Vision Statements Collected from Area Residents,
November – December 2012, courtesy Fred Lampe
1. November 5, 2012 1:56 PM:
Many of us recognize the need for more housing for retired and elderly citizens. Carol Woods is a wonderful community, but it is filled to capacity and has a lengthy waiting list. There is also a widespread demand for quality retirement housing and assisted living across the country, and many people are looking to retire to the NC area, so from a purely market perspective, a new retirement and assisted living community would make sense and would certainly bring in ample tax revenues for the town.
As important, long-time residents of Chapel Hill face the prospect of having to leave Chapel Hill in their older years because they need assisted living or other amenities and can’t find them in town. This is no way for the town to treat people who have contributed so much to our community. Moreover, these community members would continue to contribute to our lives in meaningful ways. Having a new residential community at the MLK-Estes intersection would permit those residents to connect to the nearby schools, day care center, churches, and other cultural centers, including of course the university. This retirement community could be embedded within a larger, multigenerational housing network (students being part of the broader mix), and include housing that is affordable for people from all walks of life. Such a development, which could include retail spaces, a cultural center, and ample green space, would be a wonderful addition to the surrounding area, an appropriate complement to Carolina North as part of the new gateway into town, and a perfect expression of Chapel Hill’s highest ideals about who we are. This is just one example of the kinds of ideas that we can produce when the community gets involved in the visioning process. It is an example that offers the potential for a win-win situation — current and future residents, businesses, developers, and the town would all benefit.
2. November 15, 2012 9:39 AM:
I am one of several who would advocate to see a creative retirement community (facility) built on the property at Estes and MLK. There is a shortage of such facilities in CH and the impact on traffic would likely be less than the current developer’s proposal.
3. November 15, 2012 12:38 PM; updated Nov. 29, 2012, 10:42 AM :
I read below that “The first Carolina North building is now well into the design phase with construction scheduled to begin Dec. 2013 and completion Nov. 2015. This will be the 7 story, 265,000 sq ft Collaborative Science Building. ”
A 7-story building seems totally out of character with the surrounding neighborhood. With all the space available, do they have to go so tall? This would be like the ugly green high-rise building off 15-501 North at Westgate Road. I assume the plan agreed by the Chapel Hill Town Council allows such high rise construction. Does the Council get a chance to review and comment on this construction?
A few vision item for the apron (and hopefully Carolina North too)s:
• Limiting construction height to be below the tree height (50 feet or 3-4 story)
• construction appropriate to surrounding existing buildings
• buildings should be set back from the street by one tree width
• instead of individual food chain store fronts, a “food court” style attractive building, housing multiple food and other vendors should be encouraged.
• encourage high-density construction closer to the main highways to reduce in-town traffic
• multi-use buildings (restaurants and stores on the first and second levels, offices on second to third level and residential condo on the upper levels (with parking in the basement). Such multi-use means that the streets, sidewalks and parking .will be busy all day and night rather than become deserted ghost towns with conventional zoning. Thus MLK could become a vibrant area north of Homestead, and the smaller streets (estes) would not be subject to high-density construction.
• I like another citizen’s suggestion of a frequent (10 minute wait max) trolley or bus sytem connecting all these buildings and Franklin St and downtown Carrboro. Visitors leave their cars at a parking deck along Eubanks.
• Carolina North should “donate” a strip of land along MLK to make a wide bike and pedestrian mall. A similar strip on the opposite side of MLK could also have outdoor cafes and benches to encourage people meeting their neighbours informally.
• There is no reason why Carolina North cannot be developed to provide space for the university in park-like surroundings and a “Central Park” for Chapel Hill.
4. November 18, 2012 12:02 PM:
You are visiting Chapel Hill. When you arrive from I-40 or from Hwy86 you will park in a Transit Station on the north side of I-40 that handles the entire bus system for the area but will also have a parking deck for visitors. The surrounding area will be landscaped with sustainable trees, plantings, and water features. There will be a “Welcome Center with restrooms, vending machines, and Starbucks. You will enter a “Tarheel” Bus or Trolley for your trip into town. Of course it’s possible to drive into Chapel Hill but this facility is going to make your day of shopping, visiting, attending games etc. so easy that you will want to leave your car here.
