Orange County

What should Chapel Hill do with the property it doesn’t need anymore?

The town’s American Legion Task Force will continue working on ideas for the Post 6 property on Legion Road until November. Public input has led to several plans, most of which share common elements of passive recreation at the rear of the property, active recreation in the center, and development on three to five acres along Legion Road.
The town’s American Legion Task Force will continue working on ideas for the Post 6 property on Legion Road until November. Public input has led to several plans, most of which share common elements of passive recreation at the rear of the property, active recreation in the center, and development on three to five acres along Legion Road. Contributed

In a few years, you might drop off the kids at the Kidzu Children’s Museum or the skate park on a Saturday morning, shop for fresh, local vegetables, and join a quick pickleball game – all without leaving the American Legion campus.

A community brainstorming session this spring envisioned “a gathering space for everyone, regardless of physical ability, regardless of ability to pay for things,” American Legion Task Force Chairwoman Rachel Schaevitz said.

The 36-acre tract at 1714 Legion Road is just one of two dozen town-owned properties that could be put to a new use or reimagined by a private developer in the next several years.

The other tracts include undeveloped green space on Erwin Road, downtown parking lots and smaller parcels that could become sites for affordable housing.

Three task forces shared their feedback Monday with the Town Council, along with ideas for Chapel Hill’s Old Town Hall and the American Legion site.

Town Manager Roger Stancil will work with the leaders of the Historic Town Hall and Town Properties task forces to bring a list of next steps back this fall.

The town bought the American Legion site, which backs up to Ephesus Park and Ephesus Elementary School, for $7.9 million last year. Consultant Dan Jewell, with Coulter Jewell Thames, has been working with the task force and the community to refine a vision for the property.

Jewell noted three common elements that appeared in five plans drafted during those discussions: passive recreation on the back side of the property, active recreation in the center, and some sort of development – potentially retail or offices – on three to five acres along Legion Road.

The task force will continue its work until November. (Find information and meeting schedules at bit.ly/2rWNbJz.)

Other ideas discussed Monday included:

Old Town Hall

Background: Built in 1938, the building at 100 W. Rosemary St. has been a Town Hall, courtroom, jail, and police and fire department. The Inter-Faith Council for Social Services homeless shelter and community kitchen opened in 1990. The shelter moved to Homestead Road in 2015.

Current use: The IFC’s Community Kitchen could move to a new kitchen and food pantry in Carrboro in the next few years. The building’s basement and a second story are used for storage.

Potential uses: The building, appraised at $1.7 million, needs repairs regardless of its future use. The task force advised gutting the inside if it becomes a new Chapel Hill Museum and Chapel Hill-Orange County Visitors Bureau. The visitors bureau has outgrown its 3,000-square-foot location at 501 W. Franklin St.

The council hasn’t decided whether to keep or sell the building, but speakers suggested it could be a gathering place or a space for arts and creativity, consistent with the town’s Parks Master Plan and its new Rosemary Street guidelines.

Next steps: Get more input from the public and potential partners; develop a plan and cost estimate; consider how to pay for upkeep; study the economic and social implications, including the potential impact on nearby parcels and businesses

Various sites

Background: The town has studied selling, reusing or redeveloping a number of its properties since 2012. Past decisions include developing 140 West on a former town parking lot, selling the old Chapel Hill Library to a UNC foundation, and working with East West Partners to redevelop Fire Station No. 2 on Hamilton Road

The Town Properties Task Force identified these parcels as having the highest potential:

▪ Affordable housing: Three small lots on Jay Street, off Village Drive; 2200 Homestead Road, where the town is talking with UNC Health Care about housing; and the parks and recreation site at 200 Plant Road

▪ Green space/greenways: About 66 acres on Erwin Road at Interstate 40; about seven acres at Mt. Carmel Church and Bennett roads; about seven acres on Jay Street designated for a future UNC bike and pedestrian connector route

▪ Downtown destinations: Wallace Parking Deck expansion and redevelopment; possible redevelopment of parking lot No. 2 at Columbia and Rosemary streets and parking lot No. 3 at 415 W. Franklin St. The town needs a parking plan before making those changes and others to three smaller lots on West Rosemary and Graham streets

▪ Community space: The Post Office on East Franklin Street could be re-used for cultural arts or other community needs; The Corner teen center, located in the basement, needs urgent renovations while the town considers how to best serve young people

▪ Town needs: Fire station No. 3 at Elliott Road and Station No. 4 at Weaver Dairy Road Extension could be rebuilt or sold and redeveloped; 10 acres at 6900 Millhouse Road could meet multiple town needs; six acres at 6850 Millhouse Road could be used for economic development or to support county’s future park on nearby land

▪ Future use: Several lots could be land banked, including the current Chapel Hill Police Department, three small lots at Southern Community Park, Eubanks Road Park and Ride lot, and 12.7 acres south of Southern Community Park

Tammy Grubb: 919-829-8926, @TammyGrubb

Other news

The Town Council asked staff Monday to prepare development agreement options over the summer for the proposed Amity Station project. The retail, office and residential project, if approved, could replace the Breadman’s restaurant and several apartments at 322 W. Rosemary St.

The council will consider how to negotiate issues related to the proposed project this fall.

  Comments