The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Thursday January 21st

Downtown Rosemary Street's future in flux

Since then, Rosemary Street has served as the home for many Chapel Hill staples like Breadmen’s, Mama Dip’s Kitchen and La Residence, all built in the 1970s.

The Horace Williams House, built in 1854, is the only historic house open to the public in Chapel Hill. Eight other buildings on Rosemary have preservation plaques to recognize their historical significance.

Now, many new developments are underway, and plans are in place to further change the downtown area.

Developments and their impact

“Development can change composition of a street when you bring feeling to it,” Meg McGurk, executive director of the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership, said. “That is where you want businesses — in downtown.”

Since 2000, many new developments have been built on Rosemary Street, including 140 West, Greenbridge Condominiums and Shortbread Lofts.

McGurk said these major developments bring business to downtown Chapel Hill.

“140 West had a positive change,” she said. “It used to be a surface parking lot, which didn’t really help anyone. Now, it has connected East and West Franklin Street.”

Meg Wooley, a community sustainability planner for the town, said downtown Chapel Hill is zoned to have slightly different requirements — less parking, taller buildings and different uses — to create a more lively downtown.

“Downtown is an interesting area because it is a mix of uses,” Wooley said. “Mixed-use zoning provides vibrancy to downtown.”

She said taller developments, like Shortbread Lofts and 140 West, must be zoned differently to have higher structures.

Dwight Bassett, the town’s economic development manager, said developments help increase the tax base but more importantly have created more business opportunities and generated more captive consumers by housing more in the downtown area.

“Two of the biggest changes I’ve seen are Greenbridge and Shortbread Lofts,” he said. “(Developments) help to enliven that western end of Rosemary. Both Greenbridge and Shortbread yield a substantial increase in tax base since being built and developed.”

Bassett said both Greenbridge and Shortbread have a net positive economic impact on the town. They bring in 20 to 30 percent more than their cost of service.

Dr. Bernadette Keefe, an inhabitant of Rosemary for 15 years, said she thinks the Downtown Partnership has done a great job of with bringing community events downtown. Keefe appreciates the improvements that widened the sidewalks.

“The streetscape upgrades along Rosemary and Franklin foster (walking) and in general a higher quality of life,” Keefe said in an email.

New proposed developments

Two new developments have recently been proposed for Rosemary Street — Amity Station and AC Hotel. The AC Hotel would be a four-story hotel at the intersection of Rosemary and Church streets. Amity Station is a proposed 10-story mixed-use development that would replace the current Breadmen’s location.

The developers of the AC Hotel are preparing for a public hearing to allow input on their application for development.

“The AC Hotel has gone through the concept plan, been through the staff review,” Kay Pearlstein, senior planner for Chapel Hilll, said. “The public hearing is on Oct. 19. Then, they come back on Nov. 23. The council will then take action and approve or reject the application.”

Amity Station is in the concept plan stage of development. The concept plan goes to the Community Design Commission and the Town Council before developers complete a final application.

However, Chapel Hill residents are concerned with this development due to the proximity of the Northside Neighborhood

“That development was not in line with the hopes, dreams and vision of Northside,” George Barrett, associate director of organizing and advocacy at the Jackson Center, said. “We did not feel the concept was doing anything to forward or progress the neighborhood.”

Plans for the future

As part of the Chapel Hill 2020 comprehensive plan, adopted in 2012, the downtown area was identified as a primary focus. This led to the Rosemary Imagined plan, then to the Downtown Imagined plan.

McGurk said Rosemary Imagined served to get input from all of Rosemary Street’s stakeholders, but the plan expanded to all of downtown.

“The next step is to refine and actually create a plan for development,” McGurk said.

A consultant has been hired as the town gets input from the public; then, the plan will be brought to the Town Council in the spring.

Keefe said the improvements on Rosemary Street have created a more vibrant atmosphere and safe environment, but she feels there is room for improvement.

“Care should be taken to keep a varied landscape along our two major streets: Rosemary and Franklin,” Keefe said in an email. “Building heights must vary to allow the delight that occurs during walking, to allow sunlight and provide the human scale.”



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