Short shrift for Shortbread?

What better circumstances, if you’re a developer wanting to build an 85-unit apartment building, than to have the town change the ordinance, a week before your presentation, effectively limiting the housing supply of your target market in a neighborhood a few blocks away.

No wonder the developers, known only as “Shortbread Lofts LLC,” who have been planning this seven-story mixed-use project for a good six years, feel now the time is ripe to break ground. The developers go before Town Council tonight to request zoning of the 1.4-acre site at 333 W. Rosemary St. be bumped up a notch from Town Center-2 to Town Center-3 conditional. The developers also are asking for a special use permit to raze the 22 apartments currently on the site and build the 144,290 square feet of floor space that includes 3,560 square feet of ground-floor commercial space and make room for 121 parking spaces.

More good luck: The planning board has given the project its blessing. And the developers have precedent on their side. Town Council approved the much taller Greenbridge and 140 West projects. The apartments will be market rate in a range of sizes and prices. The plan’s energy-efficient features show nothing more exotic than solar panels for hot water and a tankless hot water system as back-up. The material submitted by the developers does not indicate that they expect the town to kick in any money to mitigate the developers’ risk or to clean up any toxic waste from the site. (How much is the 140 West bill up to now?)

And after last week’s 5-hour, 22-minute marathon, and public hearings for another construction project and a concept plan review also on the agenda, council members may be very focused in their comments and questions. (The other public hearings pertain to the Hultquist IP Office Building in Meadowmont – a Master Land Use Plan Modification and special use permit – and a concept plan review for the Arc of Orange County Apartments in Meadowmont.)

What could possibly go wrong?
– Nancy Oates

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  1. Scott

     /  January 18, 2012

    I don’t know what to make of this short nonsensical post. I was on the Community Design Commission in 2005 & 2006 when this project went thru the concept review phases. The current proposal is for a lesser amount of development and in a shorter building. It will provide needed modern downtown rental apartments (not expensive condos) and otherwise achieve the goal of increasing the residential population within the downtown, not in nearby neighborhoods. As for the names of the developers – you know who they are. Why didn’t you just use their names and say something about their continued personal and business investments in Chapel Hill. It has taken about 6 years to work thru the process to arrive at this excellent development proposal – they are to be congratulated for sticking with their commitment to the downtown and Chapel Hill in total.

  2. Chris Jones

     /  January 18, 2012

    “What could possibly go wrong?”

    Hopefully, nothing. Shortbread is, in my opinion, an exceptionally exciting project for a number of reasons. The building, itself, will help in our market’s current efforts to “revitalize” downtown without compromising the character or history of this special district. From a safety and security standpoint, more residents = more eyes on the street . From an economic development standpoint, more residents = more opportunities for cash-flow in the surrounding restaurants and retail shops, and more incentive to lure new businesses (grocery?) to downtown. As noted, the Shortbread Lofts may provide some easing on the demand for student residences in the Northside community, giving the Town a great chance to further evaluate the needs and future of markets adjacent to downtown and campus.

    As importantly, this project is wholly owned and managed by local individuals, with long-standing business relationships in the community. Larry Short has been a successful developer, who, critically, understands how to “move the product.” His partners* are great business owners that are heavily vested in this community. What these are NOT are the dreaded “developers” that people in Chapel Hill love to oppose – those evil soulless entities that dare to come to our quaint community for no purpose other than profit (HOW DARE THEY!). This project is a great “story to tell” of how to reimagine available space, and have local people engaging in successful local projects.

    * In reviewing different news articles and the NC Secretary of State website, Larry is the only person who has been named in these sources. I do not know if that is a conscious effort to refer all inquiries to Larry, or if the other partners wish to remain “off the grid”. As such, I have chosen to not identify the other partners by name.

    Almost as important, the Town and its’ residents get an opportunity to

  3. Terri Buckner

     /  January 18, 2012

    When this project was originally proposed, it was intended to be workforce housing rather than student housing. I’m sorry to see that change, but agree that it’s a good project.