Construction may seem to be coming to a close on Rosemary Street, but a whole lot more is just beginning.
On Monday afternoon, Chapel Hill town employees hosted a meeting with Northside neighborhood residents and townspeople at the Hargraves Community Center.
The meeting, which was open to the public, aimed to open up a dialogue between Northside residents and Chapel Hill officials about the future of West Rosemary Street. Going forward, the town will hold periodic meetings to update residents and get input.
Stanford Harvey, a principal architect at Lord, Aeck & Sargent, facilitated the presentation and question and answer session. Both parts of the meeting focused largely on affordable housing and the heights of buildings.
In the presentation, Harvey said Chapel Hill and Carrboro add about 317 households per year, so town officials want to make sure that everyone who wants to own a house can.
Harvey said that while there is some concern that students use a majority of available housing in the town, Chapel Hill also prioritizes the needs of its residents to find affordable housing.
“Our fundamental premise is to preserve single family neighborhoods back on the side streets,” Harvey said.
Harvey also said that building appearances, including the heights of buildings, are an important factor of future development on Rosemary Street. He said the town of Chapel Hill does not want fancy balconies and big buildings, but rather blank walls and more simple structures.
“The more you can break a building mass down, the more humane it feels,” he said.
Residents in attendance had mixed reactions. While some said that the sky was the limit when it came to building heights, others preferred the smaller buildings outlined in the presentation.
“The problem is no one is proposing to build anything like this. They are proposing things much higher,” said resident David Schwartz. “If this is in fact something the community would embrace, how do we entice developers to start proposing stuff like this?”
Several townspeople also raised concerns that the current plans do not take advantage of all Rosemary Street has to offer. Right now, there are plans to revamp West Rosemary Street between Church and Mitchell streets.
“Other areas of Rosemary Street ought to be considered,” said Sid Joyner, resident and owner of Rosemary Village. “Anything that you do, it’s like putting lipstick on a pig.”
Parking options and sidewalk safety were also discussed in the meeting.
Rae Buckley, the assistant to the manager for organizational and strategic initiatives for the town of Chapel Hill, said the decision to hold the meeting around lunchtime was made so Northside residents did not have to miss work to attend. Their input is important since West Rosemary Street development directly affects where they live.
“Rosemary Street runs along both our commercial district and inside our neighborhood conservation district,” she said. “Today is a focus on the market perspective.”
Harvey agreed that for the town to go forward with development and future plans for West Rosemary Street, residents and town employees must be on the same page.
“Rosemary is a very unique place in Chapel Hill because it’s a place where a very strong, historic neighborhood, Northside, meets a very dynamic part of town, Franklin Street,” he said.
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