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'A new home': The Purple Bowl to relocate on Franklin Street

The Purple Bowl sits on 306B W Franklin St, Chapel Hill, NC on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023, in Chapel Hill, NC.

The Purple Bowl will relocate to 505 W. Franklin St. following the purchase of its current leased space by Longfellow Real Estate Partners. The current space will be developed into a 320,000 square foot building. 

According to an email sent to the Chapel Hill Town Council on Oct. 23 by Paula and Taylor Gilland, mother and son owners of The Purple Bowl,  they came to an agreement with Longfellow to move out of the business's current space in summer 2024.

Paula and Taylor Gilland said in the email that The Purple Bowl was committed to the move and “will no longer push back against the Longfellow project and instead will focus on creating a new community space further down West Franklin Street.”

The location of 505 W. Franklin St., which formerly housed the Top of the Hill Distillery, was acquired by Northpond Partners in 2021 and will also house THRIVE Coworking

Taylor Gilland said the relocation process started in November 2022 when he heard the building that The Purple Bowl is in would be redeveloped. He said, when he initially heard about the building being redeveloped, the business considered closing down.

He also said the Town has been "pretty terrible to deal with" throughout the process and did not help the restaurant find its new space. Taylor Gilland said in the email that the Town should do more to help Chapel Hill retain its local flavor instead of encouraging development, which can cause hardship to small local businesses.

Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger said the Town was not involved in promoting the Longfellow purchase of 306 W. Franklin St. She said the town council wasn’t aware that the building purchase had even occurred until after it happened.

She also said research has showed the Town needs more life science and wet lab facilities — like those to be developed at 306 W. Franklin St. — to provide the jobs that have previously led graduates away from Chapel Hill. 

Dwight Bassett, the director of economic development and parking for the Town, said this type of development will aim to fill a workforce gap that can support downtown businesses year round.

The Town created the Downtown Small Business Relocation Grant Program and opened applications during July and August to provide support amid this type of redevelopment.

The Purple Bowl applied for the grant, which will distribute $100,000 to selected businesses scored on rubric criteria that include downtown vitality, business health and community benefit. The recipient results will be released to the public as soon as performance agreements are signed. Grant amounts will be disbursed in increments of $20,000.

“Part of why we created the displaced business grant was we wanted businesses to know that they're equally important as job creation,” Bassett said.

Taylor said additional funds, such as a grant, would cover a fraction of The Purple Bowl's moving cost, which he said is typically around $1 million. He said opening in a new location is like starting a business from scratch.

“We're hoping to do it for less than that,” he said.

Hemminger, who has a background in real estate, said it is possible Longfellow offered The Purple Bowl more money to relocate than what the lease agreement would’ve given the business otherwise. Longfellow declined to comment on the specifics of its deal with The Purple Bowl. 

Gilland said the Town did not play any role in helping find the space at 505 W. Franklin St., but emails obtained by The Daily Tar Heel show Hemminger suggested the space at 505 W. Franklin St. to Gilland in March 2023. Gilland said a friend and long-time customer, Shea Rush, introduced The Purple Bowl to Northpond Partners, a Chicago-based real estate investment firm that owns the building at the new location.

Michael Nachtsheim, a senior analyst for Northpond, said the firm wanted to find tenants that would complement each other and be a good addition to the Chapel Hill area.

“It's great that we can give them a new home,” Nachtsheim said. “And it seems like the people in Chapel Hill really do enjoy their business.”

Northpond declined to comment on details related to the cost of outfitting the building, which is currently office space.

Current plans for The Purple Bowl's new location include an additional 700 square feet of space with a large patio, about three times the size of the current location. It will have a stage for live music and a shuffleboard court, as well as a separate coffee bar and window to order from outside.

Paula Gilland said even with the excitement of a new space, there is still risk. Moving the location a quarter of a mile down West Franklin Street will make it a longer walk for students, she said, especially for those who live on South Campus.

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“At a new space, we're going to have to get the students to change their foot traffic pattern to come down there,” she said.

The Carolina Economic Development Strategy is a partnership between UNC and the Town to promote economic vitality in downtown Chapel Hill. Part of the program includes the Innovation District: Economic Development Strategy — a plan to promote the presence of research and startups in the downtown Chapel Hill area that typically go to Durham or Research Triangle Park.

Hemminger said this strategy aims to reshape downtown into a year-round economy rather than one built around the academic year. 

“We love our students, but downtown businesses can't exist on a nine-month economy,” Hemminger said.


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