Place-Making: Northwood Ravin and the Carraway Village Development

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Place-Making

Northwood Ravin and the Carraway Village Development

 By Tom Griffen

 

If you’ve recently driven along Eubanks Road, just west of Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, you probably noticed the construction equipment and activity along the lengthy stretch between your vehicle and I-40. In February, the ground was broken for Carraway Village, a project that’s been on the docket for more than a decade. 

The idea for a mixed-use village on this property was birthed by the Town in 2007 through the Northern Area Task Force report. And though it’s easy to look at any big development and default to opposition, there’s no ignoring the fact that Chapel Hill’s economy dictates a substantial need for more housing.

In 2011, the Town led a planning initiative, for the benefit of economic development, to create a concept plan and design guideline to help guide the development. Afterwards several developers submitted development proposals to the Town for this parcel of land. Each had trouble avoiding traffic issues that would require costly upgrades: Eubanks Road would need widening to accommodate the expansive multi-use project and I-40’s off-ramps would need critical attention.

Northwood Ravin took on the project and thanks to previous work on large projects in Chapel Hill such as Franklin Street’s Carolina Square (currently under construction), Chapel Hill North, Chapel Watch Village, Cosgrove Hill, Dobbins Hill, and the Apartments at Meadowmont, they had a keen sense of the town’s geographical and cultural aesthetic.

Additionally, a large portion of the property is tough to see from both I-40 (where more than 110,000 cars pass each day) and the Eubanks/MLK stoplight. This detail alone could deter potential business occupants who have trouble seeing the potential of such a layout.

But it is exactly these qualities that make the lot extra special. And frankly, this is how Northwood Ravin describes all their projects—special. Their literature reads, “Our commitment is steadfast…never cutting corners and always going the extra mile.”

I recently had a chance to sit down with Adam Golden, Vice President of Development with Northwood Ravin. My guess is that anyone who meets Adam is immediately drawn to his energy. Cool and collected, thoughtful and well-spoken. His eyes are bright and his vocal tone gives away the genuine enthusiasm he has for his work. Turns out the Carraway Village project is his largest to date. And though it alone would be enough to spin most folks’ heads Adam’s demeanor exudes proof that he truly enjoys what he does.

Adam is originally from Cincinnati—a long-time soccer player who still participates in adult leagues. He made his way to Chapel Hill 20 years ago after taking a traveling job with a real estate developer based in Ohio. He expected to stay one, maybe two years max—a detail many Chapel Hill transplants have in common.

Adam met his wife here. Started a family here. And now they all live on the north side of town and know, from first-hand experience, how much that area could benefit from an uplift.

He nostalgically recalls his seven years living in Southern Village.

“It was a special kind of experience that created unique neighborhood intimacy,” he said. “Plus the bonus of not having to get in the car, or hop on a bike, to get most anything done. In such a fast-paced world, slowing down and being able to walk to things really has its advantages.” 

Adam enjoys seeing the plans for Carraway Village strategically come together. He is driven by the smart collaboration with everyone involved: Northwood Ravin, the Town of Chapel Hill, the North Carolina Department of Transportation, and a very experienced design team.

Northwood Ravin is a rarity in the world of large-scale developers. They never build the same structure twice. And they consciously take into consideration a particular area’s myriad needs—social, economic, environmental, and aesthetic.

“Rather than change what the original landscape offers, we create a space to enhance it,” Adam said. “Internally, we refer to this as place-making.”

Adam’s team came up with a viable design for the 53.7 acre lot, but it required flexibility in the approval. They imagined structures with fewer floors and proposed a mixture of uses that could adjust based on real market demand.

Carraway Village is named, in part, for the caraway seed. 

“We wanted to come up with a name that was both distinctive and helped set the tone for the overall ‘village’ feel of the project,” Adam said. “Caraway seeds have links in North Carolina.”

While brainstorming possible designs, they concern themselves with a landscape’s modern needs—from geography to local culture. In Chapel Hill’s case, they also scrutinized the town’s current economic status and forecasted a realistic future. As they drew up the proposal for Carraway Village, they recognized the fact that not everyone is willing (or able) to afford luxury digs. So they included an affordable housing section, too.

Phase one of Carraway Village is already underway. It will create 400 apartments and roughly 9,000 square feet of first floor retail shops. The apartments will sit adjacent to the existing Eubanks Road park-and-ride. The current bus route and loading area will be adjusted to line up with the project’s primary road—its Main Street

This “Main Street” will bisect the village and tie together the future retail phases. It will include a green space to rival, in size at least, Carrboro’s Weaver Street lawn. Adam envisions live music, kids safely running amok, and plenty of outdoor seating to accommodate outdoor diners from nearby eateries that cater to the needs of both families and young professionals alike.

“Like maybe a wine bar next to a pizzeria,” Adam said. “Something like that.” 

Phase two—the development of the retail focal point—will follow. This section will be an invaluable resource to Carraway Village residents, but will also serve as a convenient destination for locals, tourists, and passers-by. In a perfect world, the space will house a grocery store and other shops. As of this article’s publication, tenants have yet to be announced. 

Northwood Ravin and the town believe that the buzz of phase one and two will confirm the location’s viability and draw more and more residents and retailers.

Phase three is possibly the most challenging section, though wildly advantageous. Overall, the property offers a perfect spot for a nice hotel visible from the highway. It could also be a fine location for business offices or medical facilities. No doubt it’s an equally viable nook for a few more restaurants. The shape of the lot and its proximity to the protected natural area, however, poses a unique challenge that will be part of what gives the development its ultimate character.  

Adam believes that Chapel Hill is a great place to live and work. The proximity to the Atlantic and the Blue Ridge mountains makes it a perfect nook, geographically speaking. A tough place to leave.

“We’ve got blue skies and sun year round. Even when it’s cold,” he said. “Blue skies make a tremendous difference.”

And while saying this, his passion is obvious. Again.

“Chapel Hill is filled with good people,” he said. “Genuinely kind people. People actually say hi to you as you pass them on the street. That doesn’t happen everywhere.”

He’s right. You know he is.

This is exactly what he and Northwood Ravin are seeking to accomplish with the Carraway Village development—just giving folks yet another reason to stay in Chapel Hill.