As you enter Chapel Hill you would be greeted by Monument Signs with beautiful landscaping saying Welcome to Chapel Hill, Home of the University of North Carolina. You would proceed along University Avenue, ( now MLK Blvd), which has an esplanade with Crepe Myrtles or Bradford Pears. As you traverse towards Carolina North you would notice broad sidewalks on both sides of the street. There would be antique, gift, clothing boutiques and restaurants with sidewalk dining all along your way. The bus would stop often for you to alight and enjoy strolling along the festive avenue. You would notice that any parking for visitors would all be located behind these amenities and that parking would be limited, although reasonably priced and free after 5 p.m. It’s much smarter to take public transportation because the bus/trolley system is so pleasant. Occasionally you would pass entryways with signs saying “Minds At Work Here” and there would be office space and incubators to house the entrepreneurs generated by Carolina North. You would also see entryways into Retirement Communities offering small homes on one level, all fitted to handle handicap specifications, with charming front porches, sidewalks, wooden bridges crossing water features a clubhouse/work-out facility and bike/walking paths. Here, people would age together, with community purpose of looking after one another.
Farther along there would be entryways into a Extended Care Facility and a Day Care for the Elderly.
You would already have noted that NOTHING along University Avenue’s east side is over 60 feet tall. You learn that there are established neighborhoods throughout the area but they remain private and not adversely affected by the development around them. This is because of amazingly astute planning done by citizens working with the Town and University.
As you approach Estes Drive, on the east side, there is a development called Blue Heaven. The landscaping on either side precludes your actually seeing homes, but they are there behind the lovely trees. If you chance to be invited in, the homes are 2000 square feet or maybe 1800 square feet, one level, with connectivity, bike and ped paths, a park and a University Managed Day Care because these are homes targeting faculty, researchers, grad students with children and retired folks who want to down-size. The homes have one car garages but they are seldom used for cars because most of the inhabitants use the incredibly affordable and reliable bus system.
You may stay on the bus and go downtown to a bustling, thriving Franklin Street and happily, the busses run on schedules that are conducive to your enjoying the amenities offered all along the route.
When day ends you will return to your car and think about how wonderful it is that Chapel Hill has grown in a quality way. It is fostering growth of small businesses, and hasn’t compromised in anyway the charm that has always oozed from it’s Tarheel pores.
5. November 19, 2012 10:25 AM:
Thinking environmentally about new development must include – but go beyond – care about effects on run-off, air and water quality, reduction of car-privileged traffic and parking density, light and sound pollution. To honor and protect what is special about Chapel Hill, we should be mindful of theenvironment of community-building and local aesthetics. This means avoiding more tall concrete boxes situated in parking-prioritized parcels – that together suck the naturalness out of their surroundings and create a stark wind, light, and sound climate all their own. We should work toward human-scale walkable community, combining housing that’s not a matter of stacks of replicated floor-plans but rather varieties of size, shape, capacity, and purpose, with small-scale neighborhood-support shops (small grocery, sandwich shops, etc.) – all within walking distance of public transport. Office space, if present, should reflect the same human scale — 2- 4 stories, not 7 or 12. All buildings should reflect natural architectural grace or interest (such as the NC Botanical Gardens buildings or the police station, NOT Environ Way or Greenbridge) as well as environmental sustainability. Above all, construction should be integrated within surrounding trees – preserving as many as possible from the start around all buildings (ideally none taller than tallest surrounding trees, e.g, loblolly pines) – and integrating forested, walkable, neighborhood parks – NOT clear-cutting existing forest and then later planting a few, intermittent new trees as token landscaping that even then will take generations to fill in, if ever. Trees do more than look pretty – they mute noise, clean air, diffuse harsh light (of requisite street and “crime lights”), mitigate strong winds, as well as provide homes for neighborhood wildlife that add to life-quality. The view from the air should not look like a series of wide new gray scars on the face of Chapel Hill, and the experience on the ground should not be a sterile homage to maximizing square footage of concrete and glass rectangles. Think the Botanical Gardens and the older part of Southern Village, not Southpoint or Environ Way.
6. November 24, 2012 9:09 PM:
We want the area to be as quite as it is today. We don’t want to see heavy traffic around MLK and Estes Hills. We can accept more single family houses, but not hotel and apartments with hight density of population.
