Developers spending millions on Chatham Parkway. Now they want a return on investment

Much of the land for Chatham Park is still covered by forest.
Much of the land for Chatham Park is still covered by forest.

The developers of Chatham Park are spending millions to kickstart a major road project that will connect the megadevelopment with the nearest highways.

Now they want to make sure any state reimbursement the town gets on their spending stays in their project.

Preston Development is already building a section of Chatham Parkway that will connect East Street (Business 64) with U.S. 64.

Next the firm will spend $9.5 million to extend the parkway north through their property to eventually connect with U.S. 15-501.

The road will look a lot like Weston Parkway in Cary, which has four lanes and a median.

When Chatham Parkway is completed with help from the N.C. Department of Transportation, it will connect with U.S. 15-501 on both the north and south sides of town. DOT recently committed to completing the $21 million southern leg in the next 10 years, as well as a short final section north of town.

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Speeding up construction

Chatham Park will bring an estimated 60,00 new residents to Pittsboro over the next 30 years.

If Preston Development waited for DOT to build all of Chatham Parkway, Smith said he doesn’t know when it would get built. That’s why they’ve kickstarted the construction, spending $26.5 million to build an overpass where the road intersects U.S. 64 and the first section leading back to East Street.

Chatham Parkway will be built in sections by Preston Development and the N.C. Department of Transportation. Town of Pittsboro

The next part will go through the heart of Chatham Park. It will take about five years and about $9.5 million to build, Smith said.

This section is what got DOT’s attention said Pittsboro Town Planner Jeff Jones. With Preston Development paying for the section going through their property, it made the entire project more feasible, he said.

The town has long sought another road to alleviate traffic, especially from trucks, through downtown. Chatham Parkway could be an eastern bypass.

Funding tension

Preston Development will donate the parkway to Pittsboro when it is completed.

The amount the developers are spending is considered a local contribution under DOT funding formulas. When projects have such a large local contribution, DOT usually returns about half the value as a reallocation that can be applied to future projects. But in this instance, the reallocation would go to Pittsboro, not Preston Development. DOT cannot deal with private developers in this manner.

At stake is a $4.5 million re-allocation.

Recently, Preston Development sent a letter to Pittsboro, asking that any re-allocation from Chatham Parkway be used on road projects in Chatham Park and not on other town transportation priorities.

Town manager Bryan Gruesbeck outlined the request to the Town Board on Monday night. Tim Smith of Preston Development also spoke at the meeting.

Board members did not act on the request, but they did agree to send a letter to DOT expressing support for Chatham Parkway construction.