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Development at University Place Mall raises excitement for businesses

Construction at University Place Mall is pictured on Sunday Feb. 12, 2023.

In August 2022, Ram Realty Advisors announced they would begin a redevelopment campaign at University Place Mall in Chapel Hill. Construction has since begun around the mall’s property.

The plan facilitates the addition of 350,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, 60,000 square feet of office space and 253 apartments. The plan will also add environmental enhancements to the mall area, including EV charging stations and solar panels.

Town perspective

Dwight Bassett, director of economic development and parking services, said the Town acknowledges the need for more housing in Chapel Hill, especially after finishing the Complete Community Initiative in 2021.

“One of the positive additions for University Place redevelopment is the fact that it will be adding housing and create more of a mixed-use there,” he said.

Bassett said the development would diversify the area's use by expanding retail, office, housing and potentially hotel space. 

Chapel Hill has been working to expand vertically due to its commitment to the urban growth boundary. 

“We’re seeing a lot more vertical development than we have in the past, so I think that this helps to create a stronger area for people to walk to,” he said. “We’ve talked about being a multimodal community and having the diversity of uses like this at University Place creates a lot more opportunities for adjacent residential areas to be able to walk to University Place.”

In addressing companies already in the University Place development, Bassett said Ram Realty Advisors has worked with current companies to mitigate the negative impacts of the transition of the center.

Business perspective

University Place Mall currently hosts a variety of businesses, including restaurant and retail facilities. These businesses have remained active throughout construction. 

Justin Sisselman, general manager of Stoney River Steakhouse and Grill, said the construction has been a “headache” thus far, but Stoney River prefers to look at the potential positive impacts of redevelopment at the mall.

“The mall itself has been needing a makeover,” he said. “It's a very old mall and it's pretty much in the center of Chapel Hill.”

He said the development will help bring clientele to the restaurant and improve sales, especially with the planned luxury apartments that will bring more people to nearby restaurants. 

Sisselman said the lunch period at Stoney River is the time of day where business is struggling the most. He said the business from the new office spaces on the other end of the mall will help improve lunch sales.

Sisselman said experience with the real estate company has been overall very positive. 

“The only thing I can say negative about them is the timeliness, but everything we’ve discussed with them has been addressed,” he said.

University Place also houses a local AT&T branch. Jason Jones, assistant store manager at the Chapel Hill AT&T, said sales have been different in February.

“It is one of the slower months, but for as long as I’ve been here, this is the slowest February I’ve experienced, so I will in part attribute that to the construction and people assuming that the mall is nonfunctional,” he said. 

However, Jones said he was very excited for the completion of the development due to the new apartment complexes being added. He said the apartments would be connected to the AT&T fiber network.

Ram Realty Advisors has not announced a date that the construction will be finished, but the company plans to release more details in early March.

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