Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Discussion Over Carolina North Continues – Chapel Hill, NC
Representatives from UNC Chapel Hill and members of the Chapel Hill Town Council grappled for a balance between specifics and generalities during a recent Carolina North planning session. David Owens, the UNC School of Government professor consulting with trustees and council members during the months-long journey toward a development agreement for Carolina North, submitted a vision of the campus favored by staff members from both institutions that would separate building into four stages and varying scales of development. The so-called “principal options for areas and scales of development” outlined by the Town/University Joint Staff Work Group begin with an early stage that includes 1.5 million square feet within a 150- to 185-acre area. The next “mid stage” would essentially double the square footage on the same land area.
Full build-out of the 50-year plan for Carolina North would be achieved with completion of the third stage, bringing the total developed space to approximately 250 acres and eight to nine million square feet. No development is proposed for the remaining 390 acres of the Horace Williams Tract that is within the town’s zoning jurisdiction. Councilman Bill Strom said he wants to be certain that however the campus is built it should “function from the outset” as mixed-use, transit-friendly development. Strom noted factors such the distance between buildings, the availability of bus stops and mix of uses that could influence whether Carolina North functions as planned. UNC Trustee Bob Winston assured Strom that the university is thinking about the same things. “We’re right there with you and we’re going to make it work,” he said. Later, Councilman Mark Kleinschmidt reminded the group that UNC law students have long complained about feeling isolated from the rest of campus. The UNC law alumnus looked at an artist’s rendering of early development at Carolina North — home of a new law school — and worried about repeating a similar mistake. Trustee Chair Roger Perry said specifics like the distance between buildings are a topic for another time. “I think this is a great discussion, but this is putting the cart in front of the horse,” Perry said. Decisions by the UNC Trustees and Town Council about areas to be developed, density and staging are crucial in crafting the development agreement that is expected to be completed by June 2009. A memorandum written by Owens points out that the topics discussed Wednesday only provide a general description of those issues, with more detailed boundaries to come later in the process. North Carolina law states that a development agreement is valid for no more than 20 years, so the agreement being crafted will expire before the 50-year plan for Carolina North is completed.By Daniel Goldberg, Herald-Sun
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