Exploring options for old town hall, PNC helps with old library

Feb. 15, 2014 @ 03:01 PM

The fates of the old library and old town hall are still up for debate as the town looks for buyers for one building and considers all of the options for the other.

During its Monday night meeting, the council adopted a resolution that will allow Preservation North Carolina to help market and find a possible buyer for the old Chapel Hill Library at 523 E. Franklin St.
Council members also agreed to authorize the town manager to explore options for the former Chapel Hill Town Hall at 100 W. Rosemary St.
“Finding the right use makes a lot of sense for the library,” said Councilman Lee Storrow. “Once we sell a building like that in the middle of downtown the public will not be able to get that back.”
What used to be the Chapel Hill Public Library was used as such from 1966 until 1994 when it was used to house various community organizations once the town resumed responsibility in 2010. The Chapel Hill Historical Society is now housed in the lower level of the old library.
The former town hall on Rosemary Street was originally built in 1938 and has served several municipal purposes over the years. The Inter-Faith Council has been operating out of the location since 1985, first using the basement but having expanded since to use the rest of the building.
In 1990, the old town hall was placed on the National Register of Historic Places as significant in the areas of community planning and development and architecture.
The council was informed that it could sell the old town hall or reclaim and renovate it for municipal offices, a project that was included in the last Capital Improvements Programs costing as estimated $2.48 million for 2018-28.
Councilman George Cianciolo said that he wants to see both properties preserved, “we should be thinking creatively about these two locations.”
There was shock among some on the board of the appraised value of the old Chapel Hill public library.
“The estimate came in low because there’s not much you can do with it,” Palmer said. “I have no problem selling it through Preservation North Carolina. We can’t just hold on to things for nostalgia’s sake.”
Councilwoman Sally Greene agreed that it was possible to sell the former library through Preservation N.C. because “that’s a building that deserves and commands proper upkeep.”
President of the Chapel Hill Historical Society, Richard Ellington, said that the old library is not only used by the historical society but also by town staff.
“There’s a lot of activity there that affects the town staff,” Ellington said to the council. “Please do not sell this building. If anything happens to that building we may cease to exist.”
Evan Rodewald, vice president of the board for Preservation Chapel Hill, said that the old Chapel Hill library is protected and that while he supported the recommendation to work with Preservation N.C. to find a buyer for the old library he didn’t agree with the second recommendation authorizing the town manager to explore options for selling the old town hall.
“The old town hall is one of four individually registered natural sites in Chapel Hill,” he said. “It’s important that we maintain its architectural integrity.”
Councilwoman Donna Bell questioned if the solution for the old library could be used for the old town hall since “it is significant in our town.”