UNC proposes cursory master plan review

Ruby Sinreich's picture

Just got an info item that will be on the Chapel Hill Town Council's agenda tonight. Apparently the "Innovations Center" is on next week's agenda (1/23/08), but of course the Council needs to know about the plans for Carolina North to understand the context for this first building. So UNC proposes to toss off a presentation about the Carolina North Master Plan at the same meeting and then go on with presenting the concept plan of the Innovations Center.

I would think the Town would need a moment to actually comprehend the plan before trying to understand something that is supposed to fit into it. But of course that would assume that UNC actually wants elected officials, staff, or citizens of Chapel Hill (and Carrboro) to analyze, understand, or respond to anything they're doing.

It sounds like UNC's plan is just to do a quick presentation, and listen to public comment at this meeting - with one week's notice - and then just go along their merry way building the first phase Carolina North without any substantial input from the community.

MEMORANDUM
TO: Town Council
FROM: Roger L. Stancil, Town Manager
SUBJECT: UNC Presentation on Carolina North
DATE: January 14, 2008

As a follow-up to yesterday’s conversation with the University regarding Carolina North, Jack Evans and I are preparing for University staff to present the Carolina North Master Plan as the first item on the January 23 agenda. This topic would then be open for public comment.

The second item on the January 23 agenda will then be the presentation of the concept plan for the Innovations Center. We have taken this approach because of the Council’s interest in hearing the master plan and receiving public comment before discussion of the concept plan. This agenda also has fewer items than many of the subsequent Council meetings. We will proceed on that schedule unless the Council prefers an alternative approach.

I really hope I am misunderstanding this proposal from UNC, because if not, it sounds like we are about to get steamrolled. Even the campus master plan went through much more discussion and collaboration with the Town, and Carolina North promises to impact the entire area even more drastically.

Where have I gone wrong, Fred?

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92 Comments

Fred Black's picture

Ruby, next week's formal

Ruby, next week's formal presentation of the plan is a request by the Town Council.  Trustee Chair Roger Perry and Chancellor Moeser both indicated that they were not interested in a piecemeal approach to CN and that the IC was a special case for all of the reasons that have been covered in the media.  The CHH wrote:

Moeser and Perry both expressed the preference that future development applications not come in the form of a special use permit the way the Innovation Center did. The chancellor explained that "a unique and pressing opportunity" to contract California firm Alexandria Properties led to the permit. He said failure to move forward quickly on the business incubator would have "a catastrophic impact on this university," and later promised there would be no more special use permit requests if the town "will work with us in good faith on a process."

 The PowerPoint presentation made by UNC yesterday is on the CN page: http://research.unc.edu/cn/towncouncil_2008.pdf  Look especially at Slide 21 to see the first five year segment, as that's new information.  What I heard at the meeting was that the positioning of the IC was based on their analysis of the site and that the approval of the IC is critical to the University on many operational and institutional levels, but not because the location is critical to the physical master plan. 

Priscilla Murphy's picture

Council's response regarding impact on the town

I continue to wonder at what point Council is going to be addressing, directly, the issue of the impact on the "apron" areas outside CN's boundaries -- those streets and intersections for which the Town, not the University, has responsibility.

Specifically -- and re: Slides 20 and 22 -- it remains inescapable that MLK between Estes and Piney Mountain is going to bear the focal burden of the traffic. On the slides, however, that stretch of MLK on CN's eastern boundary is shown as a rather bucolic divided boulevard with trees in the median (and as usual, there's only one car in the artist's "view of," along with 1/2 a trolley). In addition, Estes on either side of MLK but particularly westbound from Franklin, and Piney Mountain approaching MLK will both be severely affected as well.

Construction for the Innovation Center will probably not represent much of a burden on surrounding roads, but once it opens, the first "surge" of the deluge will arrive; and it will probably be about that time that ground for more of Phase 1 will be broken.

Have you, Fred, or anyone else heard anyone on Council or the Planning Bd. begin to talk about what the Town may have to do, to deal with the change in surrounding traffic flow and pattern -- not 15 or 50 years from now but in 2-5 years?

No Balance

This doesn't strike me as enough time to evaluate something with this kind of impact. I believe this is a good project for both the Town and UNC, but I am not sure how waiting a month or two to get our ducks in a row on a project that will take 15 years to 50 years to complete is such a long time relative to the long-term impact.

Also, I think it was a California Firm that brought us the I-40 mess. I am sure that there are many very good local and regional developers for the University to look at otherwise the initial economic impact will help California, but not us. With the Real Estate economy what it is, I am sure that we can find a lot of underemployed developers.

Fred Black's picture

Misunderstanding

I think there may be some misunderstanding about what is happening on January 23d. It's unfortunate that Ruby used the headline and verbiage that she did. UNC is presenting a concept plan for the IC, not asking for approval of the Master Plan. The Master Plan briefing is being given because the Council requested it, and so it's not that "UNC proposes to toss off a presentation about the Carolina North Master Plan at the same meeting and then go on with presenting the concept plan of the Innovations Center," as Ruby indicated.
Ruby Sinreich's picture

I understand too well

I never said UNC was asking the Town for anything, that is sort of the whole point: I wish they would ask for input, instead of simply informing us after they have decided what to do. I think a "cursory review" is a pretty accurate description. I understand that it's the Town that has asked the University for a chance just to look at the plans for Carolina North before it starts being built, and that we should consider ourselves fortunate that UNC has made this gesture of acquiescence.

