Local officials hope a new downtown Chapel Hill development might fill a void in affordable rental housing.
Residents discussed plans for Shortbread Lofts, a proposed mixed-use development, at the monthly Friends of the Downtown meeting Thursday.
The project, slated to be located on the 300 block of West Rosemary Street, would be composed of 76 residential units and would target upperclassmen and graduate students, said developer Larry Short.
He said the project, first proposed in 2005, was originally planned to be a larger condominium complex.
But due to the economy and current housing market, Short said he decided to downsize and switch to rental apartments. The goal was to attract people who can’t afford purchasing units and would prefer to rent, he said.
Town council member Matt Czajkowski said rental units make more sense downtown.
“There is a shortage of rental space downtown,” he said. “It tends to be pretty expensive.”
But part of the proposal — the closure of the Dawson Place right-of-way, which bisects the development’s intended site — has caused controversy recently.
At a Sept. 19 public hearing, the Chapel Hill Town Council discussed nearby businesses’ concerns that the closure could impact parking and access and hurt their business.
The project can’t begin construction until the right-of-way is closed. Developers say they would create a new, U-shaped access to replace the right-of-way.
“It strikes us that this would be a win for everybody,” said David Rooks, who represents the development. He said there might be a temporary alleyway while the new route is constructed.
The council asked town staff to gather more information about how the current alley is used.
Czajkowski said the concerns could be valid, but the project will ultimately bring more people downtown and help business.
Short said Shortbread Lofts would also offer new housing and ease pressure on Northside neighborhood. He said it would also increase housing competition.
“Northside landlords will see there’s new housing that could attract their market,” he said. “So they will have to clean up and fix management and compliance with community rules.”
Along with the apartments, the project would have 6,000 square feet of ground floor retail space and 171 parking spaces.
The plan still has to go through the town approval process, but Short said the apartments would ideally be open by fall of 2013.
Chapel Hill Town Council will revisit the plan Oct. 10.
Staff writer Pete Mills contributed to reporting.
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