All posts tagged: #chapel hill

Photo gallery: Scenes in downtown Chapel Hill

UNC students working on Franklin Street. The margaritas at Bandido’s. Murals in hidden places. The photos covering the walls of Sutton’s Drug Store. Some things have not changed in downtown Chapel Hill. Long-time photographer Karen Tam, who has worked for The News & Observer and The Raleigh Times, and freelanced for The Associated Press, spent a recent Friday afternoon capturing the goings-on. See the photos here.   Click on the thumbnails for larger images.

Blog post: Did Chapel Hill just change the definition of retail for the entire town?

Local government wonks, where are you? Among Chapel Hill Town Council’s recent votes on covid, police brutality and climate change was the kind of small local government change that could have huge ramifications down the road. In February, Mayor Pam Hemminger petitioned to allow flex office and “experiential retail” to help 140 West sign an escape room. (What are escape rooms? I haven’t been to one, but they look like those mobile games that are kind of boring but creep me out, and I stop playing.) Hemminger petitioned to make this change in downtown. But by June, when the new ordinance was approved, the change was much bigger and seemed to apply to the entire town. Wait, the entire town? Is that true? I checked in with Anya Grahn, the planner who drafted the new ordinance. The answer was: Yes. “We amended our definition of Business, General to include all commercial establishments that provide retail sales and services,” Grahn said over e-mail. “This allows experiential retail to be permitted in all areas where Business, General …

What are Chapel Hill’s plans for downtown?

On a recent afternoon, Antoni Sustaita, owner of Bandido’s Mexican Café on Franklin Street, opens the makeshift takeout window. The awning and lights over Amber Alley have been removed, and the ground is still wet from rain. At the alley’s back entrance sits heavy machinery for the construction of a nightclub, called StillLife Nightclub, on the roof of Sutton’s Drug Store. Sustaita says through his mask that he’s looking forward to the boost to his restaurant the renewed traffic would bring. “There used to be Players upstairs,” Sustaita said. “Hopefully, they know what they’re doing.” But when asked about the plans to turn Wallace Parking Deck into an office building with wet lab space, Sustaita draws in his breath. “Now that, that is bad,” he said. “There’s not enough parking in this town to begin with.” “Between COVID and that, my prediction is we will not survive,” Sustaita said. “We’ve been open for 25 years, but that would be too much.” The plans for the area around Sutton’s is just the start of Chapel Hill …

Blog post: What’s going on at the old Blue Cross building?!

While driving on 15-501 between Durham and Chapel Hill on Sunday, drinking some coffee, listening to the radio, I turned to look at the old Blue Cross building and this was the sight. The lovely, now-classic campus was — it looked like it was being destroyed! This was sad, and nausea-inducing. This is awful. Blue Cross sold this building — is it a spaceship? It is very “Star Trek”-y — in 2015. State Employees’ Credit Union snapped it up. Blue Cross left in 2016. So I contacted SECU to see what was going on at the site. SECU said I should contact Chapel Hill and N.C. Department of Transportation. So I emailed Chapel Hill, the public information officers for which said the clear-cutting was being done for a joint development between SECU, Wegmans, Chapel Hill and N.C. DOT. Well, here are the plans. Six-lane entrance from 15-501 cutting into the old Blue Cross campus, swerving through where the trees used to be so it can come out the other side to create a connection with …

Chapel Hill’s Design Commission petitioning Town Council for more control over downtown changes

Starting in February, passersby on Franklin Street might have noticed a new structure going up on the roof of the building that houses Sutton’s Drug Store. That is a nightclub. According to plans filed with Chapel Hill town planners, it will be called “StillLife Nightclub.” The owner of the building, 144 Properties LLC, wants to build an open-air bar overlooking Franklin Street. Site plans were approved in May 2019. Although Sutton’s Drug Store has been open since 1923, and the two-story Strowd Building at 159 E. Franklin St. is on the National Register of Historic Places, the plans did not have to go through the Historic District Commission or the Community Design Commission, or get a special use permit. So Chapel Hill’s Community Design Commission is petitioning the town council for better control over the changes that happen in downtown. The commission discussed the first draft of the petition at its April 27 meeting. “Nobody is reviewing buildings,” said Design Commission member Susan Lyons at the meeting. Lyons drafted the petition along with member Chris …

No, the light rail was not a good idea. Part 2: The obvious questions and other objections

One year on, there are still two major questions about the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit project, that was re-proposed in 2012 and then sporadically discussed in the community for years until late 2018, when it exploded into a toxic issue.
The questions: We’ve been going through a chaotic time. Why was GoTriangle so intent on pushing through a huge project instead of simply maintaining existing services?
And where did the $159 million spent on the light rail go?

