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Saturday August 20th

Shortbread Lofts break ground on construction

Firefighters practice breaking roofs to create ventilation to draw smoke out a potential building on fire.
Buy Photos Firefighters practice breaking roofs to create ventilation to draw smoke out a potential building on fire.

Students are one step closer to seeing more downtown housing options after the seven-story Shortbread Lofts development broke ground last week.

The development, a primarily student-oriented housing complex, with 3,500 square feet of retail space on the ground floor, is located at 333 W. Rosemary St.

Site of Shortbread Lofts development

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Larry Short, the project’s developer, said he obtained the proper permits and began construction Thursday for the complex, which will bring 85 apartments and 121 parking spaces to downtown Chapel Hill.

Short said he’s already seen interest from many students for the 2014 rental market — when Shortbread Lofts is scheduled to open.

“It’ll be very upscale, boutique student housing development,” he said.

Part of the solution

Short said he believes the lack of new student housing in the area is part of a growing problem in the Northside neighborhood.

Northside, a historically black and low-income neighborhood in Chapel Hill, has seen an influx of student renters in the past decade.

And with rising rent prices, some longtime residents are being forced out of their homes.

Short said he hopes his development will be the start of a solution to gentrification in Northside.

“One project won’t do it. What we need is several projects downtown,” he said.

Bobby Funk, assistant director of the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership, said there is a real need for new rental housing in the downtown area, especially for students.

“I think it gives students a new opportunity to live in a nice environment and living in the center of town means living in the center of all the action,” Funk said.

Town Councilman Lee Storrow said he voted to approve Shortbread Lofts in February because of the development’s potential.

“I think it’s going to bring some positive energy to Rosemary Street,” he said.

But Storrow said Shortbread Lofts won’t entirely solve the challenges of the increase of students living in Northside.

“It’s going to be one piece of the puzzle to help us fix the problem,” he said.

Working underground

The development’s construction will close lane and sidewalks on Rosemary Street Monday through Friday indefinitely.

Storrow said developers hoped to keep the road closures to a minimum during construction.

“Whenever we have developments in town, it sometimes means we have to make adjustments to our vehicular traffic.”

Before official construction begins, Short said developers are upgrading the town’s storm sewer infrastructure.

“We’ll be working underground for 2 or 3 months before we start rising up in the Carolina blue sky,” he said.

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