Construction will start soon on the first new buildings to go up at University Place mall in at least 30 years, owner Ram Realty announced Tuesday.
The first phase of the years-long redevelopment project will add a seven-story building to the parking lot between Willow Drive and Silverspot Cinema with 253 apartments, 9,514 square feet of retail space, a pool, and a 422-space parking deck, said Michelle Rash, a spokeswoman for Ram Realty.
It’s just a portion of what could be built on the 43-acre site over the next decade, Ram officials have said.
The Chapel Hill Town Council approved a redevelopment plan last year that could bring up to 247 more apartments, shops and restaurants, as well as 150 hotel rooms, and several public green spaces. Intersection and turn lane improvements are planned for surrounding streets.
The developer also can build up to six drive-throughs, one of which is planned for a Chick-fil-A restaurant on the site of the K&W Cafeteria that closed during the pandemic.
The Chapel Hill Farmer’s Market, which now operates in the mall parking lot, remains part of the long-term plan, Rash said. There are no plans at this point to change the building behind the current mall, which houses Harris Teeter and Chapel Hill Tire.
More retail, offices, a hotel, demolition
Ram Realty bought the nearly 50-year-old mall in 2018 with plans to modernize it. The development follows an approved set of design standards, and building exteriors and landscaping spaces are reviewed by town’s Community Design Commission.
Most of the next phase was approved in April, but construction is not scheduled to begin until early 2023, Rash said.
That phase would demolish the eastern portion of the mall itself, allowing Ram Realty to finish turning the indoor-facing storefronts toward the parking lot. It will add restaurant and retail space and leave room for Kidzu Children’s Museum to grow.
The mall’s new eastern face will look out on a “main street,” with single-lane traffic flowing in each direction, divided by a public lawn with two small retail buildings at the northern and southern ends.
Two more buildings will add space for five retailers to the south of the existing right-in, right-out Fordham Boulevard driveway. The Chick-fil-A is planned north of the driveway’, next to Binkley Baptist Church.
The CDC now is looking at a third phase that will finish building out the eastern portion of the site. That plan adds two three-story retail and office buildings, a 150-space parking deck where the recycling drop-off center used to be, and room for a future hotel. It would connect the site to a multi-use path along Fordham Boulevard and preserve an existing stormwater basin.
The four-story parking deck will include retail and be open at ground level to let water filter through, Ram officials have said.
Future buildings are planned for Estes Drive near the Kangaroo gas station, and Fifth Third Bank is now renovating a vacant building at the corner of Estes and Willow drives.
Ram officials noted the new retail will include incubator spaces for start-ups, with 20% of the space set aside for minority-owned businesses. Roughly 15% of the apartments will be priced for households earning up to 80% of the area median income, or roughly $50,900 a year for a single person, they said.
“We are excited to officially begin construction next month on what we believe will be a signature development that will benefit the entire Chapel Hill community,” said Jeff Kurtz, Ram’s vice president of development. “Over the next few years, we will transform this property into a walkable neighborhood where people can live, work and play.”
This story was originally published August 24, 2022 5:30 AM.
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