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Thursday March 23rd

123 West Franklin holds public meeting

	<p>The massing diagram of the plans for 123 West Franklin includes apartments, an underground parking garage and extra office space.</p>
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The massing diagram of the plans for 123 West Franklin includes apartments, an underground parking garage and extra office space.

University Square on Franklin Street could be replaced with a development that would include apartments, an underground parking garage and extra office space.

Developers for the project, called 123 West Franklin, shared plans for the first phase of development and received feedback at a public information meeting Thursday, a required step in the town’s application process.

The project would include two buildings with about 150 apartments for rent, 40,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space and 275,000 square feet of office space.

Currently, University Square has 40,000 square feet of retail and 81,300 square feet of office space.

The new plan would also have a 38,000 square feet of grassy area and about a thousand parking spaces. Storefronts would shift forward to be in line with nearby stores.

“It is a suburban design in a downtown area,” said John McColl, executive vice president of Cousins Properties, a firm assisting in developing the project.

If everything goes as planned, the project could break ground in 2013 and would take about two years to complete, McColl said.

But before building can start, developers and the town must hold multiple meetings, a public hearing and receive town council approval for the project.

McColl said the project could cost between $100 to $120 million, but developers haven’t determined how to finance it.

Talk of redeveloping the square began when the UNC-Chapel Hill Foundation bought the property, which includes Granville Towers, for $46 million in June 2008.

Developers determined they would not tear down Granville Towers for at least a decade, until after the office and retail renovations are completed.

Chapel Hill Town Council members are not allowed to comment on the project at this stage, Ed Harrison, a town council member, said in an email.

But business owners who would be affected by the development have voiced mixed reactions.

Mark Crampton, the owner of Cartridge World, said he chose to lease at University Square knowing it would eventually be redeveloped.

“I think it could be a good thing,” Crampton said.

But Edward Gandy, manager for Time-Out restaurant at University Square, said he didn’t think the changes would alter the amount of business they get now.

“Depending on how we’re doing, I would renew my lease at the new place.”

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