Development is rapidly heating up across the Triangle, and Chapel Hill is eager to show organizations and entrepreneurs it is open for business too. However, building the town’s future commercial infrastructure isn’t a job a single developer or town council can accomplish alone. To boost the town’s economy and bring companies downtown, the University of North Carolina (UNC), local government and business leaders are teaming up to make the historic college town a desired destination for commercial offices.
In March, UNC and the town of Chapel Hill announced The Carolina Economic Development Strategy, a new partnership to spur innovation and entrepreneurship and keep homegrown businesses and research ventures in town for the long term. Through new infrastructure built for office spaces, the initiative hopes to develop talent, translate innovation and create vibrant places in the community. For local businesses hit hard by the pandemic, the announcement is welcome news that could grow their revenue and cement the town’s appeal for years to come.
“The Carolina Economic Development Strategy positions us to act as a catalyst to retain, attract and grow more innovation-oriented companies and talent in Chapel Hill and North Carolina,” said Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz. “We recognize our role as Chapel Hill’s largest employer, and we will work with our alumni, business and research partners to help us successfully implement this strategy here and across our state.”
Grubb Properties is already playing a key role in transforming downtown Chapel Hill for its promising next chapter. The former CVS building at 137 E. Franklin St. and 136 E. Rosemary St. is undergoing renovations to become an innovation hub, and a new 1,100-space parking deck at 125 E. Rosemary St. is behind erected behind it. As the deck is built, Grubb Properties is working with local officials to get the final piece of the project approved: a 200,000-square-foot office building with two floors of lab space that could create 800 new jobs and generate almost $1.3 million in tax revenue for Chapel Hill.
“Chapel Hill is fortunate to have the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and UNC Health as strong economic engines for our town,” said Pam Hemminger, mayor of the Town of Chapel Hill. “In recent years we have taken several bold business development steps to reinvigorate commercial office space and create infrastructure in our downtown that will bring more office workers and visitors here year-round. With the revitalization of several downtown office buildings, construction of the East Rosemary Street Parking deck and expansion of Launch Chapel Hill, we are seeing results. I am excited about working with the University to take things to the next level so that our downtown is one of the best places to locate a business.”
For years, UNC has graduated talent who relocates to Raleigh or Durham for job opportunities. With two business incubators, 1789 Venture Lab and Launch Chapel Hill, the town and university are eager to see these UNC-affiliated startups stay local to provide graduates with career opportunities and benefit the local economy. Since 1958, 786 Carolina-affiliated startups have been launched and these companies have raised a total of $17.6 billion in funding during that period. Of those companies, 313 were founded in Orange County and 193 remain active today. For those enterprises still operating in the county, they employ more than 3,000 people and earned more than $300 million in revenue in 2020.
Having more companies along and around Franklin Street will help make strides on the town’s longstanding vision to bring jobs and residents downtown year-round, not just when UNC is in session. Currently retail and restaurant businesses are heavily dependent on UNC students and visitors to campus, so bringing more foot traffic to the corridor would greatly benefit their revenues and long-term viability.
Away from downtown, Grubb Properties is also making room for new companies at The Gwendolyn, a Class A office space offering more than 100,000-square-feet located in the Glen Lennox community. In addition to the office space, the new Link Apartments® Linden provides the opportunity for people to enjoy a community where they can live, work and play.
The Carolina Economic Development Strategy is one of the largest efforts in recent decades to revamp Chapel Hill’s infrastructure and business reputation. Grubb Properties looks forward to contributing to the strategy’s successful implementation and creating a flourishing business community for residents, workers, entrepreneurs, students and companies.