Orange County

Developer has plan for more places to live and stay in this part of Chapel Hill

The latest Blue Hill District proposal would replace the Hong Kong restaurant on the Fordham Boulevard service road (center behind the trees) with a 97-room hotel and raze the Quality Inn (right) to make room for a parking garage, apartments, and offices or a second hotel. The site is located near the Europa Drive intersection with Fordham Boulevard, left background, in Chapel Hill.
The latest Blue Hill District proposal would replace the Hong Kong restaurant on the Fordham Boulevard service road (center behind the trees) with a 97-room hotel and raze the Quality Inn (right) to make room for a parking garage, apartments, and offices or a second hotel. The site is located near the Europa Drive intersection with Fordham Boulevard, left background, in Chapel Hill. tgrubb@heraldsun.com

More apartments — and a hotel — will come under review this week as developers finalize construction plans for two approved residential projects in the town's Blue Hill District.

The 180-acre district — formerly known as Ephesus Fordham — was created in 2014 to re-energize decades-old strip malls and housing. So far, it has delivered 39,000 square feet of retail — exceeding the town's 2018 target — and 866 apartments.

The 266-unit Berkshire Chapel Hill was the first project built according to the district's form-based code of building, streetscape and other standards. The code also streamlined the town’s development process, giving the Community Design Commission and town manager authority to approve Blue Hill District projects without Town Council input.

Two other apartment projects have been approved but not built: the 272-unit Fordham Apartments at the corner of South Elliott Road and Fordham Boulevard, and the 328-unit Hillstone Apartments slated for a vacant Crown Honda-Volvo dealership.

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The latest proposal — the seven-acre Tarheel Lodging redevelopment — would bring that number to 1,126 — just shy of the 1,200 market-rate apartments expected for the district. The Community Design Commission will review the plan Thursday, March 15.

Tarheel Lodging is slated for three lots between Legion Road and the Fordham Boulevard service road: Hong Kong restaurant, Quality Inn and a vacant lot adjacent to the Europa Center and its parking deck.

The project would be built in two phases, starting with the demolition of Hong Kong and construction of a 97-room, four-story TRU Hotel by Hilton along the Service Road. A two-story, 136-space parking deck would be built behind the hotel.

The Quality Inn, just south of the restaurant, would remain open during the first phase. A five-story building — either a 30,000-square-foot office building or a second, 100-room hotel — would replace it during a second construction phase.

That phase also could include 260 apartments in one three-story building and two five-story buildings, underground parking, and a five-story, 350-space parking deck.

Several, small green spaces and two new streets are in the project, as well. One street would exit onto the Service Road, between Jiffy Lube and Advance Auto Parts; both would connect with a future Hillstone Drive linking Legion Road to the service road.

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Atma Hotel Group, the Tarheel Lodging developer, is seeking several exceptions to the district's form-based code requirements. Among the requests is to allow a longer building on the property line, next to the Europa Center’s parking deck, because of the site's steep slopes and “awkward parcel configuration.”

The council revised the form-based code in 2016 to limit how long a building can be without including a pedestrian passage. The CDC can approve exceptions to that rule.

Other changes are related to Chapel Hill Fire Department access requirements, N.C. Department of Transportation street construction rules, and how the site affects the location of the parking garage, the project application states.

What's next

The Community Design Commission meets at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 15, in the Town Hall council chambers, 405 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. The public will have an opportunity to weigh in on projects being discussed.

The CDC also will review final building plans for Wegmans Food Market and plans for a Chapel Hill High School renovation project.

Project stats

  • Name: Tarheel Lodging Redevelopment

  • Property owner/developer: Atma Hotel Group

  • Address: 1740-1742 Fordham Boulevard

  • Zoning: WX-5, WX-7

  • Acres: 6.97

  • Residential: 260 apartments

  • Hotel: 97 rooms, plus potential for 100 more rooms in a second building

  • Office: 30,000 square foot building possible

  • Parking: 486 spaces in two parking decks, plus underground parking
Tammy Grubb: 919-829-8926; @TammyGrubb
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