7. November 24, 2012 10:20 PM:
One of my main concerns is that the larger Estes/MLK intersection be treated as a main entrance to Chapel Hill and have buildings and landscaping of architectural significance. The entire area should be compatible with and complementary to the themes planned for Carolina North – although a seven story building just across from Amity Church would assault the senses.
I would love to see some sample renderings. I wish we could have archetects/developers submit their dream ideas, regardless of their interest in building in this area.
8. November 25, 2012 8:17 AM:
We would Iike to see the area developed with single family/muli family(town homes) homes with walking paths as behind the library, keeping the area like the rest of Estes between MLK and Franklin Street. In hopes this will keep the traffic on Estes to a minimal increase. As residents who live on Estes, we would love to see a ban on semi- trucks on this stretch of Estes also.
9. November 25, 2012 10:46 AM:
I would like see proper planning of this area with walking trails that connect the Carolina North walking trails to Phillips middle school on one side and to the Bolin Creek trail on the opposite site. This would allow people to genuinely bike and walk and reduce car use. The area around the corner of MLK and Estes should be developed in a manner that looks visually appealing and does not create unnecessary traffic problems at the corner.
10. November 25, 2012 11:13 AM:
I would like to echo the comments made by Verla Insko. It is very important to avoid “out of character” buildings in any area of Chapel Hill but in particular the Central West Area.
Central West has evolved into being one of the main corridors of our town and should be planned in a comprehensive/thoughtful way, providing for a lovely and well thought out designed area for our town’s main entrance. The area should place great importance on the landscape and building planning/ architecture.
Planning should include some of our best and most talented architects, including Josh Gurlitz. Josh designed the Warehouse on Rosemary Street and the Franklin Hotel and many others buildings in our area. His designs have added to the beauty of our town. Great architecture after all is a form of Public Art. We need to place more emphasis on this for our town and especially in the Central West Area.
Environmental issues need to be considered as well as traffic flow, safe pedestrian crossings and biking areas, keeping green space for walkers, bikers and runners. The current Carolina North land has been a place for these outdoor activities and with the development of Carolina North, we should factor in the need to retain some of this precious area for public in town outdoor activities.
11. November 25, 2012 11:44 AM:
Here are our wishes for the corner of Estes and MLK :
1) First choice = no development. Keep it as is. woods.
2) Second choice= a park, nature center and walking trails. Maybe a community garden.
3) Third choice= If there is retail and mixed used development , lets make it honor the character and culture that make Chapel Hill Carrboro special unique and famous. We are nationally known for NC pottery and arts, innovative theater like paperhand and playmakers, and for emphasis on local food and great restaurants (didn’t Bon Appetit award us the “foodiest small town in America” in 2009?)….SO what if we use this gateway area to house an artist studio and gallery for the Orange County Artists Guild, and perhaps a small restaurant (Maybe the Lantern or Kitchenwould move north?). The idea is small business, local culture, small retail. NOT a starbucks. NOT a Marriott!
4) Fourth choice= if housing is REALLY a need, then we would want low density single family housing or a very small grad student town home community , surrounded by trails and a wood buffer.
5) We don’t want a big building , big architectural statement, and we don’t think a hotel is needed on that corner.
6) All of the above we would like to see be ECO friendly, LEED, grass on the roof, solar etc.
12. November 25, 2012 12:06 PM:
My primary concern: Development must not be allowed to get too far ahead of the transportation infrastructure improvements that will be required to make the MLK and Estes corridors functional. The Carolina North development agreement includes some triggers linking occupancy of new buildings and level of service. I’d like to see something similar in this plan.
13. November 25, 2012 4:25 PM:
I appreciate Fred Lampe’s zeal for the planning project, and I like the idea of incorporating elder residential on this corner of Estes and MLK, but any “vision statement,” or “mission statement,” of the Central West project needs to be a Central West Steering Committee (CWSC) initiative, not a Fred Lampe initiative.
