Orange County

Chapel Hill adds more downtown parking, seeks more options

Get more details about parking in downtown Chapel Hill at
Get more details about parking in downtown Chapel Hill at Contributed

Town officials acknowledge residents and visitors have complained for decades about how hard it is to find parking downtown.

The town of Chapel Hill only controls about 20 percent of the 5,000 parking spaces along Franklin and Rosemary streets, and officials expect more development will continue to widen the gap. The town doesn’t require developers to provide parking for tenants and customers of projects in the town center.

There is hope, staff told the Town Council this week. Another 36 spaces could be available soon on West Franklin Street, and there’s an opportunity to expand the Wallace Parking Deck on East Rosemary Street, they said. The town also has added 22 new spaces at The Courtyard shops.

A grassy lot at the end of Basnight Lane – behind Carolina Ale House – now is surrounded on three sides by parking leased to the town. Police Chief Chris Blue said a 10-year lease is pending with the lot’s owner, and the town could create three dozen spaces there for roughly $115,000.

The plan would make Basnight Lane, a narrow alley between buildings, a one-way street into the parking area. The exit would be on South Roberson Street behind The Courtyard. The town and business owners will have to consider what to do with delivery trucks that now park in the alley, Blue said.

The Wallace Deck

Across downtown, the Wallace Parking Deck needs $1 million in waterproofing to repair a problem created when the structure was built in 1991. The town already spent $500,000 fixing water damage to the building.

A different option would add more parking levels to the 307-space deck, said Chris Roberts, the town’s manager of engineering and infrastructure. It could cost roughly $2.4 million to add one parking level, he said, up to $8.4 million for three more levels. Each level could add 100 parking spaces.

The work could be financed over 20 years, business management officer Ken Pennoyer said. There also is space to build offices or apartments around the expanded deck, Town Manager Roger Stancil said. Staff will start looking for an engineer to plan the work, he said.

Staff also is exploring options for replacing downtown parking meters, which many people find difficult to use and hard to read in bright sunlight.

Replacement meters could cost about $400,000 and be added next year. The town could raise the money by adding a penny to the special tax rate that downtown property owners pay, or by increasing the on-street parking rate from $1.50 to $2 an hour. The town recently extended the time limit for on-street parking to three hours.

Other solutions being considered include requiring developers to pay into a parking fund, a car-sharing service and letting developers who do build parking to unbundle it from new apartments.

Tammy Grubb: 919-829-8926, @TammyGrubb