Construction is currently underway for the $123 million Carolina Square redevelopment project along West Franklin Street in the heart of downtown Chapel Hill. Scheduled to be completed by summer 2017, the development replaces the former University Square, a shopping and office complex that was built on the site of the original Chapel Hill High School. The goal of the project is to bring retail spaces up to Franklin Street instead of having a large setback, while increasing options for apartment living within walking distance of campus without decreasing parking. Crews worked throughout the summer to remove asbestos and demolition debris from the 50-year-old structures. It’s unclear if any original design elements were retained for use in the new buildings.
The new project will consist of one 11-story and two five-story buildings with 246 luxury market-rate apartments; 159,000 square feet of office space; and 42,000 square feet of retail space. All three buildings are designed to meet sustainable construction standards, with the office space aligning to LEED Silver Certification standards and the retail and residential qualifying for Green Globes requirements. In addition to the new building developments, almost one acre of landscaped green space will also surround the project. The development will have public venues that cater to performance arts and cultural events. Carolina Performing Arts will operate an arts innovation lab called The Core, which will offer 8,500 square feet of studio and theater space.
The project boasts amenities that aim to bring together students at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Chapel Hill community. The University signed a 62,000 square foot office lease for the Carolina Population Center and the Gillings School of Global Public Health, Biostatistics and Epidemiology groups. The new development will be adjacent to Granville Towers, the three high-rise residence halls residing on the other half of the 12-acre site. During the summer, the student apartments house participants for summer sports camps, further funneling activity to the proposed project.
Students and residents of Chapel Hill recall the former University Square feeling rather desolate despite having several businesses operating in the buildings, some of which have relocated to other areas in Chapel Hill or the recently renovated University Place. One particular local favorite is Time-Out Restaurant, which relocated to a new location on East Franklin Street. Other businesses, including Swenson’s Ice Cream, Ken’s Quickie Mart, and The Whistle Stop, all chose to close permanently. Officials from both the University and the Town of Chapel Hill are hopeful that the development will reinvigorate the space and serve as a centerpiece for arts, entertainment, commerce and community.
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Credits: Images by Rachel Eberhard. Data linked to sources.