UNC-Chapel Hill and the Town of Chapel Hill will break ground on the new Carolina Square project today. The mixed-use project will replace the demolished University Square shops and offices on Franklin St.
Carolina Square will have shops, apartments, office space, and a performing arts center.
Gordon Merklein runs Real Estate Development at UNC-Chapel Hill. He says Carolina Square will offer some of the first apartments available downtown.
"It's also targeted to downtown shoppers to improve the density of retail, and bringing an office component to downtown, which will be 50-percent leased by the university as well as the Carolina Performing Arts," Merklein says. "So it really is a way to blend in the university's needs plus the town's needs."
Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt says the previous office and strip mall complex wasn't well designed to accommodate parking or foot traffic.
"The fact that new office space and residential development is part of this is going to add a great deal of vibrancy because it builds in a daytime consumer base as well as a 24-hour residential consumer base for downtown," says Kleinschmidt. "And those are the elements that have shown to help reinvigorate and create new energy in downtowns across the country."
Kleinschmidt says downtown revitalization efforts in Durham and Raleigh have benefited economic development efforts in communities across the Triangle.
Gordon Merklein says the project should wrap up in the fall of 2017.