Much was made, when Walgreen proposed building a drugstore at one of Chapel Hill’s most prominent intersections, of preserving the charm of our fair village. And the Walgreen team did a beautiful job – two stories, skylights, green features, trees to hide the loading docks. So why, then, has The Courtyard renovation team gone to such lengths to make the mixed-use project look like a warehouse district?
Personally, I like Downtown Durham’s renovated American Tobacco warehouses and the renovated mills where Duke University has some offices near its East Campus. But part of their coolness is that they once were tobacco warehouses and mills. I’m skeptical that trying to wallpaper a contemporary building with a warehouse district aesthetic will have any sort of authenticity to it whatsoever.
That said, its functionality should be well-received. What some might perceive as drawbacks might be welcomed by the students who are expected to occupy the residential units. The exterior fire-escape-style walkways connecting the building will be great for zipping barefoot over to a friend’s apartment or hanging out with neighbors, Ehringhaus-dorm-style. The top level of the parking deck will provide a terrific party space. The neighborhood is already populated by students, who probably wouldn’t complain about any noise. And the parking deck 10 feet from the apartment windows will prevent sunshine from prematurely waking a late-rising or napping student.
However, the parking deck will block access to P.H. Craig’s parking lots currently leased by the town. The lots can be made accessible via Basnight Lane, but that street is so narrow that, if a car or delivery truck were parked along the edge of the street, a fire truck or ambulance wouldn’t be able to travel down the block without taking out all the mailboxes along the way. Craig said he is meeting with the developers later today to work something out so that he can retain a point of egress to Roberson Street. The discussions should be wonderfully routine after what he went through with The Courtyard’s previous owner.
See the presentation of the planned renovations for The Courtyard at the Town Council’s business meeting Wednesday night.
– Nancy Oates