14. November 25, 2012 4:55 PM:
To serve the needs of the research, business, science, law and technology professionals which the University hopes to attract to Carolina North, the area at the corner of Estes Drive and MLK could be developed as an urban mix of attractive restaurants, cafés and boutique businesses at ground level, topped by mid-rise (3-5 stories) upscale apartments and/or condos. Landscaping around the buildings could incorporate many of the existing mature hardwoods, thus honoring Chapel Hill ’s “tradition of environmental consciousness as seen by an abundance of trees …, open spaces and greenways….” (http://www.ci.chapel-hill.nc.us/index.aspx?page=3).Since Chapel Hill has a budget for public art, sculptures could be placed among the trees and along walkways; buildings could include showcases allowing for changing exhibitions by local artists. To encourage walkability, the sidewalk on the north side of Estes should be extended to MLK, with crosswalks protected by pedestrian push button traffic lights. Both turn lanes from Estes onto MLK should be lengthened, which can help alleviate back-ups during rush periods.
Since the University plans to include student and faculty housing on the Carolina North campus, the focus area of our discussion could be developed with relatively few residential units and a greater proportion of businesses serving the needs of both current neighborhood homeowners and those expected to live and/or work at Carolina North.
15. November 25, 2012 5:08 PM:
I feel pretty ignorant about city planning. I would have thought that the “city planners” that we have on staff would be doing needs assessments and would be creating scenarios for measured growth, considering all of the necessary facets (traffic, run-off, housing of various kinds, green space for leisure, etc). After developing a small area assessment, there would be presentations and discussions, after which developers would be invited to propose projects that would be consistent with the overall plan. My vision now is for the planning committee to come up with reasonable scenarios.
I’m not against developers, but they should not be the designers of the process. And I still don’t understand the role of our city planners.
16. November 25, 2012 6:01 PM:
I think Bob and Tracy O”Briant just put forward the best ideas I have read. I for one hope it remains a residential neighborhood.
17. November 25, 2012 7:43 PM:
Hi: I would like to see areas that are easy for pedestrian and bike travel that are treed and well landscaped. I would also like to assure that auto traffic will be able to move smoothly with well timed lights.
18. November 25, 2012 9:16 PM:
The area needs to be developed with a synergistic view of improving all aspects of Chapel Hill, not merely supporting growth in population and Town tax revenue. Goals should include increasing the number of well paid jobs by keeping more UNC-CH students here after graduation, reducing the amount of commuting done by current residents by attracting regional and national employers to local facilities, and enhancing the ability for the existing local work force to reside in Town and thus contribute to the local tax base. Solution elements include:
1. Startup Incubator Campus with sufficient area to eventually house the critical mass of 2-3 dozen companies with dynamic configurable office space for startups and second phase businesses, shared showroom, restaurants, coffee shops, bars, and a “tech shop” with large scale 3D printer & machine tools
2. Compact Multifunction Convention Center capable of handling 500 participants (1/4 the capacity of the Durham Convention Center and 1/30 of Raleigh’s) including exhibit floor, theatre, a dozen 30-100 person configurable conference rooms, 2 restaurants (one fast and one quality), 200 room hotel, transit station supporting direct non-transfer service to RDU airport
3. Transit-based work force housing including both non-luxury 1-3 bedroom condos and apartments, with limited “fee-only” parking, within both walking and biking distance to Carolina North, the Incubator Campus and MLK transit stops — instead of undergraduate student housing, which is fundamentally a UNC responsibility
All of the above need to blend with their surroundings and transition appropriately between the 7 and 8 story structures of Carolina North and the surrounding residential neighborhoods of 1 and 2 story homes by keeping underneath the area’s mature 50-60 ft tree canopy.
19. November 26, 2012 8:32 AM:
We Chapel Hillians, including the staff, protect the langauge of the “Town” of Chapel Hill. The development plan should more importantly protect the feel and character of a Town. The character of development, in keeping with the feel of a town, is the single most important element to me.
With MLK as a major gateway into the Town of Chapel Hill, we can expect some multi-story buildings, but only low-rise and Town-feel. MLK is well-suited to multi-family housing, to the extent more is needed. As Carolina North is intended to be graduate programs, any “student” housing should be designed with graduate students in mind. More yards, green space, no dorms and minimal paveovers. When and if demand warrants another hotel, a small, 3-story or less property of character-not chain–would be acceptable. Restaurants or modest cluster of retail is welcome, but only when and if demand shows high likelihood of success rather than empty spaces like we see in Meadowmont. The restaurant and shopping areas in Carrboro at Carr Mill Mall or in the Southern Village town square seem ideal, done tastefully in a walkable and low-rise setting. My sense is that we are at least 5 years out from those kinds of needs, and that successful retail/restaurant space is likely to follow only when Carolina North is actually developed. Ideally, the fast-food or quick-pick solutions would be left for on-campus locations on Carolina North and the apron around Carolina North could be more midscale, upscale offerings — not fast food. Whatever the uses, good setbacks (nothing like the “Aloft” hotel on Hwy 54/Glen Lennox) and a walkable, community feel are ideal.
