Downtown Carrboro eyesore has a new owner. Here’s what won’t get built there

It won’t be a new drugstore or convenience market, but a new owner is making plans for land in downtown Carrboro that has sat vacant for years

“We are actively moving forward on an idea,” developer Edward Lammas said. “This land is not going to sit there. It is not going to have a chainlink fence around it forever. It is not going to be a derelict site covered in weeds hopefully for much longer.”

Three former CVS-owned properties — a corner lot, a parking lot and a house at 104 Center St. — have languished since Revco bought them from Weaver Street Market in 2010. A former bank building that housed the WCOM radio station previously occupied the corner.

The sale of the properties has been rumored since September.

In January, county records show Revco, a subsidiary of the CVS Caremark Corp., sold all three lots to CKE III LLC for $957,000. The properties are valued together for tax purposes at $855,000, county records show.

CKE III is managed by Chapel Hill-based Beacon Properties Group officials Chris Howlett, Kathryn Howlett Abrams and Lammas, according to an N.C. Secretary of State document.

The company’s website promotes more than 30 years of experience in commercial and multi-family development in the Triangle, including Governors Village, and Carolina Pointe and the new Alta Blue apartments on Farrington Road.

Lammas asked the town’s Board of Adjustment in February for a variance to build a new, single-family home at 104 Center St. The variance would let Lammas build the house closer to the street than town rules allow, in order to save a large oak tree in the back yard.

The board has not yet approved the variance.

Plans for the corner

Plans for the corner and the parking lot — just over half an acre — are still a mystery. However, Revco ensured as part of the sale that the next occupant won’t be a competitor.

The sale included a new restrictive covenant that prohibits future owners from using the land to operate a health and beauty aids store, for instance, or a pharmacy or vitamin store, or a store selling alcoholic beverages, general merchandise or convenience items.

That wasn’t the only thing unique about the sale, Lammas said.

The decision had to be made quickly, so they didn’t have time to do the usual pre-sale analysis of the site’s potential, he said. That work is happening now, and a plan will be shared as soon as possible, he said.

“In order to get the site back under local control after almost a decade of being an eyesore, we thought it was worth the risk,” Lammas said. “We basically put all our efforts into controlling what we could control and speaking with neighbors and speaking with aldermen and just understanding some of the hot-button issues.”

They’re also talking with the town about temporary public use of the parking lot, he said.

Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle said she heard some “good ideas” but is waiting to see details once a plan is submitted. The future of that land is the No. 1 thing she’s been asked since becoming mayor, Lavelle said.

“I’m excited that someone has purchased it, and I’m looking forward to seeing what projects they bring before us once it’s submitted to the town,” Lavelle said.

Revco took a nearly $400,000 loss in selling the lots, but its plan never gained traction to replace the longtime CVS between Harris Teeter and Carr Mill Mall with a two-story retail and office building. In 2012, a group of self-described anarchists and protesters briefly occupied the vacant WCOM building with plans to make it a community center.

Revco responded by boarding up the windows and doors and erecting a chain-link fence. The building deteriorated, and after getting no response from Revco, the aldermen passed new rules in 2016 requiring owners who don’t meet maintenance standards to sell or demolish blighted buildings. Revco demolished the building but left the fence intact.

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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.