Residents of Chapel Hill can expect to see expanded parking downtown within the next two years.
At a Sept. 30 meeting, Chapel Hill Town Council members approved an economic development agreement between the Town and Grubb Management LLC to build a new parking deck on the corner of 125 E. Rosemary St.
This deck will replace the current CVS deck, which has 270 parking spaces. The East Rosemary Deck is set to include 1,100 parking spots, office spaces and a public green space. Grubb Management, the current owner of the CVS parking deck, will enter into a land swap with the Town.
As part of this land swap, the Town will be giving Grubb Management the Wallace Deck, another parking deck downtown, and up to $1.75 million. Chapel Hill Economic Development Officer Dwight Bassett said while some community members are skeptical of this plan, now is the perfect time to be investing in infrastructure.
“The driving force behind this deal was the combination of new job opportunities to support businesses and the much-needed reinvestment in the east side of downtown,” Bassett said.
The parking deck is expected to be revenue positive by 2026. In its life span, it is estimated to make nearly $25 million for the Town.
But Bassett said the deck is not meant to be a profit center, and will bring other benefits to the Town. These benefits include keeping the parking fund healthy, improving downtown and expanding access to bike and bus stops.
However, members of the Chapel Hill and Carrboro organization NEXT said they see this deck as an expense that will reduce the Town’s capability to borrow money for other projects, such as affordable housing and public transportation.
Stephen Whitlow, a member of NEXT, said he finds this economic development project to be in conflict with the Town's developing climate action plan.
“I find it to be a weird position of the Town to tell residents to drive less for climate change, while also putting themselves in a financial spot where they need people to be driving and parking downtown,” Whitlow said.
Joe Dye, the executive vice president of Grubb Properties, said he and his team recognize the growing concern of a decline in activity in downtown Chapel Hill and see this deal as a win-win situation. Through the new East Rosemary deck, he said the Town will be able to create public infrastructure while also promoting the businesses of downtown Chapel Hill.
“We think this redevelopment effort will be a very positive catalyst for downtown Chapel Hill as it promotes a way to come and spend time downtown with easy access to parking,” he said.
Members of the Chamber for a Greater Chapel Hill-Carrboro have responded to the Town’s decision to approve the economic development agreement with full support.
“Town investment in infrastructure is just plain necessary," Katie Loovis, a member of the chamber, said at the Sept. 30 Town Council meeting. "It’s necessary to attract the private capital required for the office and lab space that we desire.”
With the economic development agreement passed, Dye said the Town will now seek Local Government Commission approval for funding. If approved, construction on the deck will begin in spring 2021.
Dye said the deck would be completed and open to the public a year later, in spring 2022.
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