Downtown Chapel Hill hotel project likely nixed after Raleigh firm buys site

Plans for a new hotel in downtown Chapel Hill appear to have fallen through as a new ownership group has acquired the property with future plans for the site yet to be determined.

On Tuesday, Raleigh-based Loden Properties and Northpond Partners of Chicago paid $4.1 million for 505 W. Franklin St. in downtown Chapel Hill, home of TOPO Distillery and the former site of the Chapel Hill News.
The purchase is the firms’ latest collaboration, coming on the heels of a new project in Raleigh’s Glenwood South.

The Chapel Hill property is situated on 0.8 acres at the corner of West Franklin and South Graham streets west of the UNC-Chapel Hill campus.

The seller, Scott Maitland, bought the site for $2.15 million from the News & Observer Publishing Company in 2010.

Following last week’s deal, Maitland will retain some ownership in the property and is staying on as a partner in the project with Loden and Northpond, according to Henry Ward of Loden Properties.

The new owners are planning to invest in the property either through a renovation or total redevelopment of the site, though they have yet to decide what form this might take. Ward said they’re open to anything the market would allow. The group is currently talking with potential tenants to gauge interest in the site.

“The zoning is attractive because it does allow for a multi-story plan if the market dictates. It’s the site of the former Chapel Hill News and a unique building so we also have an opportunity to reuse what’s there now,” Ward said. “That whole area is full of restaurants and bars and plenty of foot traffic. We look forward to getting it out on the market.”

The new owners have yet to determine if TOPO distillery will remain on the property. It currently occupies around half of the existing building.

“All of us at Northpond are really excited to be investing in Chapel Hill and continuing our relationship with Loden,” said Sam Ankin, managing principal with Northpond Partners. “The property is very well located and presents great optionality in terms of the business plan.”

The project is Loden’s sixth and latest collaboration with Northpond Partners. Earlier this month, the pair announced plans to transform a 3-story building at 122 Glenwood Ave.– at the corner with West Jones Street – into creative office and retail space.

This new arrangement for 505 W. Franklin supplants a previously proposed hotel development that was slated for the site. In 2020, The Raymond Group of Madison, Wisconsin, filed concept plans for what was then called the Franklin Street Hotel. Initial plans called for 180 rooms across eight stories, according to documents posted on the town’s website.

Ward said that while the new owners currently have no timeline in place for the property, they are working on some plans and hope to make a determination soon.

“We’ve entertained everything from lab space needs – as you’ve seen in downtown Durham – we think that would work in Chapel Hill,” Ward said. “It could be food and beverage, retail. It could be a makerspace. Really our plan is pretty wide open.’

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