This is not partnership on UNC's part, and I don't see how it will lead to a collaborative effort to build the development that will do nothing less than define Chapel Hill in this century.

Fred Black's picture

My comment was in response

My comment was in response to what was implied in the post above mine by Anon (?). I assume UNC is engaging in a process leading to a SUP. THe Town Council asked for the formal presentation in order to get it one the record. They saw the slides and heard the UNC officials. If the hangup is that the IC precedes the approval of a Master Plan, then I think that will continue to be a hangup to some. I think UNC has presented a credible case for moving forward with the IC prior to the Master Plan's approval. I guess it's up to the Town Council now.

I just don't think the headline "UNC proposes cursory master plan review" does the topic justice, as UNC is proposing nothing of the sort. Sorry that you believe it's an acurate description of the next step.

Steve Wells's picture

Anonymous No More - Sorry about that

I forgot to log in, so I came up anonymous on my question. I am still getting used to this login system.

I think I understand what you are saying Mr. Black. The goal is to move forward with the IC before the overall Master Plan and their may be a case for that, but since most of the newspapers spend more time covering whose got the best looking turtle than any actual news about something this critical to our Town, there is a lot of confusion about what is going on.

I still feel that having the IC in place makes the rest of the project inevitable and while I hate the "slippery slope" argument, it may apply here. I have no idea why the availability of this or that developer makes a difference given the current state of the economy.

I also admit a complete bias against developers and contractors from any place being better than a contractor from Charlotte or Raleigh. I hate to see so much of our taxpayer money going out of State.

I do agree that the headline could be viewed as inflammatory, but since Blogs like OC are the only true Fourth Estate, I applaud Ruby for "calling it like she sees it."

I know that I keep harping on Middle Ground or "Common Ground" as it used to be called, but the reality is I think the University has a valid reason for wanting to push ahead, but I think they weaken their argument by talking about this or that developer instead of why it is critical to the University.

I am in Sales. If I proposed something to a you at the last minute without a very good explanation and said "this is a once in a lifetime chance" would you sign on the dotted line or think I was up to something?

I truly do not believe the University is acting in bad faith. I also do believe that an Innovations Center and Carolina North will make an excellent asset to the town. However, I think it is a mistake for anyone in sales or in this case at UNC, to ask us to simply "trust them on this" without giving some very good reasons and sound arguments for their plans.

I think what most of us are asking for is constructive, inclusive dialogue. Maybe that's happening, but it is apparent that people do not feel this is happening. I read everything I can about this and I still only have a vague idea of why the IC is that important.

I received about 3 mailings over a Dog Park at Homestead, as I recall.

I don't expect the Mr. Moeser to come to my house and sit down over coffee (however, he is welcome to do that), but how about a strong Op-Ed piece in the Chapel Hill News or here in Orange Politics with detailed arguments as to why the Town and the University benefit?

Right now, I don't feel like I have a full understanding of what the University wants to do or why people oppose it based on the limited information in the media.

CN Traffic

Priscilla, the view shown in slide 22 is not MLK, but along the sightline shown in red on the B&W aerial view adjacent to the conceptual view.

As for the traffic impact in the next 2-5 years, I doubt that the Town will be able to do much if it only reacts to the changes as they develop. I'm praying we can get some commitment from UNC to use their clout with the Legislature to push for funding for the regional transit shown on slide 13.

How else can the Town be assured that transit will be pushed other than to severely limit parking on and around the area? I live within 1000 feet of the Airport Dr bldgs and we see several cars parked nearby which belong to employees there. Not a problem now really but could become one in the future without clear rules.

Priscilla Murphy's picture

Slides, slips

Knew that the view in Slide 22 was looking outward but was remarking on the striking lack of traffic -- plans like these (see SuperStreet, elsewhere) are remarkably consistent in showing as few cars as possible to a street but depicting unbelievably little traffic.

Otherwise, I was actually looking at the small inset map/plan next to the scene -- look closely at how it depicts MLK (you have to zoom in a fair amount).

As for slide 13, note that it's "A scenario for 50 years" -- and all that's there is a red line on those two main feeders, keyed as "potential local transit." Presumably by 2058, the "potential" will have become some kind of actuality.

I'm all for making as strong a case as possible for transit supply to CN to be defined as mass transit, bikes, and feet. My concern is that in order to lean on CN planners to think in those terms, the Town could leave itself in exactly the situation Anonymous describes - i.e., "only react[ing] to the changes as they develop." If they don't maintain a clear view of how "the apron" would look and function at each stage, as they talk about various projected transit and building plans, they risk neglecting a chunk of their responsibilities to constituents.

