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The Daily Tar Heel

Proposed Franklin St. Hotel Popular at Public Hearing

Robert and Richard Capps, both of Greenville, submitted a request to the Chapel Hill Town Council for a special-use permit to begin construction on The Franklin, a 5-story, 66-room hotel with a parking lot and a meeting room.

Council member Pat Evans said the proposed building, to be located at the site of the abandoned Trailways Bus Station, will be brick and reconstituted stone with wooden windows.

Council member Jim Ward said the majority of comments made at the hearing were in favor of the plan and that well-known Chapel Hill business organizations, including the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, endorsed the hotel.

"I was surprised and pleased that the hotel had support from a variety of constituencies that regularly disagree," Ward said. "It had overwhelming support of the Downtown Commission and the Chamber of Commerce."

Ward said residents of the Northside District and the historic district south of West Franklin Street also spoke in favor of the hotel.

Evans said the residents said the hotel could increase the downtown area's safety and services. "They basically thought that with more action with people and housing, the more likely we could get a grocery store downtown," she said.

Aaron Nelson, president of the Chamber of Commerce, said the hotel gained advocates because it will not have a restaurant. He predicts that hotel guests will use area restaurants and businesses.

"It will be a big boom for West Franklin Street and bridging the gap between East and West Franklin," Nelson said.

Ward said that even though he will not make his decision on the proposal until Nov. 12 at the council's regular business meeting, the land-use proposal seemed appropriate for the area.

"It does seem to be a type of land use that will give downtown a life around the clock, not just 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or at football games," he said.

But Ward also said the scale of the five-story building was a concern for some. "People are concerned that it is too big."

But he said that because of the architecture of the building and the topography of the building site, pedestrians will only "feel" the first two stories of the building.

Evans said the hotel could be competition for hotels like the Carolina Inn and The Siena Hotel, but she said she does not consider it to be a big concern.

If the council approves the special-use permit on Nov. 12, Ron Horvath, the civil engineer for the hotel, said it could take up to five months to complete the permitting process. "Construction could take a year to 18-months, at a minimum."

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