Ram Development buys University Place mall in Chapel Hill

Ram Development Co has bought University Place in Chapel Hill, the former former University Mall anchored by Silverspot Cinema and Southern Season.
Ram Development Co has bought University Place in Chapel Hill, the former former University Mall anchored by Silverspot Cinema and Southern Season. News & Observer file photo

University Place, a renovated 1970s mall anchored by Silverspot Cinema and gourmet grocer Southern Season, has been sold for an undisclosed sum, the town of Chapel Hill’s economic development officer said Friday.

The former University Mall off Fordham Boulevard was purchased by Florida-based Ram Development Co., a subsidiary of Ram Realty Services.

The company built the 140 West mixed-use condominiums on West Franklin Street in downtown Chapel Hill. It is also building the 272-unit Fordham Boulevard Apartments on the old Days Inn property on South Elliott Road, a short walk from the mall. It also owns Elliott Square, a strip shopping center next to the apartment project.

The sale was first reported by chapelboro.com, the WCHL website. The radio station is a tenant in the mall and said businesses there learned of the sale Thursday.

Details of the sale, which economic development officer Dwight Bassett thinks closed on Friday, were not yet available on the Orange County Register of Deeds website.

Ram Realty referred questions to Jennifer Stull-Wise, managing director of asset management, who was unavailable Friday.

Different iterations of Madison Marquette have owned the 365,000-square-foot mall for the past 11 years, the radio station reported.

In 2007 The Washington, D.C.-based company paid partnerships formed by Burlington textile executive Maurice J. Koury $40 million for University Mall and $13.1 million for Rams Plaza. The mall property last sold in 2016 for $60.3 million, according to county land records.

Chapel Hill business leaders have long lamented the “leak” of commercial sales tax dollars to nearby Durham and Mebane as local shoppers leave the town and Orange County to buy goods and services. In a phone interview Friday night, Bassett said the change of hands presents a new opportunity to bolster the eastern entrance to Chapel Hill, the town’s strongest commercial corridor.

“We do lose quite a bit of retail, and the [Town] Council has had interest in seeing retail growth,” Bassett said. “But it’s really hard to capture.”

Madison Marquette brought changes, but Chapel Hill still needs places for people to buy clothing, general merchandise and garden-related items, he said.

Shoppers today also want “experiential retail,” Bassett said.

Ram Development should build on the experience many already enjoy at University Place, he said, where they can dine at upscale Stoney River Steakhouse and Grill, for example, and see a movie at Silverspot, a 13-screen theater with its own restaurant/bar and hand-sewn leather seats.

“It’s going to take some aggressive management,” he said.

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Mark Schultz is the deputy metro editor for The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun. He has been an editor, reporter and photographer in North Carolina for 30 years.