As for parking nearby, I'm sure we'll see what you describe, A., having already noted that commuters have "discovered" which feeder streets (to Estes, etc.) do not have parking rules or limitations. Yet another facet of the impact on "the apron" that I'm hoping won't be treated as an after-the-fact or ad-hoc mop-up issue.

UNC proposes cursory master plan review

I hope that I am not droning on about the same things over and over, but this is what I and other concerned citizen's have been addressing with the Council regarding NW CH (don't forget-the moratorium and study area started at the northern end of CN). It is important for the University to also use modeling software to calculate the cumulative effect on the Town. They have all the tools at their disposal. Additionally, the "apron" areas that Priscilla refers to illustrate the problem with site by site review as opposed to an area. Although the NW study area stopped on the north side of Homestead, won't MLK northward be affected by cars streaming down from I-40? WDR Ext will suffer from cut-through traffic as people try to avoid MLK and use WDR Ext to get to Homestead. Boundaries for impact are about as useful as "smoking sections" in a restaurant.
Priscilla Murphy's picture

Apron strings

Hardly intended to exclude the N/NW area in my "apron" discussion. If traffic coming from I-40 west of CH/86 or the northern areas of CH does increase as a result of the IC or the first phase, it would indeed affect the MLK corridor north of Piney Mountain and possibly WDR to Homestead. However, that area between Estes and Piney Mountain stands to become something of a can of worms; and obviously traffic coming from campus, southern/western Durham, and points south on I-40 will be feeding from the south and east (i.e., MLK and Estes) -- and meeting traffic coming from Carrboro on Estes Ext.

But yes, as you precisely put it, the entire "Apron" should be a proper concern for Town planners and Council, extending above and beyond site by site review.

Anita Badrock's picture

Comment on the "developer" of the Innovations Center

I just have a moment to weigh in this morning, but I wanted to answer someone's comment above about  why does it matter about this or that developer and  why can't someone local do this project?   

 It's really a misnomer to refer to the "Partner" as a developer.  The company isn't just building the structure---they will be an ongoing partner in the investment, operation and management of the Innovations Center.   The partner is internationally recognized as a strong strategic partner  with specialized skills in these kinds of Centers--the businesses and companies that the Innovations Center will incubate and accelerate need the kind of services that the company can offer (the name escapes me and I am very sorry --it's that birthday I just had creeping up on my brain!).  So.......it's not just somebody building a building,  it is a company that provides ongoing business support, strategic planning,  recruitment assistance, and specialized services.    And there is a window of opportunity because it is an ongoing business partner relationship.  

 

Steve Wells's picture

Sorry but

It is Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc.

There website investor information is at http://www.labspace.com/investor.asp

and calls them the "Landlord and Developer of Choice for the Life Science Industry©." They even copyrighted it.

Their quarterly reports shows them projecting a Development in RTP, but it is hard to figure out where, but the initial project is 16,393 sq. ft. http://www.snl.com/irweblinkx/file.aspx?IID=111908&FID=5122978

One reason I would be in a hurry if I were them is according to their press release 740,247 square feet(in the US and Canada) of leased space (about 7.2% of their inventory) are expiring this year and with a poor economy, I don't see them filling it. I think they may have a lot more oppportunities to work with us soon. That amount is double the space of what expired in 2K7.

Now, they may be world reknowned, but that is a lot of Lab Space to fill and is going to take a chunk out of their stock.

So as the third "partner" in this, we know what UNC gets - a workable Innovations Center, we know that Alexendria Real Estate Inc. gets a new project to help fill in the 747,000 square foot hole, but I am still fuzzy on what the town gets.

If I were negotiating with this group, in exchange for quick approval, I might suggest agreement to pay for all of the road, sidewalk and bike path improvements and a provision to change developers should they fail to meet adequate timetables as a start.

So again, I am sorry, but this "partner" advertises itself to shareholders of its $96 per share stock as a Developer and Lease Holder.

Alexandria Real Estate Inc. has been in business since 1994 and has about 41 full time employees according to one web listing. It's stock is off by about 5% this year, which isn't too bad given the downturn in the current Real Estate market and the scaling back of R&D budgets.

So partner is really the misnomer here and I still feel like we have good Developers who would be long-term partners in this State with an interest in our community's success.

Priscilla Murphy's picture

Alexandria and the Law School

The potential focus of CN seems still in substantial flux, it seems to me -- not surprising, I suppose. Alexandria's self-definition puts them in the "Life Sciences" area, and we know that CN planning has always talked about research facilities along this line. On the other hand, there's suddenly very serious talk about putting the Law School up there, not without considerable protest from some Law School people who are saying, no, put someone else (e.g., "X," "Y" or "Z") up there because THAT would make more sense. Obviously, a variety of activities could be centered on the CN campus, but without at least one or two guiding principles, things could get fairly fragmented -- affecting not only operations but things like commuting traffic between campuses.

So in addition to the fuzziness about what the Town gets, seems like there's even some fuzziness about what CN gets unless, once again, short-term decisions are going to drive long-term policy.

