The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday October 27th

Drainage Problems Continue

On July 23, 2000 seven inches of rain fell in the Triangle in a period of 12 hours, resulting in localized flooding.

Eastgate was one of the spots that was hit the hardest, with flooding causing $6.8 million worth of damage and causing some stores to close for months.

But since the late July flood, tenants have yet to see repairs that were promised to them.

According to an engineers' report, Sal's Pizza & Italian Restaurant -- along with other businesses in the shopping center -- experienced flooding because a nearby drainage pipe from the Staples Office Center directed water to the area.

Repairs on the drainage pipe and other storm water system improvements were originally slated to begin in the spring.

But now the completion of the pipe has been pushed back until late September or early October.

Jeanne Connor, chief operating officer for the Mid-Atlantic Region for Federal Realty, said the repair process was more complex than first estimated.

Conner said the town of Chapel Hill and the N.C. Department of Transportation had to be consulted before work could begin on the center's drainage system. A full engineers' report also had to be submitted.

"What no one really anticipated was all the various government groups that would weigh in on changes that were needed at the center," said Connor.

After all the input was collected, blueprints for the improvement projects were not completed until July.

While long-term improvements remain in the works, merchants brace for rain storms with short-term flooding solutions like sand bags. "We have sand bags but it's not enough to stop what happened last year," said Brad Feren, an employee at Sal's Pizza.

Feren said the restaurant still faces slight flooding after steady rains, including an incident three weeks ago, when water came 30 feet into the kitchen area.

Other items to be repaired include a culvert under the center and extensive improvements in parking lot drainage system.

The culvert, one of the main pipes, is also expected to be completed in the coming months, but parking lot repairs have been delayed until after Christmas to avoid disruption of holiday shopping.

Chapel Hill Town Council member Bill Strom said the town has already taken other measures to improve the shopping center's situation. "We have gone downstream of Eastgate and improved the Elliot Road culvert and we are using town assets to mitigate the other problems of Eastgate," Strom said.

In addition to the culvert on Elliot Road, the town is also sharing the costs to fix the storm drainage pipe.

"While it's not our primary role to spend money on private property improvements, we should be involved, and it's not beyond our realm to be involved," Strom said.

Connor said she hopes Eastgate's luck will continue until repairs could be completed. "I just pray that mother nature will continue to be kind to Eastgate this year."

The City Editor can be reached at citydesk@unc.edu.

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