The Daily Tar Heel

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Tuesday January 18th

UNC isn't tearing down Cosmic Cantina or Carolina Coffee Shop, at least not yet

A News & Observer story reported how UNC could recreate East Franklin Street, bringing it into the fabric of campus. It's years down the road.

Diagram of UNC in the Master Plan draft, ratified by the Board Of Trustees in May. Courtesy of the BOT
Buy Photos Diagram of UNC in the Master Plan draft, ratified by the Board Of Trustees in May. Courtesy of the BOT

Renovation, expansion and demolition are in UNC’s future, but its Master Plan — a 15-year developmental outline — is still on the horizon.

On Tuesday the News & Observer detailed a University goal: reinventing a chunk of its East Franklin Street property in the area between Cosmic Cantina and the Methodist Church, turning a string of established businesses into a revamped visitor's center and Carolina Square-style developments.

The University ratified the Master Plan in May, and East Franklin Street is only one feature in a design that features the renewal of UNC's entire campus. 

"The project is only in the very early exploratory stages," said associate vice chancellor for University Real Estate Operations, Gordon Merklein in a statement. The portion of the plan that recommends redeveloping UNC's East Franklin properties such as Franklin Centre, a complex that includes Cosmic Cantina, Salon 135 and Johnny T-shirt, could span over the next seven years.

Carolina Coffee Shop co-owner and UNC grad Jeff Hortman said as far as he knew, nothing was set in stone, but UNC had always made it clear the property was a candidate for renovation.

“Nothing’s going to happen tomorrow,” Hortman said. “I think the University has been going about this responsibly.”

The redevelopment of UNC’s East Franklin properties are just one piece of the new Master Plan, which calls for a larger university footprint along Franklin Street, giving visitors a dramatic, easier access point to campus. Undergraduate Admissions and the UNC Visitor’s Center could be moved to the area surrounding Porthole Alley, according to the Draft Master Plan. The final version is expected to be published in August.

UNC has been buying up various properties along Chapel Hill’s Franklin Street corridor in recent years as it had struggled with a shortage of office space on campus and a high demand for campus housing. The largest of its Franklin Street holdings is Carolina Square, located on the 100 block of West Franklin Street. While the university maintains ownership of the mixed-use development, it hired a private developer and property management company to build out and run the property.

Bevello manager Ashely Moore said they haven't heard much of anything from UNC, and found it concerning that information was coming mostly from the media. 

Blue Spoon Microcreamery owners Cindy and Dave Somasunderam recently took control of the local ice cream shop and said they knew little about the plan’s specifics.

Salon 135 management declined to comment.

The University estimates redeveloping Franklin St. will bring 50,000 annual visitors to that part of Franklin Street.

"We are also engaging closely with the Town of Chapel Hill and our building tenants, as we see any future redevelopment in this area as a collaborate process,” Merklein said in the statement.

University officials stress the Master Plan is just a guide for future growth and development —nothing is set in stone. Timelines extend from 7-15 years for mid term projects, and beyond that for long term ones. 

The Daily Tar Heel will be reporting on the Master Plan and its implementation throughout the summer and academic year.

Some of the elements of the plan can be found here.


Develop graduate student housing 

Redevelop Stadium Drive residence halls 

Potentially repurpose Upper Quad residence halls, which may not be needed for housing over the long-term

Demolish Craige Hall


Redesign Stadium Drive

Create a multi-purposed student hub on South Campus, possibly replacing Odum Village apartments

Create a campus gateway in the Porthole Alley area

Pedestrian bridges over South Road 

Comprehensive bicycle facilities 

Classrooms and Facilities:

Holistic renovations of Gardner, Dey and Bingham

Selective renovations of Greenlaw, Hamilton, Hanes Art Center and Phillips 

Expansion of the Kenan-Flagler Business School

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