Ruby Sinreich's picture

Council agenda

Here's the Council agenda for Wednesday:

  1. UNC Presentation on Carolina North Master Use Plan. (Presenter: University Staff) [Estimated Time: 60 minutes] (no attachment)
    1. Presentation by University
    2. Comments from citizens
    3. Comments and questions from Mayor and Town Council.
  2. Concept Plan: UNC Innovation Center Concept Plan. (Staff Presenter: J.B. Culpepper; Planning) [Estimated Time: 15 minutes]
    1. Review of process by the Manager
    2. Presentation by the applicant
    3. Comments from the Community Design Commission
    4. Comments from citizens
    5. Comments and questions from the Mayor and Town Council
    6. Resolution transmitting Council comments to the applicant (R-1).

http://townhall.townofchapelhill.org/agendas/2008/01/23/

UNC proposes cursory master plan review

Del Snow

Sorry Priscilla-I forgot to log in when I commented on the "Apron Strings."  I totally agree that the Piney Mt/Estes area will suffer the brunt of the congestion-I was just trying to point out that the idea that impact will also reverberate throughout  the Town.

Anita Badrock's picture

Idiocrat, that's a good

Idiocrat, that's a good review of Alexandria, and you made the point far more clearly than I.   There isn't a local "underemployed developer" that could do this project, because it isn't just about constructing the building.   They provide other services as part of their working relationship with UNC and other research institutions.   

 

Fred Black's picture

Law School

Priscilla, when the Chancellor talked about the Law School Sunday, he called putting it at CN a "no brainer" because they could build a new law school at CN for the same money it would cost to repair the current one. The repair costs are significantly higher becaue of the presence of asbestos Also, he indicated that the way law is taught these days, they would need to spend money to reconfigure the current facility in order to meet some of those needs. Last point - the Chancellor indicated that the Law School would grow in enrollment.

There was a letter I saw where someone proposed that instead of moving the Law School, move the School of Government and put the Law School in that building. I understand that that idea had already been considered and rejected.

As for what the Town gets from the IC, I would say the big thing, according to the plan, is a taxpayer that will pay more than they receive in services.

Steve Wells's picture

Op-Ed in the Chapel Hill News

There is an interesting Op-Ed in the Chapel Hill News. I talk about in my OP Blog.

The summary of that post is, I am very happy that someone moved beyond mere opinion to facts of their daily life and struggles.

As someone who spent a large portion of my life working in and for the Life Sciences and started my career handling blood and roaming the sprawling campus of the Medical College of Virginia, I understand clearly the challenges that researchers face.

I am glad we've moved past two sentence answers about what the town gets that imply we don't have a right to know toward meaningful dialogue that brings forward how we need each other.

I don't think time for review is unreasonable - the opininon I have always held. I also still think it is the best use of the land. I am just not buying the need for speed, yet.

Like a reasonable person, I could change my mind. The Op-Ed was a good first start and certainly better than some of the curt responses I have seen so far.

 

--Freedom is not just another word

 

Cam Hill's picture

IC

Cam

So if space is so hard to find in Chapel Hill how come DR Bryan can't rent his building at VilCom? Why did the developer at Chapel Hill North get permission to build rental units instead of the commercial space he already had approval for?

Etta Pisano has long been a part of UNC's CN cheerleading squad. This doesn't mean she doesn't have a point just that she has an established point of view........  

Steve Wells's picture

Awesome Question

Thanks for posing it. I had almost forgotten about this Moratorium thing. Aside from the fact that DR Bryan is not "the Developer and Landlord to the Life Sciences" - copyrighted, does someone have the answer or research on the fundemental difference between the projects?

Are there source documents out there?

I am very interested in hearing the answers to this one. That does seem a bit confusing to those of us without insider knowledge. It doesn't change my basic bias toward a strong Carolina North, but it does seem that it has the Infrastucture problems as the DR Bryan project does.

I do believe that the DR Bryan project would also give us a net-gain on Tax Revenue.

--Freedom is not just another word

Lab facilities

The Innovation Center is a fundamentally different type of facility than any other we have in town (other than on campus). Placing it where it can be monitored and maintained by the UNC Environment, Health and Safety Dept. and experienced facilities engineers and maintenance staff is the only way I would support moving these research activities off campus and into a space where the community would actually benefit financially.
Fred Black's picture

Purposes

Cam, I think there's a lot of difference between office space and lab facilities to support a research agenda. Labs do not belong in just any office building anywhere in town.

 

As for Dr. Pisano, as the Vice Dean for Academic Affairs in the UNC School of Medicine, a Kenan Professor of Radiology and Biomedical Engineering, and the Director of the UNC Biomedical Research Imaging Center (which studies ways to develop and use technology to treat cancer and heart disease, among other ailments), the "cheerleading squad" label just doesn't do her justice.

As has been observed, "where you stand might depend on where you sit," and her "established" point of view should be just as important to hear as yours and mine.

Cam Hill's picture

Sit/stand/whatever

Did I say her point of view shouldn't be heard? I was just pointing out where she "sits". 

