Recent developments on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard may come into question in coming months, with two new members of the town council and Mayor-Elect Pam Hemminger both having ties with the Chapel Hill Alliance for a Livable Town, a political organization that raised concerns about development in town leading up to the elections.
“No, we were not in favor of Charterwood and have serious questions about Weaver Dairy Road,” said Tom Henkel, official spokesperson of CHALT and CEO of Henkel Solar, Inc. “I think the folks that voted for Pam Hemminger, Nancy Oates and Jessica Anderson don’t approve either.”
Some of the projects on MLK include: LUX at Central Park, Weaver Street Crossing, the Charterwood development and the recently opened Goddard School.
“It was called Hillsborough Road before being renamed in 2005,” said Susan Newrock, representative of the Chapel Hill Historical Society. “Within the last 30 years or so it was mainly undeveloped land.”
Newrock described the street as one with sparse buildings since its beginning in 1916, when it only had seven lots for sale. Most of the street’s buildings, until recently, were mills, farms or factories. But she said she knew of an old steak place where customers could watch the kitchen.
“This was all back in the 60s and 70s when it was just a two-way road,” Newrock said.
Now, several projects are coming to occupy the previously unused land on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, and many of them seem to have a goal of making the area livable for students and families alike.
Lee Perry, head of East West Partners Management Co. Inc., has been in charge of Weaver Street Crossing since September, when the town council awarded them their grading permit that would allow construction to begin.
Perry said he and his company approached Walgreens about the lot for a chance to develop on their behalf. He remembered that Walgreens had owned the land for seven years, and figured it was time to take advantage.
“It’s a Walgreens and UNC Health Care-leased building,” Perry said, describing the development being built on the corner of Weaver Dairy Road and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
Perry said he enjoys the council’s attempts to develop Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and hopes to continue working there if the chance arises.
“It’s a good corridor,” he said.
Gene Poveromo, development manager for Chapel Hill, described the numerous projects set up to appear on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
He said Weaver Street Crossing, the Charterwood mixed-use development, the Children’s Campus Daycare and the Grove Park apartment complex developers were all given permission to build or expand their properties.
“Plans are approved by the council,” Poveromo said. “I just implement what comes in”.
Poveromo also said the recent construction of both the LUX apartment complex and the Goddard pre-school are completed.
“The added construction brings more business and residency closer to downtown Chapel Hill, something we approve,” said Meg McGurk, executive director of the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership.
Henkel said he views much of the development to be an eyesore upon the beautiful environment and hopes to find the area undergoing a serious change of pace within the next few years.
“(The new council members) oppose LUX and developments coming down the roads,” Henkel said.
Henkel said the rest of the town’s rampant construction will also find itself under serious review, and said Hemminger seeks to review projects like Ephesus-Fordham and make serious changes
“CHALT will stay engaged and try to make an impact on town affairs,” Henkel said.