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Underutilized portion of HOPE Gardens property could become dance studio

I'm sorry I'm in a hurry….but the girl in some of the photos is Emily Auerbach, who is the Senior Advisor for Hope Gardens
I'm sorry I'm in a hurry….but the girl in some of the photos is Emily Auerbach, who is the Senior Advisor for Hope Gardens

Triangle Country Dancers, a nonprofit organization that promotes community dancing in the region, has expressed interest in the property that houses HOPE Gardens — land owned by the town of Chapel Hill.

John Lashlee, member of the Triangle Country Dancers and vice president of the committee working on the proposal, said the group would use only a limited portion of the 14-acre property.

The company is requesting three acres of the property that are not currently in use because of their proximity to a railroad. The group hopes to renovate the former Sport Art Gymnastics building, which sits on the 14 acres on Homestead Road, into a ballroom for the community.

Adding Triangle Country Dancers to the property would have no effect on HOPE Gardens, Lashlee said.

“This would not cause any downsizing of HOPE Gardens,” Lashlee said.

In 2014, the town worked with local real estate agents to identify properties owned by the town that could potentially be disposed of or repurposed.

HOPE Gardens’ Homestead Road property was one of the six properties chosen for review.

The student-run HOPE Gardens — established in 2009 to provide produce to community members, especially those who are low-income or homeless — grew concerned in fall 2014 about its property being sold by the town.

HOPE Garden Co-Chair John Powers declined to comment for this article.

HOPE Gardens petitioned the Chapel Hill Town Council at its Sept. 8 meeting to take their land off the list of properties being considered for sale or other uses.

Triangle Country Dancers’ interest in the property is mostly due to the overcrowding they experience at their current venue, the Carrboro Century Center.

Lashlee said 18 percent of the group’s dances are overcrowded at the current space.

He said attendees regularly have to be turned away from events due to overcapacity.

The proposed venue would have a capacity of around 325 people, compared to the Carrboro Century Center’s limit of 225 occupants.

The negative aspects of the location that were addressed in the proposal include the costs associated with rehabilitating the building, putting in a sewer line and being in an noncommercial area.

This proposal was brought to the Town Council on Jan. 12. The proposal has not proceeded since because there were multiple proposals for town staff review that the council received that day.

Triangle Country Dancers hopes to obtain a long-term lease from the town and has not yet made an offer to purchase the land. The group’s proposal to the town said it would spend $100,000.

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The building would also be used for school and camp programs involving the arts as well as other art, music and dance events.

“We need a regional space for dancing,” Lashlee said. “We are a volunteer organization that loves to give back to the community.”