Major construction projects in downtown Chapel Hill are still underway as school starts. Traffic delays will ease when a Rosemary Street project ends in a few months, but Carolina Square and the AC Hotel won't be ready until summer 2017.
Carolina Square is a $120 million mixed-used development project that includes three buildings, a public square and more than 200,000 square feet of office, retail and residential space.
“We have made great progress this summer,” said Jeff Furman, vice president of development at Northwood Ravin, the construction company working on the project. “We are just about to pour the completion of the office building.”
The two other buildings, which will house the residential units, are in the process of being framed, he said.
Chapel Hill Town Council member Michael Parker said the project will enhance Chapel Hill’s atmosphere with more retail options and increased public space.
“I think having the stores, particularly Target, will provide some really useful options for folks who would like to do more shopping downtown,” he said. “There will be about an acre of open space in Carolina Square interior, so we’ll have sort of that town square we’ve been looking for.”
One of the more significant retail options coming to Carolina Square is Target, which will contain downtown's only true grocery store.
Council member Nancy Oates said a grocery store in the heart of downtown will be very beneficial for the town.
“I have pushed for a long time for a downtown grocery store as we’ve been adding more apartments and residential units downtown,” she said. “It’s not going to be a full service grocery, but it certainly will help.”
With a tax value estimated to be $106 million, the new development is expected to bring in more than $1.78 million in gross tax revenue. Carolina Square will be open for business as soon as summer 2017, Oates said.
Rosemary Street Improvement Project
The Rosemary Street Improvement Project will renovate Rosemary Street between Henderson Street and Merritt Mill Road. The project includes widening sidewalks, installing new light fixtures with LED lights and repaving the street. Improvements also include more trees, bike racks and trash and recycling containers.
Oates said the project moves closer to the town council’s goal of making the town more walkable.
“The sidewalks on Rosemary will help because council members seem to value a walkable community,” she said. “Anything that makes it a more walkable community, that’s a benefit.”
Despite normal traffic patterns on Rosemary Street being disrupted by the construction, Parker said he feels the town has done a good job in communicating these changes to residents.
“I think that we’ve done a pretty good job of indicating ... what’s going on and what people can expect,” he said. “We try to get most of the work, clearly not all of it, done when students are away, when there’s less traffic but folks will have to put up with it for just a couple more months.”
Some residents have found the construction to be confusing and hard to navigate.
“I would definitely say the construction been a hassle for me,” said Kristopher Brown, a UNC senior who has been in Chapel Hill for the summer. “(It) definitely made trying to find a parking space on Rosemary more stressful.”
The project is funded with $1.6 million in voter-approved bonds.
The AC Hotel will be the third hotel in downtown Chapel Hill, joining the Franklin Hotel and the Carolina Inn.
The hotel, which is being built by OTO Development, will have 123 rooms and 112 below-grade parking spaces making it the second-largest hotel in downtown.
An influx of guests and visitors could prove to be beneficial for Chapel Hill businesses, said Darwin Carter, general manager at Old Chicago.
“The hotel being right in our backyard will definitely benefit our business and our brand — not just here locally,” Carter said. “People coming here for games and conferences at UNC will get the word out.”
The hotel is expected to bring $192,000 in general tax revenue for the town. Construction is expected to be completed by June 2017.
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