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Trustees to get look at Carolina North plans

The star indicates a proposed alternative location for the university’s 80,000 square foot Innovations Center, which originally was planned for a site south of Estes Drive Extension. If approved, the new site would be the first for the Carolina North project. Citizen Graphic by Michelle Langston

By Kirk Ross
Staff Writer

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Board of Trustees reviews concept plans this week for 15-year and 50-year build outs for Carolina North.

In its initial phase, the plans call for a cluster of buildings adjacent to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Municipal Drive along with a co-generation plant, transit stations and other infrastructure to be built over a 15-year span. The 15-year plan includes an estimated 4,700-5,000 parking spaces and roughly 2.5 million square feet of facilities including research centers, the possible move of the UNC Law School and other academic activities, patient care clinics and offices for UNC Health Care and housing.

The university’s timeline for the project anticipates action by the Board of Trustees in September and  presentation of plans to local governments by October.

In all, the university has said it hopes to develop roughly 250 acres of the nearly 1,000 acres of the Carolina North property over the next 50 years.

University officials plan to present the concepts for Carolina North shown to the trustees this week at a community meeting on Tuesday, July 31. The meeting will begin at 4 p.m. in Room 2603 of the School of Government’s Knapp-Sanders Building.

Chapel Hill officials have questioned whether the university is moving too fast on the project since discussion on housing, transportation and fiscal equity between local governments and the university have yet to yield an agreement.

Council member Bill Strom, who has focused on the fiscal equity issue, said it’s critical that the town and the university work out an agreement in that area.

“We have to use the desire for UNC to grow to help us financially in this community,” he said in an interview earlier this month. “We can’t afford to subsidize UNC any longer.”

But one indication that the university is intent on the timetable is a related matter on the trustees agenda — the shift of a proposed site for an 80,000-square-foot Innovation Center from the south side of Estes Drive Extension to an area just off Municipal Drive near the Town of Chapel Hill’s former Public Works facility.

Earlier this month, Jack Evans, Carolina North’s executive director, said that the area would likely be in the very first phases of construction. In addition to being already cleared and served by utilities, the site also avoids a potential conflict over the closing of Horace Williams Airport. University officials have said they’d like to close the airport as soon as a new facility is ready for its Medical Air operations. But that idea has met resistance in the North Carolina General Assembly.

While the first 15-year phase of the Carolina North plans include using sections of the current airport runway near Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, the site for the innovations center is out of the way of the airport approach.

The trustees’ meeting begins at 8:00 a.m. today (Thursday) and is held in the Chancellor’s Ballroom at the Carolina Inn.

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