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Chapel Hill, North Carolina Hotel Shelved - Not for Issues of
 Financing Rather Neighborhood Opposition
By Mark Schultz, The News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

April 8, 2009 --CHAPEL HILL -- The developers of Southern Village's shopping district have dropped plans for a hotel in the parking lot, citing neighborhood opposition.

D.R. Bryan, developer of the neotraditional community south of downtown Chapel Hill, presented an initial plan for a 90- to 100-room hotel to the Chapel Hill Town Council in January.

He said the hotel would bring more shoppers and diners into the village and support businesses there.

But Bryan said many residents opposed the plan, especially at the entrance to the community.

He said it wasn't an issue of financing in the recession.

"The economy really didn't have anything to do with it," he said Tuesday. "It takes so long to get approval in Chapel Hill, we have to look at these approvals as divorced from the economy."

Begun in the mid-1990s, Southern Village is a national model of New Urbanism. The 1,150-home development features Southern-style porches overlooking sidewalks, hidden alleys for garages and garbage collection, and shopping, restaurants and a movie theater within walking distance of most homes.

Bryan and partner John Fugo saw the hotel as a third anchoring business after the Weaver Street Market food co-op and The Lumina Theatre.

But residents such as Elliot Baron, a restaurant investor, said building the hotel in the lot in front of the market would have hurt business and the community's charm.

"We expressed concern that taking away parking from Weaver Street Market and disrupting business would be a financial catastrophe," Baron said. "Anything you do to disrupt traffic and turn the downtown into a filthy construction site would turn business away at a time when they could least afford it."

Instead of a hotel, Bryan said, the developers will work with Weaver Street Market and others to market Southern Village more aggressively.

Ruffin Slater, general manager of Weaver Street Market, said he is considering a membership drive and other strategies to boost business.

Meanwhile, Bryan said he is considering building a hotel just outside the village or coming back with plans for condominiums, as the original proposal included.

He said he doesn't know whether condos would trigger the same opposition that the hotel did.

"I think either one would be very positive aesthetically and from an economic vitality standpoint," he said.

mark.schultz@newsobserver.com or919-932-2003

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Copyright (c) 2009, The News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.

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