Estes Drive, on the other hand, is both a neighborhood and an entry point for multiple other neighborhoods. Development along Estes should reflect and enhance that character. A retirement community is one way of increasing density, meeting a need, and preserving character. A tasteful, attractive daycare is another good option except for the likely traffic demands that overburden clogged roads at rush hours, am and pm. I could imagine that there might be other examples of cluster homes or town homes that modestly increase density, preserve a neighborhood feel and minimize traffic impacts. While it would be lovely to have tasteful single family homes along Estes Drive, I do not think the Town or its citizens can realistically mandate that given both the presence of schools, library, church and the needs of the Town. If Town planning warrants another park/green space along this area (unclear given proximity of Homestead, Umstead, community center ,greenway), that would be lovely–but I suspect that is simply not warranted given other options. I see avoiding dorms or apartments along Estes as a key priority.
20. November 26, 2012 8:11 PM:
Sorry I can’t be specific – I feel it’s important to plan for future needs and to make whatever it is compatible with the culture and atmosphere in the area. I don’t know what those are – doubt it’s student housing, but is it housing for old folks – is it a hotel – is it single family housing?
The sentiments presented by others that whatever it is needs to be aesthetically pleasing should accompany sentiments regarding obstruction in terms of runoff and traffic and any other environmental concerns.
21. November 26, 2012 9:15 PM:
Based on traffic, road conditions, and existing uses, it seems best to keep Estes Drive single family residential. On MLK, however, the wider road and greater access by car and mass transit suggest a number of other appropriate uses. These include:
· Medium to high density residential
· Health and fitness facilities (like an expanded YMCA)
· Medical offices and treatment facilities, perhaps clustered in a “medical park”
· Office facilities. Again, an office park or campus-like arrangement would be good.
· Due to the proximity to Carolina North, a research park housing spin-off endeavors and other intellectually-based undertakings could be useful.
· Retail space and restaurants. A cluster with limited access would be much better than isolated facilities that would require each to have its own driveway and parking
· A medium-sized hotel could also work, and provide a needed service for University visitors, provided there is adequate access and egress without gumming up the MLK-Estes intersection
For many of the above uses, careful and creative transportation planning (e.g., traffic lights, turn lanes, parking, mass transit stops) will be required to avoid creating traffic-related problems.
22. November 27, 2012 1:22 PM:
I would like to see a bus route that goes from the end of South Estes all the way to the end of Estes Drive extension in Carrboro and back. Better yet, a streetcar on tracks to save energy. That could eliminate a lot of car traffic from students in apartments going to the grocery and drug stores near University Mall or Carr Mill. The streetcar would be a scenic addition to town. And people can transfer to other bus lines at Franklin St. or University Mall.
I would like continuous sidewalks on both sides of Estes, so neighborhood children can walk to the a crossing guards to cross Estes. It was tough for my children to cross the street to walk a couple blocks to school since we live on the downhill Estes run without a sidewalk, where the cars get up to 50 mph. Now that we have right turn on red at Franklin & Estes from the downhill side, chances to cross are few. The first week of kindergarten, I tried crossing with my daughter & baby boy in a stroller, to walk the 2.5 blocks to Estes Hills Elementary school. As we walked up the sidewalk side, a senior woman driver who was looking at the children swerved out of her lane behind us and sideswiped a mailbox. Pieces of mailbox, hubcaps, rear view mirror, etc. exploded around us with a BOOM. From then on I drove them to school every day until middle school. So the sidewalk should not be right beside the street (the way it is on the downhill run of Franklin St. from downtown). It’s terrifying to be on foot with cars zooming beside you at 50, 60 mph.
I would like to see a safe, wide bike lane on each side, with none of those drain openings that a bike tire can fall into, throwing the bike rider over the top of the bike.
