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Ephesus Fordham Renewal: Affordable Housing

Post Date:04/16/2014

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 Questions? Contact Town staff at As always, the Chapel Hill Town Council wants to hear from you at

Affordable Housing

Proposed by DHICIn an effort to increase the community’s supply of affordable rental housing, the Town of Chapel Hill is partnering with a Raleigh nonprofit to create an affordable housing development on Legion Road. The project is one part of the Ephesus Fordham Renewal effort.

“We are honored to be asked to develop this property and fill one of the greatest needs in housing today – affordable rental homes,” said Gregg Warren, president and executive director of DHIC. “We are proud of our track record and view ourselves as a market leader in this area.”

DHIC Inc. plans to create two rental communities – Greenfield Place, 84 apartments for working families, and Greenfield Commons, about 60 units for senior citizens.

The 8.5 acre property is located on an undeveloped portion of the Chapel Hill Memorial Cemetery off Legion Road. Next steps include establishing an access easement and to initiate subdivision of the property. An additional 1.5 acres adjacent to this site has been reserved for a future fire station.

The Chapel Hill 2020 Plan and the 2011 Affordable Housing Strategy set a goal to create a range of housing options for current and future residents. Partnering with nonprofit housing providers like DHIC to develop a low income housing tax credit project on Town-owned land was the top recommendation identified in the Affordable Rental Housing Strategy adopted by the Council in February 2014.

Many of the people who work in Chapel Hill cannot afford to live here. About 22 percent of the Town of Chapel Hill’s employees live in Chapel Hill zip codes. At UNC-Chapel Hill, less than half of the workforce lives in Orange County (49 percent of 11,900 employees). Of the 10,147 employees at UNC Health Care, about 18 percent live in Chapel Hill zip codes. The largest number of Health Care employees report living in Durham County. Similarly for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, less than half -- 46 percent of the 2,112 employees -- live in Chapel Hill or Carrboro.

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.

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

What’s next?

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 and click on the “Schedule” button to see where we are today in this process.

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