Chapel Hill Receives First Ephesus-Fordham Proposal

Rendering of the proposed Village Plaza Apartments

Yesterday, the Town of Chapel Hill received its first application for a development under the new form-based code rules it approved for the Ephesus-Fordham area earlier this year.

The proposal, called the Village Plaza Apartments, is a mixed-use development proposal for 266 apartments and 15,600 square feet of retail space. The development will be located on South Elliot Road between Whole Foods and the ABC Store in what is known to some as the old theater site. The application was submitted by Scott Murray Land Planning, Inc.

Under the Ephesus-Fordham rezoning, this site is zoned WX-7, for walkable mixed-use development. Buildings for this zone can be up to 7 stories tall, not to exceed 90 feet in height. You can read more about the form-based code for this site here and for the entire Ephesus-Fordham district here.

Given that the Ephesus-Fordham rezoning attracted extensive attention and strong opinions from a variety of residents, I'm sure this first application will be closely watched as it moves through this new process.



This is the sort of development I'd hoped we'd see after implementation of the Ephesus-Fordham form-based code. Given all the retail immediately surrounding the site, it's not surprising that this first effort out of the box is residential-heavy, but anything that gives people more choices to live in Chapel Hill is a benefit. A few notes:

  • They're using the entire 90-foot height allowance, although providing only six stories, not seven.
  • I would like to have seen some 3- or 4- bedroom units, to better accomodate families with more than 1 child. (Arguably 2-bedroom units are hard to live in with 2 kids, but it depends on the size of the unit and your comfort level.)
  • I wish fewer parking spaces were provided, or that cost of parking were unbundled from the cost of the unit. I think it's telling that the developer is providing the minimum required number of spaces for the new uses being built; an extra 95 spaces on top of that is being provided for the Whole Foods employees who used to park on the site, and that seems reasonable given the size of the store (and perhaps some of the parking will be for employees of other businesses there?). Given the good and improving transit service, close-by retail and service opportunities, and the general location, it could be an easy place for folks to go car-lite or car-free. I thought during the debate over the form-based code and continue to think that the mandatory parking requirements should be reduced for the E-F district, and I continue to think so. Unbundling parking could help lower the price of living for those who do car-free, and while the developer doesn't promise it, I assume it's not precluded.
  • That said, the absence of new on-street parking (except for the few spaces provided on the site of the old, unused restaurant site) is good.
  • I wish the developer explicitly provided spots for car-sharing services like ZipCar although, of course, that's another thing the property manager could offer in the future. I think that would be a great amenity for the residents, make car-free or car-lite life more feasible, and jump-start car-sharing in the area (away from the universities, which do have it but they're a special case.)
  • I appreciate that they're providing more short-term bike parking than is required by ordinance. How can a restaurant use only require 2 bike parking spaces?

The design from the renderings is interesting, perhaps a bit busy, but I'm no architecture critic and find it hard to judge from renderings. I just hope it's better looking than some of the town's other new buildings outside of downtown...

Is East West going to add grassy areas to the Whole Foods parking lot?

the project is 95% residential space  (320,000 sq ft).  the retail looks boutique-ish.  (I'd suggest what chapel 

hill/carrboro needs is a socially acceptable big box store )

You'd think "mixed use" would require something like more than 5% commercial....

and from a financial standpoint all  studio apartments would be better to the Town's taxpayer's pocketbook than multibedroom since the only reason taxpayers benefit from commercial is cause it pays school taxes without producing students that need seats.    another east 54 only this time much less commercial to residential.    the council should have restricted this new zoning to the other side of 15-501 since that side is what's really in need of "redevelopment".   

My first thoughts on this projet were that it would be a good option for senior housing, Senior, as in, retired. It has walkable shopping and bus service. With my own demographic reaching retirement we will be in need of more places for seniors to live and the 2 bedroom apartments could work well for many.


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