About a third of the parking spaces in the Eastgate Crossing shopping center in Chapel Hill are currently unusable due to construction. But, work should be done within the next month.
The construction has put a strain on customers and businesses in a shopping center that is usually pressed for space, especially on weekends, said Elie Abou-Rjeileh, the co-owner of Olmaz Jewelers, a store in Eastgate Crossing.
“We already have issues with parking, especially after the pandemic, now that people are back out shopping, and with the construction and the construction crew taking almost a third of the parking over, so that kind of makes it harder to find parking spots,” he said. "Sometimes even our employees can’t find a parking spot when they go to lunch and come back.”
However, Abou-Rjeileh said the construction is necessary.
The purpose of the project is to mitigate flooding problems in the area, as the shopping center was built over a section of Booker Creek. The project began on March 1 and is expected to take between 45 to 60 days to complete.
Chad Pickens, the manager of Great Outdoors Provision Co. in Eastgate Crossing, has been working at the store since 2011 and experienced major flooding events in his time there.
The last major flooding event was in 2018 when nearly 10 inches of water leaked into stores, causing damage to inventory and store interiors, he said. At one point, inventory even began to float out of the back of stores.
“A new stormwater feature like this can help control that level of flooding, and you never can stop Mother Nature, but this would be a step in the right direction,” Pickens said.
At the time, stores used sandbags to block flooding. Now, many stores, including Olmaz Jewelers, use metal floodgates that can be installed at front and back entrances before storms.