Ken Larsen's web site - Village Plaza development (aka Alexan Luxury Apartments, aka Berkshire Chapel Hill)


The first Ephesus-Fordham development project is underway.  Below are a couple of pictures I took on March 20, 2016.  They raised several questions and concerns in my mind.


There will be five stories of apartments above a ground level retail floor.

N&O article on May 6, 2016:  "This is a six-story multi-use structure consisting of four separate buildings that all look to be one large structure, but are protected by fire rated barriers and true fire walls. Almost 400,000 square feet of the overall building is constructed of non-combustible material. The wood framing on the upper floors has been treated with a flame retardant (making the wood a pink color) to minimize the spread of fire. The entire exterior will be constructed with FlameBlock, a fire safety construction material.  Also, the entire building has a water sprinkler system."

(August 29, 2016, Charlotte Observer) "Atlanta suburb bans wood-framed construction in large new buildings"

(March 17, 2017, WRAL) "How did the Raleigh fire spread so quickly?"



Read more here:

Concerns that I have are:

  • What if the landlord for the ABC store and adjacent businesses chose to develop a similar structure?  Would his six story structure be just feet from the Alexan apartments?  If so, then the view from a sixth floor window would be into the sixth floor window of the next property's structure ... which would be just 10 or 20 feet away.  Look at how close the ABC store is to Alexan.
  • If the ABC store were replaced with a similar structure that is only a few feet away, then fire fighting would be very difficult.
  • The FBC plan for Ephesus-Fordham allows structures such as Alexan apartments to built across all of Eastgate, Village Plaza, and Ram's Plaza.  Having such massive structures built within a few feet of each other across all of Ephesus-Fordham is a bad idea from the perspectives of traffic and fire hazards.
  • There is virtually no green space
  • There's inadequate parking.  See this analysis.
  • (August, 2016) I've learned that Alexan will be marketed to students.  This is bad news, because parking will be even worse, because students typically double up to afford the rents, and they live off campus so that they have cars.
  • (August, 2016) Monthly rents will range from $ 1460 to $ 2710.  This is significantly higher than what had been forecast in 2015.
  • (July, 2017) These apartments don't have any charging stations for electric vehicles.

(February 21, 2017) Tom Henkel:  Alexan takes up the entire property so that there is no green space with ground-level public amenities, it includes no affordable housing, it is not built with state-of-the-art energy systems that reduce its carbon footprint to AIA-2030 targets, it is too high and massive-looking, and it is not in keeping with the original Small Area Plan for Ephesus-Fordham that was approved by Council in 2011 with much community input.  We have nothing against the good folks who choose to live there, and of course we hope that they are happy and contented.  We just do not want a similar, massive structure to be built next door.

March 28, 2017:  Boston-based Berkshire Group has acquired the 265-unit Alexan building for $72.75 million from a joint-venture partnership between Roger Perryís East West Partners of Chapel Hill and Trammell Crow Residential, according to county records.  The property, which also includes 13,560 square feet of retail space and its own structured parking, will now be called Berkshire Chapel Hill.

May 2, 2017:  It's rumored that only 17 of the 263 units have been rented and that the tax assessed value is only $ 62M.
Picture taken by me on May 6, 2017.

Berkshire Apartments website  According to the Berkskire website, as of July 17, 2017, 185 of the 263 units had not been rented.  This means that only 78 units (30%) have been rented.

As of October 17, 2017 172 of the 263 units had not been rented.  That means that 91 units (35%) have been rented.  Unknown is who the units have been rented to.  Are they rented to wealthy out-of-towners who only use their unit when they visit Chapel Hill a few times a year?  Or, are they rented to students who double or triple up ... bringing with them with several cars ... more the parking lot can hold [because of the skimpy FBC parking formula]?  The parking area shown is not part of the Berkshire property.  Berkshire parking is the parking deck shown on the right center of this photo.

(October 18, 2017) I've been told that Berkshire will not rent to students who are under age 21.  That still leaves me with the concern that students (age 21 and older) will double and triple up ... bringing with them their cars.
What will this look like when the owner of the liquor store decides to emulate what Alexan is? 

How will a fire truck put out a fire if that happens?
Very little parking available for the shops on the first floor.  Customers will likely park in the Whole Foods lot or in the lot for O2 Fitness.  That's not right.

On the right is Elliott Road.  Notice that there is no bike lane ... as was promised.  The building was built too close to the road.  
This is their token contribution to stormwater abatement.
Lots of pavement; little greenery.
Some of their parking spaces have been given to Whole Foods employees.  They provided parking splots in accordance with the parking formula in the Form Based Code (FBC) rules, but those spots are suppose to be for residents only.

Ken Larsen's home page