"So What is That Thing?"

... it's a mixed-use project, combining offices and residential condominiums, called simply "605 West Main Street." Technically, it's a three-story building, the maximum allowed in the B-1(g) [Carrboro] zoning district in which it is located. In actuality, though, the building will stand four stories tall; the entire ground floor will serve as a parking level. - Chapel Hill News, 7/12/04

I'd have to agree with Alex Zaffron that parking is not as good a use of the ground floor as retail. But what's really remarkable is the lack of an outcry against this building. It appears (at least from the skeleton) to be a break from tradition - and that's not a bad thing. The only complaint from a neighbor the reporter could find was that it's being built "too close to the street."

Have you seen it? Is it a visionary step forward or an out-of-place behemoth?


I think Patrick's hit the nail on the head. I would only add that when beginning the Downtown Visioning project five years ago, that, while there could have been some improvements had it been developed under the new ordinances--that directly address the issues pointed out by Patrick--this project is in the mean, exactly the kind of activity I envisioned. As well, if one views the renderings of the completed structure, with well-detailed and articuladed facades The building will probably blend with its surroundings far more than the raw steel.

It's also worth noting, that the tone set by the town by seeing the visioning project through was probably a significant factor in the decision to move ahead with the proposal. Moreover, while I find it unseemly to offer 'nyah-nyah-I-told-you-so" 's in the press, I would humbly submit that the lack of negative response to this building thus far--even with the aforementioned flaws--vindicates the outcome of the Visioning process.

I suspect that the next projects we see (and there are several proposals floating about) under the new ordinances will provide even better examples of smart-growth urban infill. Stay Tuned.



I was more surprised by the Chapel Hill News' attempt to create controversy than the steel rising into the sky near my gym. Any neighbor/runner/student that can read that goes to Carrboro Elementary has seen the "rezoning" signs followed by the "public hearing" signs followed by the "pending development" signs followed by a picture of the proposed "behemoth" that stood on the site for months before it was even graded. I think the debate is currently framed in the wrong way. We should be asking ourselves whether any development in town is good or bad and how we could've improved it. But more importantly, we should be asking ourselves if the process included as many voices as possible in the decision and that folks weren't surprised unnecessarily. I'm not aware of anyone that can claim that they didn't know this was going in and didn't have an opportunity to speak their mind about it before it was approved.

I'm hoping in the future folks will observe signs on property they care about carefully and, if concerned, call the town zoning department and ask for more information. I've done this before and been very happy with the willingness of staff to give me oodles of information on the proposed development and dates on future public hearings.

Personally, I'm frustrated that the Chapel Hill News would print a headline that suggested "surprise" when there was nothing surprising about this building being built. Perhaps they are interested in trying to pick a fight where none exists?

In my opinion, this is an example of infill that works. It isn't looming over fixed-income neighbors. It's unlikely to create a noise nuisance for neighbors. And it seems to take care of its own parking needs, without subtracting from any others, and without crowding neighborhood streets with parking and traffic (I'm presuming that will be the effect).

It's an overdue step in the right direction for several reasons:

1. It's true infill development- it's filling a space within an already developed area, and does not contribute to sprawl.

2. It's mixed use- with office and housing in one building, there is a potential for some live/work convenience and trip reduction.

3. The new office space increases the leasable commercial tax base in close proximity to downtown Carrboro, an attractive locale for a business with a lack of available space.

4. It increases density within human scale (4 floors). A resident on the top floor would be able to open a window and watch their child walk to school.

5. It increases the number of housing units in Carrboro. Although these units are high-end, the more units we have in town, the more likely we are to have affordable units.

It could have been improved by:

1. Having ground-level retail.

2. Having sidewalks wide enough to accomodate some public art, kiosk, or other street furniture. (I'm not sure that this is not the case, though)

More info here:



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