Trustees Review Report, Back Plans for Carolina North

Carolina North, UNC’s proposed development that would mix University-related scientific research with offices, homes and shops, would generate an estimated 7,500 local jobs and about $48 million in annual tax revenues by 2020, according to an economic impact study conducted by Market Street Services of Atlanta for the University.

The report was released Wednesday, in advance of a UNC Board of Trustees meeting about the project. The trustees expressed their unanimous support for the development.

The project’s draft conceptual plan outlines concepts for mixed-use development at the 975-acre tract of UNC-owned property a mile north of the main campus off Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard (formerly Airport Road). The draft plan proposes to develop about 25 percent of the site over 50 to 70 years. Carolina North would include classrooms, labs, housing, schools, community spaces, offices and limited commercial space in a campus-and-village setting.

Carolina North also would be designed to attract private companies to Chapel Hill to partner with UNC faculty, allowing the University’s mission to grow at a time when state and federal funding are no longer growing at previous rates.

The Market Street study, which was presented at Thursday’s meeting of the Board of Trustees, included analysis of the projected economic impacts at the end of the project’s second phase (15 years) and at full build-out (50 years).

Still to be resolved is the issue of the University-owned Horace Williams Airport, which occupies part of the Carolina North tract. The University announced in April 2002 that it would close Horace Williams Airport. In September 2002, the N.C. General Assembly passed legislation requiring the University to keep the airport open until January 2005. In July 2004, the Legislature adopted language requiring the University to keep the airport open until an accessible replacement facility could be found for Medical Air, which serves the University’s Area Health Education Centers program.

The trustees agreed Thursday to push for closure of the Horace Williams Airport and move ahead with plans for Carolina North.

Study highlights include:

  • In the first two phases (15 years), the gains in the local and state economies would reflect similar numbers to a medium-sized firm building new headquarters in the area year after year.
  • By the end of phase 2 (approximately 2020), the tax impact would be about $48 million in tax revenue annually. It also would generate an estimated $26 million in state income tax; $14.6 million in state sales tax; $2.8 million in local sales tax; and $5 million in property tax.
  • In employment impact, the project could be expected to create 7,500 full-time, ongoing jobs (non construction); $433 million in annual salary and personal income; 8,876 construction-related jobs; and $353 million in salary and personal income (construction).
  • In business revenue, Carolina North could bring in $600 million in annual business revenue (non construction) and $979 million in business revenue (construction).

The N.C. Senate recently passed a special provision that would allow the University to close the airport, provided that Medical Air operations could utilize the Raleigh-Durham International Airport. The trustees also heard a report at its Thursday meeting about a consultants’ study to help the UNC identify an alternative site for an airport. With limited prospects for that option, they agreed to push for the relocation of the medical air fleet to Raleigh-Durham International Airport once construction is set to begin at Carolina North. The N.C. General Assembly’s approval would be needed for a relocation.

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