Positive changes go hand in hand in east Chapel Hill

A few days ago we heard that the Ram's Plaza strip mall has been sold to a real estate development/management company, The Kalkow Group. This is can't be unrelated to the Town's recent completion of the draft Ephesus Church Road/Fordham Boulevard Small Area Plan. (In fact, it may even have been anticipated by the Town, I admit I didn't follow the process very closely.) A recent Chapel Hill News article shows how closely they are tied together...

Construction transportation and road improvements would likely start in 2013, around the same time the new owner would begin work on plans to redevelop the plaza. It's critical that the two happen around the same time, [Chapel Hill Economic Development Director Dwight] Bassett said. The Town Council has said it would not approve permits for new development until traffic congestion at the intersection is improved, he said.

The council approved a plan in June that would mitigate traffic by adding lanes and improve road surface, he said.

"It's critical again, because it's my presumption that the new owner of Rams Plaza is going to want to come in and get a special use permit. ... We need to be prepared to have improvement go forward before the bulk of the redevelopment occurs." 

chapelhillnews.com: Rams Plaza sold by Katelyn Ferral, 12/21/11

It's not hard to see how the Town's publicly stated plans would encourage a business to invest in the area which is currently suffering from snarled traffic and owner neglect. This revitalization will probably lead to more economic development, which I think we all agree is a good thing. Though many questions remain, for example will it support local businesses and/or bring in big box chains? Will it involve more parking and/or be transit oriented? Etc. In any case, this is a great example of how smart long-range planning serves to strengthens our local economy.

So in addition to questions about the nature of this revelopment, I am also wondering what this means for the Town's adoption of the plan, which is still currently listed as a "final draft report" on the Town's web site.  Hopefully Erin Crouse and others who are more familiar with this can fill us in on more details and on what this might mean...


Now, if the town would only do this for other areas in town that are ripe for re/development, it would help developers in figuring out what they can and cannot do in those areas. As it stands now, it's a big unknown because of the arcane SUP system we have in place.

as this area needs tweaking and is ripe for redevelopment, and by that I mean improved traffic flow, bus stops and full retail occupancy in the 3+ commercial sites in this Ephesus Church area. While the town should be commended for adding sidewalks and bike trails to part of the area in recent years, it's still not very walkable for a lot of folks and is not likely to be. I wouldn't trust kids to cross 15-501 via the cross walk at Willow, even with the pedestrian light. My point: this part of town still needs ample parking to keep these areas vibrant, but it also needs safe walkways through these massive parking lots/roadways. Given my druthers, I would like to see a healthy mix of local, regional, and national stores. I think Trader Joe's is an example of a national chain that is value added.And regarding the one prior posting made by anonymous, I quite agree about the SUP process. I would like to see the town adopt a clear, explicit plan that will plainly state what development is and is not acceptable. High standards, environmental and other considerations do not need to be sacrificed to do this. In fact, they might even be strengthened. The current SUP process is something of an expensive crap shoot (read, unpredictable and fickle). Unintended consequences include making affordable housing, be it single family houses, townhomes, or condos even more out of reach for the little guy.

I agree the area needs parking adequate for the driving demand (although I would use the term "adequate" instead of "ample), but are the parking lots around there ever full?

The lot can be pretty full, but is rarely totally full.

I definitely agree with most of what you're saying but I'd love to see some improvements to the pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure in the area. There are neighborhoods behind the current Ram's Plaza and next to it that are walkable without crossing 15-501.

I think this is a great opportunity for the town to really ask for what it wants, simply and clearly, and then execute with minimal fuss. Many of the things that are contentious in other places don't exist here. Sure, much of the site is in a flood plain, but it's already built so we aren't going to change that. I, too, would like to see clever solutions that would improve biking and walking. 

who the retailers are? Orange county taxes are nuts and there is no forcast of reductions in sight. If they will come let them. If they wise up and leave behind a big corner box then...its sitting there till the wizards of spending come to their senses. If I were a developer I would be looking elsewhere...say in a pro business county near the rail line proposes to ferry shoppers out of the storm that is Orange. Even there the proposesed  transit tax can be absorbed via less regualtory pain and and the disdain of the shopper towards National chains is not worn on openly.It matter not who comes as long as they are recived with a blessing instead of a scurge cow to be milked. cw  edit) please note that anyone w/ the mear inclanation to do start up in Orange need only a cursory search on businesses that have looked at Orange/CH and opted not to. There are plenty of "news" sources that have documented the anti- business climate. Weakness is provocative.
"One of the most noble things you can do is kill the enemy."-Maj. Douglas Zembiec 


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