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The Daily Tar Heel

After delay, Ackland store fills front

As the University’s Ackland Art Museum begins construction on its new gift shop, it fills a storefront that has been empty at one of the busiest intersections in Chapel Hill for more than seven years.

The store, to be located in the 100 E. Franklin St. building at the corner of Columbia and Franklin streets, will likely open the week of May 2, said Emily Bowles, the Ackland’s communications director.

The retail space has been empty since 2003, said Meg McGurk, assistant director of the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership.

The current project is funded in part by a November 2009 grant of $150,000 from UNC’s Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost, and was originally meant to open in November.

Construction and contractor negotiations forced the Ackland to delay the store’s opening.

“It’s a matter of coming to an agreement with a construction team, seeing the architectural drawings get drawn up,” Bowles said.

“Delays happen when you’re converting a bank space into a museum space.”

The store will sell merchandise and gifts relevant to the Ackland’s programming and will also include extra gallery space, museum director Emily Kass said in an e-mail.

The building, which also houses the Top of the Hill restaurant and bar, video game chain GameStop and a variety of medical and research offices, is owned by Fayetteville’s Riddle Commercial Properties.

The estimated combined property and building value is more than $9.1 million, according to filings with the town of Chapel Hill.

The space where the Ackland will open was last a banking branch of First Union, which merged with Wachovia in 2001.

“Wachovia realized they were right down the street, and they liked that branch more,” said Aaron Nelson, president and CEO of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce.

Wachovia continues to lease the property from Riddle.

The University entered into a five-year sublease from Wachovia in June 2010 that has a fixed end date of May 30, 2015, said Gordon Merklein, UNC’s executive director for real estate development, in an e-mail.

Because the grant for the building was given by an office of the University, the property is leased by the University on behalf of the Ackland.

The University will begin paying rent on the property in mid-April when the renovation is complete and the museum takes occupancy, Merklein said.

The terms of the lease put the annual rent at $123,052, with an increase of three percent per year after the first year.

Merklein stressed that the Ackland’s current retail expansion has no bearing on the discussion of a possible move to University Square, which the University bought in 2008 and intends to redevelop as a mixed-use project to be called 123 West Franklin.

The first phase of the University Square project is not expected to be completed for at least three years, Merklein said.

Assistant Arts Editor Katelyn Trela contributed reporting.Contact the Arts Editor at

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