Ephesus Fordham Renewal: Transportation
This spring, the Town Council is considering the Ephesus-Fordham Renewal, a proposal to stimulate development in one of our oldest and largest commercial areas around the intersection of Ephesus Church Road and US 15-501 or Fordham, the northern gateway to Chapel Hill.
The proposal calls to renew an area well known for its confusing intersections, vast parking lots and traffic jams into a thriving walkable district with an urban character attractive to younger generations that will live and work in Chapel Hill. It hinges on adoption of a new zoning model to stimulate the development that will grow a tax base to fund about $10 million in transportation improvements -- and some stormwater benefits. Guided by the Ephesus Church Road-Fordham Small Area Plan, the proposal also includes an affordable housing development.
The area was identified in the Chapel Hill 2020 community comprehensive plan as a focus area that requires more study and visioning for the future. Future focus areas are portions of Chapel Hill most likely to change due to vacant land, underdeveloped sites, and their locations along transportation and transit corridors.
“The Ephesus-Fordham Renewal has been in the works for a number of years, and now we are seeing many of the components come together to potentially make this the next cool place to live, work and play in Chapel Hill,“ said Town Manager Roger Stancil. “It’s important that our residents have good information about this multi-disciplined, systemic planning opportunity.”
Toward that aim, the Town of Chapel Hill has prepared a series of stories on the following areas – Rezoning, Transportation, Stormwater, Affordable Housing and Expanding the Tax Base and Financing -- to assist our residents in understanding the proposal. For more, visit www.townofchapelhill.org/ephesusfordham. Questions? Contact Town staff at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, the Chapel Hill Town Council wants to hear from you at email@example.com.
To encourage reinvestment in properties within the study area, the Town would provide $8.8 million in transportation improvements. These would be implemented over multiple phases to address bicycles, pedestrians, cars and transit issues. The improvements stem from a traffic study and the Ephesus Church-Fordham Small Area Plan/Traffic Analysis that were completed in 2010, as well as continued input from residents.
The recommended improvements support the Town’s Complete Streets Policy, which addresses issues such as traffic calming, street design, landscaping, lighting and utilities to better enable safe access for all users – pedestrian, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders. The transportation improvements will improve bicycle and pedestrian access throughout the Ephesus-Fordham district.
“These improvements will offer more choices by expanding connectivity, so there isn’t just one way to go somewhere,” said David Bonk, the Town of Chapel Hill’s long range and transportation planning manager. “We also need to address pedestrian crossings and bike lanes, as well as incorporate green space so that we promote placemaking through the development of pocket parks and plazas. We will work with the developers to assist them in incorporating these elements into the design of their projects.
Transportation improvements are as follows:
• Extension of Elliott Road to Ephesus Church Road across Fordham Boulevard
• New roadway connection to the service road on Fordham Boulevard at Superstreet signalized intersection
• Realignment of Ephesus Church Road to Elliott Road extension
• Extension of Legion Road to Fordham Boulevard
• Roundabout at the future intersection of Ephesus Church Road and the Elliott Road Extension
• Access Improvements:
- Disconnect southern leg of western service road at Ephesus Church Road
- Consolidate number of parking aisles on Ephesus Church Road going through Eastgate Mall
- Limit Ram’s Plaza and car dealership entrance on Ephesus Church Road to right in and right out
• Connectivity Improvements
- New road behind Staples and Village Plaza connecting to Elliott Road
- New internal roads in Rams Plaza
- New road by Hampton Inn connecting to Legion Road
- New road connecting Legion Road extension to realigned Elliott Road extension
If the proposal does not move forward, traffic in this area will continue to worsen, but there will be no redevelopment plan in place to fund roadway improvements that will help make a difference. Traffic collisions throughout Chapel Hill have decreased about 7 percent in the past 10 years, but at the Ephesus Church Road and Fordham Boulevard intersection alone they have increased 38 percent. The No. 1 issue that should receive the most emphasis from the Town, according to the 2013 Community Survey is the overall flow of traffic and congestion in Chapel Hill.
About the Process
The Town of Chapel Hill has been working for several years on the renewal of this area. Following numerous public input sessions, the Council adopted the Ephesus Church Road-Fordham Small Area Plan in June 2011. In 2012, Town staff began to study and consider the use of form-based codes, an idea that evolved from the Chapel Hill 2020 visioning process and eventual comprehensive plan. http://chapelhill.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=5&clip_id=1396
A collaborative team of staff members from planning, stormwater, engineering, traffic, transit, finance and economic development areas has moved the renewal proposal forward. Beyond the internal team, professional consultants are working on technical challenges. The team is also working closely with the Chapel Hill Carrboro Public Schools, Orange County, Orange Water and Sewer Authority (OWASA), and Chapel Hill Transit on a cost/benefit analysis to better understand future impacts of the plan on the community.
In 2014, the renewal project was presented to the Chapel Hill Town Council on Jan. 22, and subsequently, public information meetings were held on Feb. 20 and Feb. 27. Council review continued at a work session on March 6, at a business meeting on March 24, and then at a joint meeting with the Orange County Board of Commissioners on March 27. There has been a high level of public interest and involvement throughout the planning process. With assistance from the Chapel Hill Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, the Town has contacted small business owners with information about the project.
Public information about the process is posted online at www.townofchapelhill.org/ephesusfordham.
The Council will consider action on proposed rezonings at its next business meeting on May 12. After this, there are numerous checks and milestones that would need to occur for this multi-faceted project to move forward. Visit www.townofchapelhill.org/ephesusfordham and click on the “Schedule” button to see where we are today in this process.