The Estes traffic just plain needs to be slower going down the hill to Franklin. In front of our house one year after Christmas, a driver crashed into a full-size garbage truck on Estes Drive. Unfortunately, one of the town sanitation workers was standing behind it loading Christmas trees and survived but was permanently disabled. In the Durham paper, the driver said the sun was in his eyes. You never know if people are texting or paying attention either. I’ve been blasted with a car horn many times for slowing down to turn into my driveway, and I do use the blinkers!
Please don’t cut down the big old trees along Estes. They are one of the nice things about Chapel Hill. Let the sidewalks go around them, and let us put a bench here and there for people to rest. But not too close to the street.
23. November 27, 2012 10:50 PM
I visualize a small area plan for the Central West Focus Area that will establish guidelines that if adopted will guide the Town for years. I would recommend that the Steering Committee expand the impact area to include any possible redevelopment areas along transit corridors in the planning area. The work could begin with a study of what is existing now: (1) inventory of the natural assets we have in this area including the beautiful Carolina Forest, the major waterways and their tributaries; (2) study transportation routes and road capacities, figuring in estimated impact of Carolina North and other development already approved but not built, (3) study Carolina North Agreement which describes what has already been approved for the new campus, and (4) identify existing and estimate future economic needs before considering new possibilities for development and redevelopment.
For Estes Drive, I am interested in maintaining the residential character of our street. It will continue to be an important cross connector but won’t function as the main gateway to Carolina North, which will be served by bus rapid transit, a special lane along Martin Luther King Jr. running from a stop near I- 40. The key gateways for Carolina North from the north will be the I-40 interchange on MLK and Weaver Dairy Road. The safety of the residential and school zones along Estes will be improved with rough surface treatment and pedestrian lights to slow traffic and make walking to schools much safer. New development fits in with what we have now, ranging from single family to garden apartments. Egress and ingress issues have been thoughtfully considered on development close to the MLK-Estes intersection.
For MLK I visualize a major redevelopment project where the present office space is located south of Estes Drive and the YMCA limited to 3 stories with pleasant tree-lined setbacks, a courtyard coffee shop located on a green, and a large rain garden planted with native plants. For the acreage back of the YMCA, an assisted living facility co-exists peacefully with adjacent residences. This one was planned with an entrance and low traffic volumes that won’t cause excessive traffic snarls near the main MLK-Estes intersection. Carolina North is planned to be as inviting and green as the quads of central campus. Developments planned near the new campus will complement Carolina North and offer smaller scale buildings with handsome setbacks and street trees forming a transition to the single family neighborhoods.
24. December 12, 2012 10:04 PM
My vision is simple: Green and Green. Lots of trees, parks, vegetable gardens, green space, hydrogardens, walking paths… Innovative, leading-edge, low-carbon-footprint, solar, architecturally attractive/green buildings and businesses. Let’s enhance what we’re known for — being an innovative, environmentally-friendly, pretty [substitute cute, charming, delightful, etc] town.
25. December 17, 2012 5:22 PM
Central West Vision
Provide double and triple width sidewalks for one of the town’s busiest intersections. In as much as possible, re-route bicycle and bus traffic away from the intersection. Several new developments along this corridor will add literally thousands of cars — 500 just from Chartwell as it is on the table at present. Deal with this either by re-routing traffic or limiting the size and scope of these new developments.
1. The developer plans to build a hotel with a bar within this undergrad housing complex. Do we want to sanction the mix of under-aged students and a drinking establishment? A neighborhood bar might be a more welcome addition across the street at Carolina North.
2. Give this development another name, unique and appropriate for the character of our community. “Snob appeal” achieves the opposite effect in a university town.
3. Light pollution will be a significant problem for the single family houses bordering this development unless diligence is taken in the placement of street lamps. No dumpsters should be placed within sight or smell of bordering properties.
4. Build a fence around the property to discourage cutting through yards of neighboring single family homes. A substantial tree screen would be in keeping with the aesthetic character of Chapel Hill and a “good neighbor” measure.
UNC should provide upscale visitors housing here for long and short term collaborative efforts.
Give priority to building a State Employee Credit Union on site.
Consider building a profitable and affordable assisted living facility particularly for retired university employees.