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Crew to demolish pedestrian bridge, launch major changes for downtown Chapel Hill block

·4 min read

Drivers will need to find alternate routes Saturday through downtown Chapel Hill while crews kick off a major redevelopment project and remove a longtime pedestrian bridge across East Rosemary Street.

The demolition of the East Rosemary Street Parking Deck will clear the land for the construction of a new, 1,100-space public parking garage. East Rosemary Street will be closed from North Columbia to Henderson streets through Sunday so crews can remove the pedestrian bridge linking the current deck and the office building across the street.

The bridge has been closed since April 2018 when a truck hit it and caused structural damage. A replacement bridge is not planned.

Mayor Pam Hemminger told radio station WCHL on Thursday that the deck will be removed in phases and the concrete will be ground up on site, with some of it being recycled. The town will create a timelapse video to share with the public, she said.

Drivers are asked to use Franklin Street to detour around the work area this weekend, in order to limit the amount of traffic using North Street, a crowded, residential street. The town will still have parking available in the lot at the corner of North Columbia and East Rosemary streets and in the Wallace deck.

Fencing will be installed around the Rosemary Street deck before demolition begins on the main structure. The contractor also will close the sidewalk on the north side of East Rosemary Street and install detour signs.

Town Manager Maurice Jones and his staff will be part of a Construction Management Team overseeing the parking deck project.

Parking deck swap, office building plans

Grubb Properties owns both the deck at 125 E. Rosemary St. and the office building at 137 E. Franklin and 136 E. Rosemary streets — the former CVS building — which is under renovation to become an Innovation Hub for businesses, startups and research companies.

UNC could occupy roughly half of the new office space, Dwight Bassett, the town economic development director, has said.

Grubb traded the parking deck to the town this year in return for the public Wallace Parking Deck at 150 E. Rosemary St., where the developer plans to build a new, 200,000-square-foot building offering wet lab and office space. The town also is paying Grubb $1.7 million as part of the deal, which includes an adjacent lot purchased from Investors Title.

The new parking deck is expected to cost up to $39 million and be paid for with town parking revenues. UNC has agreed to pay $2.95 million toward the construction of 100 dedicated spaces in the deck to serve its Visitors Center and other downtown offices. The university also will pay a $40,000 annual maintenance fee to the town.

The parking agreement is part of the Carolina Economic Development Strategy that the town and university launched in March to continue revitalizing downtown and driving economic development.

The town will keep the Wallace deck open until Grubb is ready to demolish the structure and build its office project. The town will pay $30,000 a month as part of a lease agreement with Grubb and keep any remaining parking revenues.

Grubb Properties, economic partnership

Meanwhile, Grubb is planning for a new, six-story office building near the corner of East Rosemary and Henderson streets. The Town Council reviewed Grubb’s concept plan for the building in November and is expected to consider an official application later this year.

Town officials have said the $80 million project could generate 800 jobs, $4.2 million in local sales for businesses, and roughly $1.3 million in property tax revenues for the town, Orange County and local schools.

The public-private East Rosemary Street redevelopment project, which will unfold over several years, also will add a new park to the lower part of the North Columbia Street parking lot and a green space at the corner of East Rosemary and Henderson streets. New sidewalks, bike lanes and a pedestrian crossing on East Rosemary Street, as well as a retail porch on the parking garage, also are planned.

Grubb Properties also proposed this spring a seven-story apartment building for the northeastern corner of East Rosemary and North Columbia streets. The Link Apartments Rosemary building would replace a vacant PNC bank and a separate parking lot adjacent to the new town parking deck with 140 apartments.

The developer has been working with the town to bring more business and residents downtown and to reinvigorate its local office market, including at the longtime Glen Lennox neighborhood about a mile east of UNC’s campus off N.C. 54.

Plans have been submitted for the second phase of the Glen Lennox redevelopment project, which could add a second, 304-unit apartment building and a second parking deck. The project’s first phase added 215 apartments, a 100,000-square-foot office building and a parking deck.

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