Etta's op-ed mentions three spin-offs. One (hers) has no space as yet but it doesn't sound any more obnoxious than the x ray equipment in a doctor or dentist office-she could move to VilCom. The second rents space in Raleigh, which sounds just like "space in Chapel Hill". The third is going to RTP. MY POINT was space seems to be going begging in town now, how does that mesh with the needs Pisano cites? 

If the IC is going to house obnoxious uses that need special facilities, should we hasten to approve it, with expedited review? It seems that the neighbor's would have a great many concerns....

Point of history. A great deal of the doctor's offices on Willow Drive were originally developed as research labs funded by research grants received by faculty at the Med. school. I know because my Dad had one of the first...... 

op ed article

The Innovation Center is good. 

Most people seem to have no problem with that idea.  The problem comes in at the process level.  People are upset that UNC won't respect the Town process even though UNC wants the Town to respect its needs. 

If the IC is SO important to UNC, why didn't they submit the Master Plan before the Concept Plan for the IC?  Against what baseline plan will the Council be able to evaluate the IC plan?   Chapel Hill has a planning process for a reason and it is frustrating that UNC always needs an asterisk next to its name as an exception to it.

Why was it too much to ask for a Master Plan that would have provided not only the context in which to weigh the IC, but would have responded to all of the HWCC principles which were adopted by the Council?

These questions don't detract from the value of the IC, they give a perspective to some of the objections.

 

Fred Black's picture

It Matters

Part of the IC discussion at universities across the country has pointed out the benefit of researcher interaction and other positive externalities of closeness, something that can't happen as well when they are spread all over a region.

I have not heard anyone attempting to equate what UNC desires to the dust up at Butner, so I guess "obnoxious" uses all depends on what people think it means.

As an aside, I DON'T miss hearing those busses rev up at 5:30 in the morning or those dogs barking, so if nothing else, those facilities moving have enhanced our quality of life. And yes, Cam, at that time of the morning it was worse than a weed whacker on a summer evening!

Steve Wells's picture

Obnoxious Uses, Common Ground and History

At the risk of being labeled the basically Liberal guy with nuanced opinions that I am:

1) I am against dogs barking and busses at 5:30 AM (and planes flying into Horace Williams Airport anytime) and for the Dog Park at Homestead.

2) I am against all non-electric yard equipment for environmental and quality of life reasons and I especially hate them before 9 and after 5 any day except in designated urban areas. There is nothing I hate more than the a leafblower.

3) I am for Carolina North, because I believe it is a best use of the land and will provide more than just tax revenue to the town. It is the kind of development that should add value to the area for decades to come.

4) I am against an approval process that short circuits a true dialogue. Something that has this kind of impact has to be considered properly.

I admit that I enjoyed the op-ed piece and I do have a bias toward things that benefit researchers in the Life Sciences. I would hope that someone who represented the University would represent her consituency well.

It also has the potential to provide jobs that do not require a car trip to RTP and a location that is better than the area at Meadowmont.

Also, I think that UNC is right to put the Law School in Carolina North, because of the realities of parking and retrofitting buildings.

I understand the University's desire to move forward quickly with a review, but at some point I think we do have to trust each other. The more I hear about this development, the more I feel like it has the potential to be very good for the area provided we get concessions on Biking, Bus Lanes and Access Improvements (ie we aren't stuck with paying for them on something that a Landlord and Developer will end up making the profit).

In this case, being a relative newcomer at 9 years in the area, means I don't have that many preconceived notions.

I realize there is a lot of passion here, but from where I sit (in a part of town that is often ridiculed and ignored), it seems that we have to look at this dispassionately and give it a fair and honest hearing and that will take some time. Let's set a true timetable and deadline for review to conclude and move forward.

The project and the review are inevitable. The quicker we get the review done, the sooner we can get this started and everybody wins. We just need more than tax revenue.

How about the Landlord and Developer paying for part of our Bus expenses and upgrades as a matter of good faith?

 

--Freedom is not just another word

Transit

At 85,000 GSF the Innovation Center won't be as large as what the town of Chapel Hill already had in place on that space. What purpose would it serve to charge them (us, the state tax payers) to provide additional transit enhancements for such a relatively small population, especially in light of the joint transit study that is currently underway and the commitment to transit enhancements that have already been designed into CN?

MLK is served by 4-5 bus lines, and now with the new articulated busses that serve the N-S line there always seems to be plenty of capacity. I do, however, think UNC should be required to work with DOT to put in a signalized crossing at Municipal Drive so that folks coming from campus can safely cross MLK.

 

 

Steve Wells's picture

Exploring Options

Why should we pay for it?

They need to give us a discount. The Square Footage may be less, but the number of trips will increase if a Law School is there, because a business goes mostly 8-6 while a Law School will have classes scheduled and people coming and going from 6am to Midnight.

So it is not necessarily correct to look only at Square Footage of the Development. Clearly, the Developer and Landlord to the Life Sciences should have the cash to help offset the additional costs to the town and not pass the cost back to the taxpayers.

