A downtown development project in its infant stages could take a step forward at a meeting today.
The developer of Shortbread Lofts will hold a public information meeting to hear the opinions of the Chapel Hill Town Council and area residents on the feasibility and impact of the development.
Shortbread Lofts, a proposed retail and residential development on the 300 block of West Rosemary Street, would bring 76 rental apartments as well as retail space to the area. The project would join a list of new mixed-use ventures in the area that includes Greenbridge, 140 West Franklin and Rosemary Village.
“The council has been eager to help the downtown by getting people to live there,” said Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt. “We think that ultimately that has the benefit of making the place safer.
“It makes that lively downtown everybody is hungry for.”
If the project is approved, an office building and the Rosemary Apartments on Rosemary Street, which are owned by the developer Larry Short, would be demolished.
Short said he has owned the land for nearly 30 years, and he hopes to see the project approved in October or November and to break ground in early 2012.
The six-story building would include two- and four-bedroom apartments ranging from 800 square feet to 1,700 square feet, according to the building plan.
“We’re going to rent to anybody,” Short said. “I hope to get students as well as working people.”
The development would also increase the available parking from 151 parking spots to 171 spaces, including an underground garage and designated parking for retail across the street.
However, the project could face significant opposition.
The development would be located next to the historically black and low-income Northside neighborhood, which recently voiced opposition to further development in the area at a March 28 town council meeting.
The Greenbridge development in Northside also faces the threat of foreclosure.
But Short said his development would improve the community.
“We would take pressure off the adjacent neighborhoods, Northside especially, so the town can turn to rentals,” Short said.
The project would have to be reviewed by staff before approval, but Town Planner Mike Klein said he did not see any major obstacles like those Greenbridge faces.
“I don’t think there is as much of a problem with rentals as there is with condo sales,” Klein said.
Andrew Sowler, a resident of Rosemary Apartments, said he has heard his building would be torn down for several years but nothing has happened. So far, he has not received any official notice, he said.
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