Merritt Properties proposing new Chapel Hill business center

More industrial buildings are planned for the town’s burgeoning commercial center on Millhouse Road just north of Chapel Hill.

East Coast real estate developer Merritt Properties bought the 19-acre site at 7300 Millhouse Road in December for $2.3 million, county land records show. The developer has three more projects completed or in progress in Research Triangle Park, Knightdale and Wake Forest.

“We are excited to strengthen Merritt Properties’ Triangle presence with our expansion into Chapel Hill,” Keith Wallace, with Merritt Properties, said in a news release. “The town’s flex/light industrial market represents great potential. There is increasing demand for our product type given the area’s residential and mixed-use growth.”

The proposed North Chapel Business Center could be completed by 2023 and would replace a former horse farm and single-family home. The project will include two light-industrial buildings serving office and warehouse tenants. One building will have 61,700 square feet of space; the other will have 54,600 square feet.

“Merritt Properties’ decision to create new flex space on Millhouse Road fully aligns with our strategic goals for the area and will bring new jobs and revenues to Chapel Hill,” Mayor Pam Hemminger said in the release.

An adjacent lot already is in development at 7000 Millhouse Road. That project is adding office, clinic and lab space for Carolina Donor Services — now known as HonorBridge.

The town created the 60-acre Millhouse Road Enterprise Zone in 2017 to generate more businesses, tax revenues and jobs. The land where Merritt Properties will build has already been rezoned, which means the developer would only have to submit detailed building and site plans to town staff for review and approval.

The property will be annexed into town as part of the conditional zoning, said Dwight Bassett, economic development officer.

“As far as business types, it could be a wide range for service businesses like HVAC or electrical contractors, artist types with showroom and workspace, interior designers needing showroom and storage, and even a restaurant to service the area,” Bassett told The News & Observer in an email. “Flex space has been a demand for a long time that we have not met as a market and expect them to have no problems leasing up the spaces.”

Merritt Properties site plan.jpg
Merritt Properties Contributed

The site is near the town’s Chapel Hill Transit and public works campuses. It backs up to a UPS operations center, a Chapel Hill Transit park-and-ride lot, and Carraway Village, a 55-acre development in progress.

Carraway Village has substantially changed the neighborhood, located at the intersection of Eubanks Road, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Interstate 40.

The development has replaced woods and modest single-family homes with several hundred apartments and a few commercial tenants, including Chick-fil-A, Starbucks and a drive-in theater.

Additional land is being marketed for retail and office tenants, and a Putt-Putt Fun Center and self-storage building are pending construction just to the north.

Interest in the Millhouse Road district has been growing over the last few years, local officials have said. Interested companies have included AskBio, a gene therapy company that eventually chose Research Triangle Park for its new headquarters.

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Tammy Grubb has written about Orange County’s politics, people and government since 2010. She is a UNC-Chapel Hill alumna and has lived and worked in the Triangle for over 25 years.