Let’s talk about the redevelopment of the CVS building on Franklin Street

On Feb. 20, the Chapel Hill Town Council heard the first plans for the CVS building on Franklin Street from Cary-based Grubb Properties. The developer wants to completely revamp the look and feel of the building, located at 136 E. Franklin St. and 137 E. Rosemary St., that used to be known as the Bank of America Center. According to Grubb Properties’ marketing materials, it wants to put in a new façade, a new lobby in 136 Rosemary St., 16 new restrooms, new roof, new LED lighting, and it says, demolition of all interior walls. The developer also owns the parking deck at 125 E. Rosemary St., which it wants to demolish and replace with a new parking deck. Additionally, Grubb Properties wants to demolish the existing Wallace parking deck on Rosemary Street and replace it with 200,000 square feet of office and “wet lab space,” according to the N&O. Grubb had bought these properties last April for $23.5 million. The redevelopment plan also calls for new “public green spaces,” behind the Chapel Hill Post …

No, the light rail was not a good idea. Part 1: Going through the route in detail.

It has been nearly a year since Duke University rejected plans for the controversial Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit, leading to GoTriangle ending the project, and questions surrounding it still abound. To sum up, the light rail was planned to be a 17.7-mile train with 19 stops, and estimated to cost $2.5 billion. Construction was supposed to begin this year and last until 2028. The train had been proposed back in the ‘90s, then fallen out of the political conversation for some time, and GoTriangle, the organization in charge of transit in the greater Triangle area, brought this project back to the table again halfway through 2012. In 2014, analysts told GoTriangle there was room for growth in the bus system and the light rail, or DOLRT, was not needed. In 2015, Duke University told GoTriangle it was not on board. But by late 2018, GoTriangle put the light rail at the forefront again and that’s when this light rail became a politically charged, toxic and explosive issue. First of all, even in 2012, this project …

Piedmont Health provides care to uninsured, part-timers

CARRBORO – Kallie Norton moved to Carrboro from northern Illinois last fall to work at Youth Works, a nonprofit. She’s currently part-time, which means she’s not on the organization’s health insurance. But recently, through a program by Carrboro-based Piedmont Health Services and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, she paid just $60 out of pocket for a primary care physician appointment plus lab work, at Piedmont. “In previous companies where I was paying health insurance and out of pocket with a deductible, it wasn’t unusual to pay a few hundred for comprehensive bloodwork. I would’ve anticipated paying more,” Norton said on Tuesday. Piedmont’s program provides an alternative, and a safety net for people like Norton, who are part-time, new to the area, or plain uninsured. The program is offered to both full-time and part-time employees of chamber members, as well as their families. It’s also offered regardless of whether the patient has health insurance or is currently on another plan, and there is no extra fee to the chamber or the business. It’s a flat …

Lanterns for community “Light Up” Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill – Every table to decorate lanterns was jam-packed on Saturday at the Light Up Festival, but Ying Zhao and her 3-year-old son, Jayden Ren, managed to find a spot. With Jayden in her lap, Zhao helped him put paper cut-outs on a lantern. “Are you enjoying this, Jayden?” she asked, and he nodded. She turned and smiled. “He means yes,” she said. “I know there’s a lantern tradition. We just came out because it sounded like something fun to do.” This was Light Up’s first year, and the event, which took place at University Place, drew far more people than organizers expected. By the looks of it, thousands of people had come through the mall and decorated lanterns, played games, watched performers, and eaten foods from the many vendors. Huina Chen, head of the organizers of the event, estimated 10,000 people attended. Chen is the vice-chairwoman of the PTA at the Chinese School of Chapel Hill, which hosted the event. She said the idea for the event actually came from Chapel Hill Mayor …