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Saturday January 28th

Future development at 306 W. Franklin St. to pose problems for Purple Bowl

Purple Bowl is pictured at 306 Franklin Street on Nov. 30, 2022.
Buy Photos Purple Bowl is pictured at 306 Franklin Street on Nov. 30, 2022.

On Nov. 11, Longfellow Real Estate Partners announced its plans to demolish and redevelop 306 W. Franklin St., the location of The Purple Bowl. 

A new corporate office building to house pharmaceutical companies will take the place of the current building. 

Longfellow, a real estate company, presented plans to create a wet lab space at 306 W. Franklin St. that would expand the square footage of the building by expanding it up several floors, making it taller than surrounding buildings. These changes would cause the demolition of local restaurants.

Paula Gilland, CEO of The Purple Bowl, said the restaurant is a family business, locally owned and operated.  

“We created the recipes,” she said. “It’s been a family project.”

Her son, Taylor Gilland, co-owner of The Purple Bowl, said earlier in the year, that The Purple Bowl's current building was acquired by the real estate developer. He said the group announced its plans to demolish the building and replace it with a large corporate office space.

Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger said there are spaces for the restaurants to move to permanently or temporarily during the project.

Taylor Gilland said he spoke to the Town and the real estate company, both of which suggested The Purple Bowl wait for the space to be developed and then rent part of the bottom floor of the retail space.

“The thing that I don’t think the Town understands and I don’t think that the real estate group understands is just the economic impossibility of that for us,” he said.

The development would take several years to complete and involve The Purple Bowl moving out of its space for that period of time or relocating to another location, Taylor Gilland added.

Hemminger said the government has been looking to recruit people to work with the Town, and that Longfellow has a history of developing wet lab spaces in Research Triangle Park and Durham. 

“We are very excited because this would bring us workers and opportunities twelve months of the year to help support our economy, especially in the downtown businesses,” she said.

Hemminger said the Town is working to expand both affordable housing and commercial space to create more jobs for Chapel Hill. 

Taylor Gilland said given that Chapel Hill is such an expensive area, many of the workers at The Purple Bowl have been struggling to find places to live in Chapel Hill. 

“I don’t see how the Chapel Hill government is in favor of a program that leads to more jobs in downtown Chapel Hill without more housing,” he said

UNC athletes frequently eat at The Purple Bowl due to the healthy food options and accessibility. Those include men’s basketball player Puff Johnson, football player Caleb Hood and Anika Yarlagadda, a women’s tennis athlete, who all expressed their love of the restaurant. 

Johnson emphasized the restaurant's health and how it functions as a community gathering place for students and town members. He said the community would lose if it lost Purple Bowl.

“It would lose a very big social part of where people go for gatherings and where people feel comfortable to go to eat and just a place that brings in a lot of customers,” he said. 

Lucia Romano has worked at The Purple Bowl since September 2019. She has Down syndrome and is part of a group called Gigi’s Playhouse, a non-profit organization based in Raleigh that offers educational, therapeutic and career-building programs to those in the Down syndrome community, according to their website.

Her mother, Maria Romano, the new family coordinator for Gigi’s Playhouse, said she feels everyone at The Purple Bowl feels at home. 

Maria Romano said the restaurant also gives disabled individuals a chance to demonstrate their capabilities in a work setting. 

Lucia Romano said she does not want to lose The Purple Bowl because it is a second home for her. She said its amazing for her to work there with her coworkers. 

Paula Gilland emphasized that The Purple Bowl wants to find a resolution that works for everyone and mentioned the potential of The Purple Bowl being allowed to purchase the front of the building. 

“I just don’t want another big monstrosity building on Franklin Street,” she said.

Longfellow Real Estate Partners did not respond to The Daily Tar Heel's requests for comment before publication. 

@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com 


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