For a long time, the 40-acre property that was formerly known as University Mall in Chapel Hill was a very popular, but small mall that Mayor Pam Hemminger sees potential in modernizing.
"People want a different experience now," Hemminger said. "They want to be able to see the stores. They want experiential retail they want dining outside."
Ram Realty Advisors bought University Place in 2018 and came up with a vision that includes exterior facing retail spaces where the former Southern Season was, a new apartment building and green space for people to gather.
"That would be a fun place to bring my grandkids and hang out a little bit," Fred Eckel said.
Eckel, who's lived in Chapel Hill for decades, finds the town's growth to be fast-paced for him.
"But I think overall for the community, this ought to become a nice place for people to hang out and enjoy themselves," Eckel said.
The western edge of the site bordering Willow Drive will be converted to 900 Willow, a 253-unit multifamily building with amenity spaces such as a club room, fitness room and pool.
"There's also going to be spots for entrepreneurship and a discounted rent or affordable rent, along with some affordable housing units," Hemminger said.
"It's really exciting to see this older style mall get reinvented and be a draw for people. There's so many people that live in this region but also in that area of Chapel Hill or close to it that it will be a place for them to go without having to leave their own community."
Hemminger said all of the buildings will be environmentally efficient with multimodal paths, bike lanes and more tree canopy.
"The walkability factor at this area will be great," Hemminger said. "There'll be art and music and things that we haven't seen as much over there, and it'll be a really good draw. Families are looking for places to be young professionals, people of all ages, and so I'm excited about the opportunity of these that it provides."
Ram Realty said 900 Willow will be complete in Winter 2024 and the first new retail spaces will open the following Summer/Fall.
"There's great economic development opportunities ... it'll provide a lot more jobs," Hemminger said. "It will just give the mall that new life that it's been looking for."