Chapel Hill Town Council member Donna Bell said the redevelopment project has been on the town’s list of larger investment projects for at least 10 years.
“We don’t often find the funds to do these projects,” Bell said. “It’s very difficult.”
Interim fire Chief Matthew Sullivan said the facilities of the Hamilton Road Fire Station have been outdated for a long time. Sullivan said the station hasn’t been in the best shape since it was built in the 1950s, when there were very few in the fire service, and the station is too small to accommodate their current work force.
“The systems are antiquated,” Sullivan said. “It’s like if you had a 50-year-old house — there’s lots of things you want to change. A new fire station will allow us to maximize all our resources.”
When the cramped quarters are expanded at the Hamilton Road station, it will allow the Chapel Hill Fire Department to position more resources at a very ideal location near the university.
“It improves our existing facilities and strategically positions us in a very important location for the future as far as growth and development,” Sullivan said.
Bell said one of the benefits of the redeveloped station is that it will allow the town to provide better protection to its residents. Bell said another benefit is the cost of the redevelopment, which will be significantly less since the town has partnered with a private developer.
“The unique part about this redevelopment is public-private partnership,” Sullivan said. “The town is partnering with a developer who has interest in commercial office space in the place.”
Sullivan said currently, the property the station is on does not sit on the list of taxable properties in Chapel Hill. Since the town is trading the property with the private developer for investment in the building, the property will become taxable.
“The town will get $40,000 a year in additional tax revenue,” Sullivan said.
Chapel Hill resident Morgan Alderman said she’s not sure it’s practical to redevelop the Hamilton Road area with commercial offices since business there doesn’t seem to be striving.
“It could bring in some more local businesses and bring in some more tax revenues, and businesses might rent it because it would probably be cheaper than Franklin Street,” Alderman said. “It still seems like it’s not the smartest business deal.”
The commercial office space would account for 53,000 square feet of the area. The fire station would occupy 10,000 square feet.
“There may also be an emergency medical service unit for Orange County,” Sullivan said. “We’re positioning all resources in a single location.”
Bell said that there should be no need for the redevelopment project to lag in time and that it will be completed in the short term.