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Trees came down on this Chapel Hill corner last year. See what’s planned now

Timber harvest on Estes Drive in Chapel Hill

Logging begins to take down the trees Monday, June 11, 2018, on a 15-acre tract at the corner of Estes Drive and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Chapel Hill. Landowner Kathryn Butler has submitted plans unsuccessfully to develop the property.
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Logging begins to take down the trees Monday, June 11, 2018, on a 15-acre tract at the corner of Estes Drive and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Chapel Hill. Landowner Kathryn Butler has submitted plans unsuccessfully to develop the property.

When the trees were felled last year, people wondered what was being built on the 15-acre lot at the corner of Estes Drive and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

The answer came last week: A concept plan for 230 apartments, 54 townhouses, two parking decks, shops, offices and “community gathering spaces.” It would require the Town Council to rezone the land from residential to office and institutional uses.

The project, if approved, would become a future stop on Chapel Hill’s planned North-South Bus-Rapid Transit line, the developers said in the concept plan.

“The goal is to make an intentional place, with walkable streets and lively storefronts that will encourage people to get out of their cars and enjoy the mix of uses on foot,” they said.

The town’s Community Design Commission could review the concept plan March 26. A concept plan allows the developer to get feedback from the council and town advisory boards before submitting an official application. The council does not vote on concept plans.

The plan is the fourth proposal submitted for 1000 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in eight years.

The first two proposals prompted the community’s creation of the Central West small-area plan, which outlined a vision for the 97 acres on the eastern side of the Estes-MLK intersection. The plan was drafted with UNC’s future Carolina North campus in mind. The 250-acre research and academic campus — slated to replace Horace Williams Airport — was approved in 2009 but has been on hold.

The airport closed last year.

Central West map.jpg
This map was created as part of the community-driven Central West small-area planning process. Contributed Town of Chapel Hill

A third proposal for 1000 MLK Blvd. reflected the Central West plan but was dropped when the Town Council urged the developer to do more with the site, including more green space, parking decks and reasons for people to go there.

Landowner Kathryn Butler decided last year to harvest the trees; the land is registered for tax purposes as a tree farm. The logging coincided with the first Central West project to be built: the Azalea Estates Gracious Retirement Living center between Somerset Drive and Phillips Middle School. That 152-unit, three- and four-story project is being built now.

The town also has been working with the N.C. Department of Transportation on plans for Estes-MLK intersection improvements, and bike and pedestrian amenities from MLK Boulevard to Caswell Road. Construction could start this summer.

Butler is working with developer CA Ventures LLC on the latest concept plan, which would wrap 40,000 square feet of office space, 38,500 square feet of ground-floor retail and upper-floor apartments around four-story and six-story parking decks at the intersection.

Three entrances are proposed: a tree-lined main entrance off MLK Boulevard and two smaller driveways off Estes Drive.

The developer’s site plan shows two-story townhouses along Estes Drive and three-story townhouses adjacent to Shadowood Apartments and the Coker Woods subdivision. Four three-story apartment buildings with ground-level parking garages are shown at the center of the site.

The plan indicates that affordable and workforce housing will be included for residents earning 80 percent to 100 percent of the area median income. That includes an individual earning at least $45,150 a year and a family of four earning at least $64,500.

What’s next

The Community Design Commission is scheduled to review the concept plan for 1000 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd on March 26. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. in the Town Hall council chamber.

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Tammy Grubb has written about Orange County’s politics, people and government since 2010. She is a UNC-Chapel Hill alumna and has lived and worked in the Triangle for over 25 years.


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