The bottom line is that the University and the Town should receive concessions for a quick approval and those concessions should include the items you mentioned and coverage for the additional trips created by Academic uses versus Office uses.

This is a very similar setup to that of Charlottesville, VA and UVA and there will be many more variable trips and with students already complaining about bus service, I think we should be proactive and the Developer and Landlord should foot part of the bill for this change of use.

I don't really see how they lose given the current state of the Real Estate Market and the level of vacancy they will have this year. Make no mistake, they need us too.

 

-- Freedom is not just another word

Separating IC from Law School

The quick review UNC is asking for is for the Innovation Center only. So my comments were directed at whether or not additional transit enhancements need to be provided for the Innovation Center, in advance of the full CN master plan.

 

Priscilla Murphy's picture

"Details"

I agree that the Op-Ed piece did inject some serious perspectives about the IC as something other than just an intrusive, undefined building, but it seemed rather slighting of the Town to relegate its concern about traffic, density, etc. to the realm of "details." For a lot of us who have straddled the town-gown line for a while, that kind of marginalizing of Town concerns reflects the familiar view of the Town as merely the stage for the University's productions.

But it's more than whether we are the "devils" in the details.

The Op-Ed piece does begin to outline the kind of missions that can make CN a source of state pride, but it is worrisome that the idea of local pride seems defined as serving the personal/professional needs of some residents who happen also to be University faculty. The jump here is from "why do we need it in Chapel Hill?" to "the university serves the state" to "I am one of your neighbors [owner of an enterprise], and I need it."

Don't get me wrong, the kinds of research Pisano describes are definitely worthy and, yes, it's sometimes very hard to get medical and bioscience research situated and funded -- it's a lot more than just finding a room with a bench and some sinks. And I'm hardly arguing against bringing CN's potential and mission into clearer focus. To the contrary, I've already questioned the sense in having biosciences and the Law School thrown together up there just because two opportunities happened to have presented themselves at the same moment.

But the OpEd piece, for all its thought, seems less to have been written by someone thinking as a Chapel Hill resident and more by someone with the all-too-familiar wish to tell the Town, "get out of our way and let's get the show on the road."

George C's picture

Value of the Innovation Center

I wholeheartily agree with Dr. Pisano (and I also served on the Chancellor's Leadership Advisory Committee for CN) that the IC will be a valuable tool for the University and an asset to the community. But I disagree with her that we shouldn't be concerned about details like parking, or traffic impacts, etc. The University has said that they want Carolina North to be the premier research park in the nation. If that is true then they should not only build the IC, they should build it well. It should be state of the art in every way including reduction in impervious surfaces, reduction in greenhouse gases, etc. This first building on the CN campus should be a model of sustainability and set the tone for the buildings to follow. I don't think that setting such lofty goals is too much to ask if the intent is really to have the premier research park in the country.

After all the work to

After all the work to identify what portion of the HW tract is best suited for development based on the environmental assessments requested by the Horace Williams committee; the two public commitments the university has made to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 60%; another public commitment to build all new buildings to a minimum LEED Silver standard; the public meetings to inform the community of what is being done; agreement to provide on site housing; a new commitment to dual plumbing for use of reclaimed water; policies mandating energy efficient purchasing and lighting; the fiscal equity study; the transit study; and on and on, I just don't understand your statements here George. How much more do you want from the university before you stop questioning whether these facilities will be built "well"?

Fred Black's picture

I Didn't Read It That Way

George, I don't think that she is saying not to be concerned with the details. Look at what she wrote:

Of course, citizens of our community have raised concerns as this new development moves forward. What will this mean for adjoining neighborhoods? Will there be more traffic? Will property values go up or down? What will be the impact on our environment?

These good and necessary questions have been addressed in public meetings over the past few years, and the university will undoubtedly continue to address them as planning proceeds.

But let's step back from the details about how many parking spaces will be built and how traffic will be managed to consider why Carolina North, and the Innovation Center in particular, are needed by this community. What exactly will the Innovation Center support? Why do we need it in Chapel Hill?

I take that to mean that she thinks we need to put these things in proper perspective, but first explain to the public why we need the IC in particular. She is trying to answer that.

As some posts on this thread demonstrate, there is plenty of confusion about this entire process and if IC decisions some how lock the Town in on CN overall. As Terri wrote above, the issues related to the IC are not the same ones for the 50-year, multi-phase CN overall.

As we continue to press our concerns over the IC and CN, I hope folks will do it honestly and constructively and not in ways that hinder conversation.

Questions, not impediments

Fred, agree with your sentiments, but want to emphasize that the issues I raise (not speaking for anyone else) are just that, issues to be raised -- not an argument for stopping the process -- and maybe some feedback on how certain kinds of pronouncements directed at the town may "play."  In this large and encompassing a project, I suppose it's inevitable that people saying, "wait a sec, what exactly is happening here?" will be considered by some as really saying "stop, don't you move a muscle!" 

