“That was an awesome lot. It was a perfect location,” said Brenda Jones, Chapel Hill’s parking superintendent, who hopes losing the lot won’t have a significant effect on the accessibility of downtown.
Jay Patel, owner of The Franklin Hotel, purchased the lot in 2013 with the intention to eventually use it as the site of upscale apartment building The Graduate. This type of project requires a special-use permit from the town of Chapel Hill before construction can begin.
Patel applied for the permit, and while awaiting its approval, leased the lot to the town of Chapel Hill in May 2013. The town installed a meter and offered hourly metered parking until August. Jones said the lot fulfilled a need for Chapel Hill.
When Patel’s permit was approved in October 2014, the design and planning process began for The Graduate. A goal was set to begin construction in January 2016. This meant another yearlong lease with Chapel Hill would no longer be possible.
“We needed to do some preliminary site work this fall that would have made it difficult for the town to operate the lot,” Patel said. “We needed an arrangement that would give us the ability to give a last-minute notice to the town to cancel so we could begin our work.”
Patel offered a shorter lease that would end before construction of The Graduate is scheduled to begin, but the town decided not to renew.
“This was a short-term leased lot,” said Dwight Bassett, a Chapel Hill economic development officer. “Our lease was near the end of its term, and we agreed to let it revert back to the property owners as they prepare for construction.”
For the last couple of months, the lot was open to the public at no charge.