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July 29, 2007
UNC executive offers primer on Carolina North
Guest column
Jack Evans


What is Carolina North?

Carolina North is envisioned as a mixed-use academic and research campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that will be built on the university's Horace Williams tract two miles north of the main campus.

Carolina North will be a tree-shaded campus for living and learning, where people can live, work and study in one place. This and other progressive measures will help make Carolina North a model of sustainability -- a campus that is socially, environmentally and economically sound.

Why does UNC need Carolina North?

The primary driver for Carolina North is the university's mission -- education, research, public service -- and a responsibility to help meet the state's economic development needs. Carolina North will provide a setting for collaborative research that advances new knowledge and attracts talented researchers and students. The campus will connect the university's research programs to the economic well-being of the region and of the state by creating and nurturing new businesses and working with established companies to bring UNC research discoveries to the market. By providing a setting for public-private partnerships that spur innovation, Carolina North will attract new funding, stimulate economic growth and create jobs for North Carolina.

Why was the Horace Williams tract selected for Carolina North?

In many ways, it's the other way around: The concept of Carolina North has been developed to make the best use of the Horace Williams property to fulfill the university's strategic vision.

The Carolina North 50-year concept plan calls for concentrating development on 250 acres, leaving much of the forest and wetlands in the nearly 1,000-acre tract largely undisturbed. The heart of the campus's east-west orientation would be built on top of what is now the runway at Horace Williams Airport. (The airport would be closed and its university-related services relocated to RDU once Carolina North construction begins.) Nearly all of the proposed construction for the first 15 years will occur on land that has already been developed, such as the airport runway, hangars and parking lots.

How was the plan for Carolina North developed?

Using the 1998 report by consultants Johnson, Johnson and Roy Inc. (now JJR) as a basis, the university's Horace Williams Advisory Committee worked extensively in 2003 with Ayers Saint Gross consultants to develop a concept master plan for Carolina North. The Town of Chapel Hill formed the Horace Williams Citizens' Committee and issued a report on the town's goals for Carolina North in 2003, which was updated in 2004.

In March 2006, UNC Chancellor James Moeser created the Leadership Advisory Committee to get community input on Carolina North from as broad a range of interests as possible and to develop principles to guide the university in preparing plans for submission to the local governing bodies.

This year, the university has invited the public to participate in the planning process for Carolina North at monthly community meetings, all well-attended. The community's extensive feedback was reflected in a draft concept plan presented to our board of trustees on Thursday.

What's the next step in the process?

Another community meeting on Carolina North will be held Tuesday at 4 p.m. at the School of Government. That meeting will focus on the same draft plan submitted to the trustees and will include the trustees' comments and feedback about the plan. Based on feedback from the trustees and the public (from community meetings July 31 and Aug. 28), the university staff and its consultants will continue to refine a concept plan that we will present to the trustees in September. We hope to submit a plan approved by the trustees to the Town of Chapel Hill in October. From there, the Carolina North project will go through the normal approval process as a major development within the towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro.

Jack Evans is executive director of Carolina North and a professor at and former dean of the Kenan-Flagler Business School at UNC-Chapel Hill. More information about Carolina North is available at htt

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