Orange County

Look what’s under construction in Hillsborough’s downtown historic district

The approved concept plan for 515 Churton features a mix of traditional brick, a vertical tan accent, and alternating white and bright blue siding. The varying levels along the roofline are meant to reduce the effect of a three-story building on nearby single-family homes in Hillsborough’s historic district.
The approved concept plan for 515 Churton features a mix of traditional brick, a vertical tan accent, and alternating white and bright blue siding. The varying levels along the roofline are meant to reduce the effect of a three-story building on nearby single-family homes in Hillsborough’s historic district. Contributed

A luxury condominium project under construction on North Churton Street will be a dash of modern flair on the historic downtown landscape.

Developers broke ground in August on 515 Churton, a 1.5-acre project across the street from the historic Little Hawfields/Ruffin-Rouhlac House and the Hillsborough Town Hall campus. The Town Board and Historic District Commission approved the project in 2015.

The three-story building replaces a home built in 1915 that has been moved to another lot in the district, and two Hillsborough Manufacturing Co. buildings dating from 1930 and 1960, which had been repurposed as small apartment buildings.

It offers 23 one-, two- and three-bedroom units for sale and shares parking with the adjacent Sinclair Station office building at the corner of North Churton and West Corbin streets.

It won’t open until next fall, but real estate company Terra Nova Global Properties already has sold five units. Prices range from $240,000 to $440,000, said sales broker Tom Wiltberger.

515 Churton will be a gateway landmark for the town, but it also challenges what people think about Hillsborough’s historic district. How they managed to get the project approved is the most common question from prospective buyers, Wiltberger said.

It was the first multi-family project to win Historic District Commission support and also will be the town’s first condominium project, said George Horton, who developed the site with Jim Parker and architect Allen Knight.

Horton, president of Telesis Construction, and Parker, president of Summit Engineering, also built the Orange County Public Library; the Meadowlands, which includes the Passmore Center and Orange County Sportsplex on U.S. 70-A; and the Gateway Center, home to Weaver Street Market and many county offices.

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The developers of 515 Churton are exploring a new color concept for the condominium project that adds more brick to the building and swaps a brighter blue siding for a more muted blue-gray. 515 Churton Contributed

The plan for 515 Churton was possible, because the town changed the zoning and adopted a Churton Street corridor plan in recent years that identifies the site as “ripe” for redevelopment. The development team refined the plan in several months of meetings with neighbors and town staff, Parker said.

“We met with (the town) so we could get their feelings (about) what they thought was palatable to the neighborhood and what they wanted to see – what was the vision of the town for this redevelopment – and that was the look that they encouraged,” Parker said.

The commission also wanted a building that reflected the times, rather than one that replicated existing architecture, Horton said. To reduce the impact on nearby homes, they moved the site closer to Churton Street and are crafting a more muted color scheme, he added.

The “materials will weather the time for years and years and years, so that’s important to anybody who’s going to be living there, let alone those who live around it,” he said. “They want the building to look as nice and clean and as well-maintained as possible.”

Mayor Tom Stevens noted the current best practice for historic districts relies on similar materials – such as brick, natural siding, windows and other details – and scale to create a natural landscape over time.

Development changes a town’s character, and the Churton Street corridor will change as the town grows, he said. Eventually, the historic homes, the Old Historic Courthouse and other landmarks that residents love will stand alongside new landmarks, like the Passmore Center, the library, parks and hospital.

Condominiums are part of a diverse housing mix, but they won’t be everywhere, he said.

“I think what we want to pay attention to is what’s enduring about Hillsborough,” Stevens said. “It has a real sense of place.”

Tammy Grubb: 919-829-8926, @TammyGrubb

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