Opinion

Chapel Hill’s new Hyatt a model of in-town sustainability – D.R. Bryan

D.R. Bryan
D.R. Bryan

In May the Southern Village Hyatt Place Hotel will open its doors to Chapel Hill visitors.

After five years of attentive labor – assembling land, planning, seeking town approval, choosing bricks and carpet and trees, working alongside our fired-up general manager and sales director, attending construction meetings in a freezing makeshift office, praying for the elevators to arrive – we can finally say, “Welcome! Be our guests!”

This 110-room, $16 million hotel is a locally owned economic development project that will benefit Southern Village, Chapel Hill and our robust local tourism industry.

In 2015 tourism generated $185 million in business for Orange County and provided 1,800 jobs. This locally owned business will generate about $258,000 in property tax revenue per year for the local governments and schools and has created 30 new jobs.

Chapel Hill’s review process makes developers think deeply about how and why their proposed project meets community needs and goals. We think our project, and the larger community, benefit from these high standards.

Sustainability is important, so we worked on this. We chose a sustainable, infill site, allowing efficient use of public infrastructure in place. In fact, our guests may take Chapel Hill Transit as much as 16 times daily to get to campus, UNC Hospitals, downtown and other locations.

We have bicycle parking and electric vehicle charging stations, and an aggressive recycling program is on our sustainability report card. Water-saving fixtures will save an amount of potable water 20 percent above what code requires, and indigenous plants will require minimal watering. Our architects planned for natural light in all public areas and guest rooms, and LED and compact fluorescent lighting and dimmer systems will serve guests throughout the five-story building.

Southern Village Hyatt Place is proud to be on the forefront of a new trend of locating hotels in mixed-use areas – North Hills in Raleigh, for example — and in historic downtowns. We see this in downtown Durham, Raleigh, Greensboro and Winston-Salem, as well as in Chapel Hill and Carrboro.

Rather than staking a position next to an interstate exit, many hoteliers are seeing the benefits of locating where the foot traffic is heavy and the action is varied. Once our Hyatt Place guests arrive, they will see that walkability and connectivity to daily needs and pleasures were an important design goal for us. Guests may walk out the back door of the hotel and walk 0.15 mile to arrive at the restaurants and stores in the Southern Village commercial center. Whether seeking restaurants and entertainment or finding medical services or dry cleaning, there will be opportunity and a greater likelihood for friendly exchanges.

There is an active dimension to this connectivity, too Our proximity to the Southern Community Park and the Fan Branch and Morgan Creek greenways inspired us to create a jogging map for our guests.

The Southern Village Hyatt Place team is proud to be involved in this project for many reasons:

First, every day the Hyatt Place will bring the enthusiasm of visitors to our businesses in Southern Village. All these businesses are owned by local folks who work hard, and they will welcome the uptick in sales and the amplified vitality of new customers. The Chapel Hill Visitors Bureau reports that a person who stays overnight in Chapel Hill spends about $305 per day for lodging, food and beverage, shopping, transportation and entertainment. Those welcome dollars will be spent at all of our commercial centers in town.

Second, the Hyatt Place is helping to create community among southern Chapel Hill neighborhoods, by providing a place for family and friends to stay, and close-by meeting space (1,740 square feet) where local families and groups can hold their celebrations.

Third, we like its looks! The brick exterior harmonizes well with the Village Center in Southern Village, and with the UNC campus, whose classic buildings set a grand style well worth emulating. We hope you agree that our five-story brick building enhances the southern entranceway to town.

D.R. Bryan is the developer of Southern Village in Chapel Hill.

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