Hill Town Council chose a design by Duda/Paine Architects of Durham as the winner of the Northeast Gateway design competition.
Roger Waldon, director of the Chapel Hill Planning Department, said the gateway is one of the crucial parcels left to be developed in town.
"It is an absolutely critical place in Chapel Hill," he said. "It's one of the most visible and most important areas."
Waldon said the jury selected Duda/Paine's design because of its good configuration of open space and its pedestrian-oriented design.
The Northeast Gateway is an area of about 70 acres adjacent to the intersection of U.S. 15-501 and Interstate 40 that the council has not yet zoned for large-scale development.
Six design firms from across the state submitted entries to compete for $5,000 in prize money and the possibility of receiving a contract to plan the area.
Waldon said the entries were displayed Oct. 16 at Town Hall for the public to view.
At the forum, residents gave comments on the design proposals to town planning staff which relayed public reaction to members of the judging committee.
The committee was composed of Town Council members Flicka Bateman, Kevin Foy and Lee Pavao.
After the public display, the judging committee met to decide the winning entry by taking into account both residents' and other council members' reactions to the design proposals.
Foy said the committee looked for a mixed-use design concept including residential, retail, offices and green space.
He also said the designs submitted were exactly what the council expected to receive from contest entrants.
"(The designs) represented a large investment of creativity on the designers' part," he said.
Town Council member Bill Strom said he liked the designs because of the preservation of natural space.
"The desirable element is undisturbed space," he said. "Density is controversial."
Waldon said the Town Council's purpose for the contest was to involve both town residents and architectural firms in the design process.
"We want to be sure that development matches the desires of the community," he said.
But Waldon also said the area could be critical to future town development due to proposed mass transit along the U.S. 15-501 corridor.
"It is along the proposed corridor for regional transit," he said. "At some point, it could be a stop on the transit line."
But Bateman said the council has not yet zoned the area for mixed-use development.
The contest should show developers what the town expects they approach the council for zoning approval, she said.
"The area has been the subject of much controversy," she said.
"We need to have something that represents the gateway to Chapel Hill."
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