But after months, even years of being told to wait for the University's overall, master plan for CN rather than worrying about any one corner of it, it really isn't surprising if people were taken aback by a couple of actions that the University seemed ready to take without much reference to the much-touted (if, IMHO, sometimes Disney-esque) master plan, especially with all the tweaking and twitching and presenting and discussing.  And if those emergent actions are announced in concert with expectations that the Town back off on such "details" as zoning, parking, or transit policy, it's really not too surprising if town residents might be a bit jumpy, given the history of town-gown-legislature history.   

CN is certainly large enough to encompass law, sciences, business, residences, labs, etc. etc., but either you have some sort of overarching concept (a "master plan") understood by all stakeholders,  or you take whatever good rolls through the door (front or back) and sweat the details after the fact.  If reality is going to push the University into the latter approach, it really does behoove town residents and representatives to pay attention -- not to stop all progress but to avoid the bulldozers piling up the dirt because no one's thought about where it might go.

Ruby Sinreich's picture

Logging in

Priscilla, please contact me (http://orangepolitics.org/contact) if you have tried to recover your password (http://orangepolitics.org/user/password) and couldn't. It does look like you managed to log in last week (http://orangepolitics.org/user/priscilla-c-murphy), make sure you are using the same address and that the e-mail isn't in your spam filter.
Fred Black's picture

Of Couse We Should Pay Attention!

I hope people show up Wednesday night at Town Hall to show that they are going to pay attention.

But to discount UNC's belief that they need the IC because of the current occupancy status of office space in Chapel Hill continues to reflect the tired old argument of some that CN is not needed and therefore it shouldn't be approved. Sounds like a barrier before the fact rather than how our process is suppose to work.

George C's picture

After all the work ...

Terri,

During the concept plan on the IC presented to the CDC in August by the University they stated that nearly two-thirds of the impervious surface on the site would be parking. Although the total impervious surface would be reduced by 4% over that existing now, I think we can and should expect more from the University for this, their lead project on CN. I'm sure that if and when the new owners of University Mall and Ram Plaza come in for plans to renovate those sites that the Council will ask them for a reduction in impervious surface of more than 4%.

You can't have it both ways Terri. You can't use the University's stated plans for all of CN regarding reductions in emisions and environmentally-sound site planning to defend this one project which they themselves have chosen to separate from a master plan for CN and to apply for under a Special Use Permit. This project has to stand on its own merits and the concept plan I saw in August could have done a much better job of reducing impervious surface and perhaps greenhouse gases (although my biggest concern was not the number of parking spaces but the impervious surface).

The problem with having a private partner, such as Alexandria Realties, involved with a project like this is that the private partner is by necessity usually driven to make decisions based on profit margins. I'm not yet convinced that Alexandria shares the same principles as does the University and what the University might prefer to do in principle and what Alexandria will be willing to do in fact might not be one and the same.

Not having it both ways

In the public presentation UNC officials made at the senior center, they stated that the plan for the IC is to stick with the current surface lot and then convert it to a deck when CN construction gets underway. If I am reading you correctly, you believe the university should build the deck as part of the IC special use permit since you have stated in earlier discussions that many of those who will work at the IC won't be amenable to public transit. To me, I'd prefer that they do what is cost effective. One way or another, this is our tax dollars at work.

I agree that we can't have it all, and to me that means we need a more open and direct discussion of how we balance out environmental protections with revenue generation. Holding developers, including UNC, to a standard that puts one in conflict with another is short sighted.

As for your comment on impervious surface...I thought the challenge was to reduce stormwater runoff, which can be handled in many ways other than reducing impervious surface. Can you tell us what percentage reduction in impervious surface Greenbridge and Lot 5 will achieve?

Ruby Sinreich's picture

Live blogging

I'm here at Town Hall now. The Mayor is trying to explain the process (or lack thereof) to the audience. He says the CN Master Plan presentation is just a courtesy and that there will be some proper process dealing with it in the future, and that theInnovation Center is only being reviewed as a concept plan,which means it's nowhere near approval at this point.

Ruby Sinreich's picture

Jack Evans

Jack Evans shares the BOT & Chancellor's regrets. Says this is the 8th time the community has had a chance to comment on these plans (but those were notplans, hey were ideas!)

Evans is reviewing what's driving the need for CN. But of course that is UNC's need for CN, not the Town's need. I would like to hear why it should be in te middle of Chapel Hill, besides the fact that UNC owns land there.

1. support UNC's mission

2. compact mixed us

3. sustainable

4. input from a variety of perspectives
- LAC report
- HWCC report (mentioned, but not on he slide)
- ecological assessment
- infrastructure worksops
- public community sessions
- design team (ASG, University planners)

Evans is showing the ecological assessment that was done last year that shows the stream areas as the most sensitive and least-good for development. Also shows the already disturbed are at the airport and former landfill.

Unfortunately, I am sitting in just the wrong spot and can't see the main part of the map jack is showing now.  Oops.  :-(

Ruby Sinreich's picture

Jack, continued

So far, these maps seems generally the same as what was shown at te last community meeting, but they are not highligting any changes or comparing, so I can't be sure.

Jack emphasizes the 250-acres footprint, 

Transit map show regional connection as well as internal circulators and an express bus line.

