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Economy slows Carolina North, AHEC move likely in 2011

By Kirk Ross, Staff Writer

Basic economics have changed the timeline if not the strategy for UNC’s Carolina North project, even as the likelihood has increased of the departure of the Medical Air operations next year.

Moving Med Air, which transports doctors and health care instructors for the medical school’s Area Health Education Center program, to Raleigh-Durham (RDU) International Airport is likely to occur sometime late next spring or early summer, according to Jack Evans, who is leading the Carolina North project.

Evans said he expects Med Air’s fleet of six aircraft to move to a new hangar under construction at RDU. Work on the hangar is expected to be complete in March 2011.

What’s next for the Horace Williams airport and its surrounding property is for now a little less certain.

The initial building for the new campus was intended to be the Innovations Center, a public-private partnership that would house university spin-offs and entrepreneurs working with the school. The Chapel Hill Town Council approved a special-use permit for the building, to be located near the intersection of the former Municipal Drive and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, in early 2008. But the center’s timeline is now uncertain.

“The state of the economy is slowing that down,” Evans said.

And even though the university’s board of trustees recently approved a site and preliminary plans for a new law school, there are no funds to move ahead.

“We know where we want to put the law school,” Evans said. But moving ahead on the project, he said, will depend on legislators finding the money for it.

Evans said the first building at Carolina North may be a research building that would house a number of centers and institutes that are now paying rent elsewhere.

“We could redeploy those rents to cover the debt burden of the building,” he said.

The project is in the planning stage and where the new building will go on the property has yet to be presented to the board of trustees for review, Evans said. Once plans are firmed up, he said, UNC would move forward with a site-development request to the town in a process spelled out under a development agreement for Carolina North struck with the town last year.

Early stages of any work at Carolina North would start with building the infrastructure to support future development, Evans said.

  1. doug holmes

    this would be the third location for the law school, starting with manning hall, and guarantees less of a connection for alumni; some things need to be left as is rather than search for the newest next thing to do or be!
    doug holmes
    chapel hill