The Chapel Hill Town Council discussed developments on East Rosemary Street and grants for Well Dot Inc. at its meeting on March 4.
East Rosemary Street
The Town Council unanimously passed the motion authorizing a memorandum of understanding with Grubb Properties for the East Rosemary Downtown Redevelopment Project. The purpose of the redevelopment site is to create a new 1100 space parking deck and a 200,000 square-foot building.
“The idea of the MOU is to provide a framework of both what’s agreed and what’s still to be negotiated,” Bob Jessup, a lawyer working on the agreement, said. “This is something to show Grubb that we are continuing to move forward so that they will continue to move forward, and to show what we think we’ve agreed on and what are the points that we still have to negotiate.”
Joe Dye, executive vice president of Grubb Properties, described the renovations happening now as make-ready work. He said Grubb is working to improve the property so that it is up to date and ready once they work out an agreement with the town.
Dye said the renovations are meant to improve issues with the building that have arisen because of its age.
“It would be a complete transformation of that property, what we would call a Class A level building,” Dye said.
He said the building would serve as an innovation hub and office space for university and private sector uses.
Dye said this plan will happen in two phases. First, Grubb Properties will build the parking deck for the Town of Chapel Hill, who will then assume ownership and run the deck.
Grubb Properties then plans to swap the land where the new deck will be for the land where Wallace Deck stands.
Dye said under the plan, the Wallace deck will be demolished in order for Grubb Properties to build a new, 200,000-square-foot office building.
The office space would provide jobs for 800 employees, Laura Selmer, economic development specialist for the Town of Chapel Hill, said in an email.
Dye said that this new deck would consolidate parking into one lot, and provide parking for the office spaces and the potential UNC Admissions Center that may be built near Porthole Alley, across the street from The Central.
Council member Hongbin Gu brought up concerns about the entitlement process for the development. More specifically she wanted it to be made clear who would be entitled to the project during construction. Town Manager Maurice Jones responded by saying details regarding entitlements would be laid out in the Economic Development Agreement, which is expected in June 2020.
Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger acknowledged that the planned deck would be a part of the parking enterprise fund, meaning it does not affect the Town’s overall deck capacity for other projects.
“We’ve taken strides to make sure that our parking fund strategy is more solid than it’s ever been and to implement better practices to have better yields, and that can start now,” she said. “We can start making those changes so that we can make sure that this parking deck fund pays for itself while stimulating economic development in our downtown, providing office and green space.”
Well Dot, Inc.
At the meeting, the Council also passed a motion to move forward in an incentive agreement with Well Dot, Inc. (Well).
Economic Development Officer Dwight Bassett presented at the meeting, recommending that the Council open a public hearing and authorize the town manager to sign an agreement providing incentives to Well.
Well is a health care technology company that utilizes data to better engage with members and deals with all platforms of health care by personalizing it for the user. Many members of its team are UNC alum, including president and co-founder of the company Dave Werry.
It was announced last November that Well would base its new operations center in Chapel Hill, creating 400 new jobs after considering a base in Durham, NC or Boston, MA.
The incentive the Council was asked to consider is a $900,000 total package — $450,000 as a cash grant after two years of employment reporting and $450,000 as a parking credit. These payments would be split into $56,000 increments annually over the 8-year work period.
As part of the agreement, Well is responsible for an annual report and cannot request a cash grant until the end of the second year of the grant period.
In addition to the agreement with the Town, the county and state have also provided incentives. Orange County has an arrangement that Well will lease and rehabilitate a county building, and the state of North Carolina provided an incentive of $3.8 million as a Job Development Investment Grant. These grants pay new and expanding companies to help offset the cost of opening or expanding a facility in state.
Council member Michael Parker said he was excited about the deal.
“I think putting in $900,000 to get $3.8 million is a deal I’ll take pretty much any day," he said.
Other council members were also enthusiastic.
“I’m excited as well, excited for the prospect of having new jobs. I’m also excited for the benefits for the town and the property tax revenue that will be generated,” council member Allen Buansi said. “It will enable us to address other community priorities that we have.”
The motion to approve the incentive passed unanimously.
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