CHAPEL HILL — A developer’s second proposal for a hotel in Southern Village got positive reviews from residents, business owners and council members Monday.
Southern Village resident Barbara Crane opposed developer Bryan Properties’ original plan to build a hotel on a parking lot in the village’s central business district.
This time, she and others said it makes sense because of the location and the tax revenue, visitors and shoppers it will bring to southern Chapel Hill.
Chris Buchholtz, a 17-year resident, said he likes living in a community where the kids walk to school, you can get a cup of coffee and the pharmacist checks to be sure your child can have a candy bar.
“A hotel within walking distance, in my view, is good for the town, good for the village core and good for me and my Southern Village neighbors,” Buchholtz said.
Developer D.R. Bryan is asking the Town Council to approve a two-phase project. The first phase would be a 112-room, five-story hotel and 90-space parking lot on U.S. 15-501. The hotel, smaller than originally planned, would replace three rental homes on a 4.14-acre strip at the village’s edge.
The second phase calls for up to 40 apartments behind the Southern Village Apartment District.
The council’s hotel vote is set for Oct. 28. The apartments would return for future consideration.
Besides the hotel project, the council must agree to reduce an approved buffer between Southern Village and the rental homes and increase the size of the combined properties slated for development by transferring 1.8 acres from Southern Village.
The residential properties, which are under contract, will need a mixed-use village rezoning that allows taller buildings, dense development and more square footage.
Council member Donna Bell said the project boosts the commercial tax base and creates a gateway on the town’s southern border.
“It marks this line that really keeps this sort of small-town feel of Chapel Hill. It doesn’t feel like it’s in the middle of a city, it doesn’t feel like it’s in the middle of sprawl,” she said.
One concern was the project could create issues of car and pedestrian access.
The hotel’s right-in, right-out U.S. 15-501 entrance will send drivers heading toward Chapel Hill across a right-turn lane for Market Street and two lanes of southbound traffic to make a U-turn north. Guests driving north would pass the hotel, make a U-turn at Arlen Park Drive and head south.
Traffic volume will change very little, because hotel use is heaviest in off-peak hours, Bryan said. The N.C. Department of Transportation offers few options for the intersection, he said.
A second, pedestrian-only entrance would be built on Barksdale Drive if the council agrees to remove part of a required buffer. It would be below street level and accessible via a series of steps, prompting Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt and Council member Jim Ward to ask about access for guests who are disabled or older.
Bryan said the 15-501 entrance would give less physically able guests access to the village core. The sidewalk to Market Street is less steep than Barksdale Drive, it’s roughly the same distance and trees could provide shade, he said.
That’s not a believable scenario, because there’s nothing for pedestrians to look at and the highway traffic doesn’t feel safe, Kleinschmidt said.
Bryan also has submitted a separate petition asking the town for more flexibility in how much floor area must be dedicated to retail or office uses in the Southern Village core.