The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Saturday, April 13, 2024 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

University Place Mall sees demolition, progress toward major transformation plans

20230306_Katsanis_university-place-groundbreaking-08.jpg
The former Southern Season building in Chapel Hill, N.C. gets demolished at the groundbreaking ceremony for University Place on Monday, Mar. 6, 2023. Construction will soon begin in its place for new living and recreational areas.

Demolition began on part of University Place, Chapel Hill’s first enclosed mall, as a part of a groundbreaking ceremony held on Monday.

These efforts are a part of the over $160 million modernization plan that Ram Realty Advisors announced in August 2022 for University Place, a Chapel Hill fixture since 1973. The changes will convert the mall into a mixed-use development.

The construction is estimated to be completed by 2025, according to Jeff Kurtz, the vice president of development for Ram Realty Advisors.

Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger, who attended and spoke at the event, said this project creates more opportunities for community experience.

Chapel Hill mayor Pam Hemminger speaks at the groundbreaking ceremony for University Place on Monday, Mar. 6, 2023, where the former Southern Season building gets demolished. Hemminger spoke highly of the construction that will begin in its place for new living and recreational areas, saying it will bring new activity and life to Chapel Hill.

“Ram is making a huge investment in Chapel Hill, and we are so grateful that they had the vision and the willingness to work with us to figure out a plan that encompassed all these ideals we strive for,” Hemminger said during the ceremony. “That walkable, livable, workable — all the things that you can do to make a community and be in your community.”

Kurtz said clearing Southern Season, a popular specialty retail store that closed its physical location in 2020 to become fully online, will allow for six new buildings for restaurants, retailers and offices to be built. 

Two buildings are designated to be small retail structures. Another pair will be mixed-use buildings, allowing for 30,000 square feet of the ground floor for retail space and 60,000 square feet of office above. The final two will be out-parcel buildings along Fordham Boulevard. Kurtz said this serves to create an outward-facing retail base, adding that a main street will be created to run through it.

These structures contribute to the total 350,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space and 60,000 square feet of office space the development project hopes to create.

Ram Realty Advisors will also produce 150 hotel rooms within the former Southern Season area. This is in addition to the 253 apartments — including some affordable housing — that the developer hopes to have constructed by 2025. 

The group will utilize the space to create a green commons area, where music events, movie nights and other community activities will occur within two small jewel-box retailers, Kurtz said.

“That’ll be the new mainspace for the University Place,” he said. 

Multi-use pathways, bike lanes, stormwater improvements and lighting surrounding the commons will serve to address environmental concerns while fostering community interaction, Hemminger said.

“COVID and climate action have taught us that we want more walkable, bikeable transit and outside experiences for everyone to participate,” she said during the ceremony. “We don’t want people to have to get in their cars to go to all these places — this is answering that need.”

While University Place’s developments diverge from its original enclosed structure, Kurtz said Ram Realty Advisors' plans aim to maintain its 1970s architectural style to ensure it aligns with Chapel Hill’s identity. 

“Trying to tie some of the materiality and the pieces from the existing building, bring them into new construction and make it feel like it's still unique to Chapel Hill but fit into Chapel Hill was a little bit of a challenge,” Kurtz said. 

He added that the design team incorporated natural elements to link each of the new buildings together.

Two construction workers chat before the groundbreaking ceremony for University Place in Chapel Hill, N.C. on Monday, Mar. 6, 2023. At the ceremony, the company began to tear down the former Southern Season building, and construction will soon begin for new living and recreational areas.

Aaron Nelson, the president and CEO of The Chamber for a Greater Chapel Hill-Carrboro, said he was one of the advocates for the redevelopment of University Place along with the Chapel Hill Town Council. Nelson said he highlighted how the new development will help cultivate an office culture where individuals can live, work and play — a culture that will help push the project forward.

“Malls like this across America die when we’re bulldozed over and sometimes sit as empty lots — and this one is being reborn,” Nelson said. “We're going to keep exciting retail tenants. We’re going to bring more housing. We’re going to bring office space. I think it really has the opportunity to make this the new commercial center for our community.” 

Hemminger said she is energized to see the project, which has been four years in the making, move forward.

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.

“It really is fabulous to see movement after you've been through a process like this for something very positive for our community, and people are going to be very excited,” she said.

@GowriAbhinanda

@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com