The development footprint is entirely in Chapel Hill, but Jack points out that employees and others in Carrboro will also need to be connected. (Duh.)

Utility plans... could be 30-35 years out. Planning for it now.

15-year horizon: 2.475 million square feet.   525,000 sq ft for corporate partners.  500,000 sq ft of housing.  school? 
65-70 acres.  Mostly limited to already-developed area.

Shows us where IC site would be.  South of existing Municipal Drve, on the north west corner of the MLK Blvd frontage.

First 5 years, in this order:
IC, Law School, Centers & Institutes, Corporate I, Housing - grad student, housing - faculty/staff, facilities services, retail/ser4vices.

Conclusion: UNC is taking a brownfield site and tryingt plan a mixed use academic community that will serve the University's mission and also be an asset to the community. 

Ruby Sinreich's picture

Public comment

I just spoke, and said that after the lengthy public conversations and plannign prcesses, it is just not right to have a special use permit before te master plan.

Now Joe Capowski is giving a powerpoint. Hopefully he wlil post it here as I can't capture all the useful info. He says "Mark Chilton is right, CN needs way more housing." (I agree!) He says not not just look at UNC employees, but look at the impact more broadly. He wants UNC to sell the 440 building on Franklin Street.

Lynn Kane. The paper mentioned the 14 years that this has been discussed, but says this lengthy process discourages getting this done. (I'm not getting her points very well.)

(Mayor Foy points out that over all these years, UNC has not chosento bring plans forward to the town. Right: they have wasted the community's time and eneregy is the development of 3 previous plans that they later trashed!

Scott Radway. Points out all the things we knwo now that we didn't know before, like better environmental tools, that can make this better than it would have been then.  Says we have more to learn.  Disagrees with my poit about the timing of the application.  Says the master plan is not to design buildings.  (I know this, I was on the planning board too, Scott.)  The IC could be a "test case" for CN.  (Sorry, but this sounds like a rationalization.  A planner would never say this.)

 

Ruby Sinreich's picture

Council discussion

Mayor Foy says the Council saw this plan a few weeks ago. (Wha?)

Foy: Why do you need a power plant?
Evans: Not sur, bt want the option.

Ward: Encourage UNC to also consider the value of land as an outdoor classroom/laboratory. In the future, We need to have the decision-makers present (ie: Chancellor &/or key BOT members) when we have these conversations.

Harrison: Echoes Jim - it's more important that trustees hear this public comment than the Council (b/c they already know what people think). (He mentions a packet, there was no material for this item on the town web site. Hmm.)

Strom: Hard to react to the master plan without the results of the stdies that are still on-going (fiscal equity, transit). Concerned about the interface with transit. Agrees with Joe Capowski's point on housing, says this willl be too communiter-focused and not mixed use. Hopes UNC will consider joining the town's StormWater Utility. Fiscal issues... Seems like only 20% of the buildings wll be on the tax rolls. We need to test our assumption that there's enough water. Confused about how to have a meaning conversation about all of this. (<-- I agree.)

Greene: Agrees with Capowski and much of Strom's comments.

Thorpe: Remembers when there were no BOT members from this community. UNC has so much land, including dowtown, they should release some of the other properties so we can have it on the tax rolls.

Ward: UNC talks about how CN will benefit the University and the regon. It needs to also help our town. It can't be a success if it makes things worse in Chapel Hill. (Amen!) Demonstrate yor committment to the better of Chapel Hill by making it a priority to create local jobs and local businesses, nurture local business, not just some bigger better Silicon Valley business.

Easthom: Agrees with just about everything that has been said. About the need to vertical, is concerned about the amount of light coming out of these buildings. Wants to protect dark skies.

Foy: How high? Evans: Will be smaller (2-4 stories) on the edges, and taller in the interior. Also considering solar orientation for solar panels. Some are arguing for "agressive use of height."

Cjakowski. The issues raised bythe Council are significant and challenging ones. Can anything come out of this evening that will set uson a process to resolve this?

Foy: UNC has agreed that we willl devise a process. This is still a work in progress. The final plan plan might not look likie what we saw tonight. We are working on the transit master plan, it will be very relevant as well as fiscal equity. The way we're going to move forwafd is unclear but we are committed to it. The Council will talk about what we've heard, and empower someone to put together a proposal for a process.

Cjakowski: Would it be reasonable, given that we know some things thatare on the horizon, to set out a course based on when studies and things should be available.

Foy: Talks about what some of the questions will be.

Evans: For someting this complex, it's OK for different parts of the planning to happen in parallel. We are now at a point where it would be timely to discuss the process, inluding staff-to-staff collaboration.

Foy: Yes, that's what the Council intends to do.

Ruby Sinreich's picture

Developer presentation

Guy from Alexandria: Buncha marketing speak about the firm... "best in class"... "translational medcine"... operating in NC since 1998... completed a Silver LEED bldg for Genentech in CA...

Ana Wu, UNC: Reviewing the site plan. The full presentation will be online tomorrow.

My battery: dying.

Basketball: starting at 9...

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