Construction on East Rosemary Street to create new economic and research opportunities
The East Rosemary Street redevelopment project, a joint venture between the Town of Chapel Hill and Grubb Properties that aims to encourage business growth and research development in downtown Chapel Hill, is expected to be completed by ‘next summer.
Construction of the project began in September 2021 and will include a parking deck and an office building with Wet Labs – research laboratory space for handling hazardous liquid chemicals.
Dwight Bassett, the city’s economic development officer, said construction of the office buildings will be finalized by the end of the year and should be operational by next summer.
“The project will provide economic development and opportunity for Chapel Hill, creating new space for research and businesses to locate downtown, and for university and business partnerships that are currently lacking. “said Michael Stevenson, director of Perkins Eastman, the architecture firm involved in the project.
According to the project’s webpage, the new parking deck will be located at 137 E. Rosemary St. Although the structure consolidated pre-existing parking areas, Bassett said the garage will include 1,100 parking spaces, adding a net total of 250 parking spaces in downtown Chapel Hill. .
Bassett added that the University will lease 100 of the spaces, supporting the Admissions Center and undergraduate visitor offices that may relocate to Porthole Alley next to the Carolina Coffee Shop pending further redevelopment discussions.
The land at 137 E. Rosemary St. was traded to the City by Grubb Properties for the Wallace Parking Deck. As part of the agreement, Grubb Properties will renovate the two joint buildings at 136 E. Rosemary St. and 137 E. Franklin St. to house offices and a wet lab.
Bassett said the lab space would help attract more entrepreneurs and allow Chapel Hill to continue research in and around the UNC community.
“There’s over a billion dollars of research happening on the UNC campus,” he said. “And when that research goes to companies, the vast majority either goes to Durham or (Research Triangle Park), because we don’t have wet lab space.”
In April, Grubb Properties leased approximately 20,000 square feet of 136 E. Rosemary St., or one-third of its total building space, to Innovate Carolina, the University’s team that supports entrepreneurship and development economy on campus and in the community.
The organization will build a hub to help start businesses and create new technologies, products and services. The structure will also benefit Launch Chapel Hill, an organization that helps start-up businesses. The organization plans to move to the new space in 2023.
If the new office building proves successful, Bassett said Grubb Properties plans to build an additional 250,000 square feet of office and wet lab space in place of the Wallace parking lot.
Sheidy Rios-Vazquez, a sophomore in exercise and sports science at UNC, said she thinks students are actively seeking research opportunities like those that may be offered in the new lab space.
“Having a wet lab nearby, having the opportunity to immerse yourself in an experience like that is great for students who are eager and looking for ways to integrate into the scientific community itself,” said she declared.
In addition to building renovations, the city also plans to expand Varsity Alley and Post Office Alley to connect East Franklin and East Rosemary streets.
Additionally, new trees and a widened sidewalk will be added to East Rosemary, making the street more walkable. A park and communal greenery will also be developed near the project buildings to provide the community with new green spaces.
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