UNC's Kenan-Flagler business school wants to expand its Paul J. Rizzo Conference Center at Meadowmont, but it may have to choose between cutting specimen trees, building on a steep slope, creating the need for a railroad bridge or obstructing the view from a historic house it owns.
The Rizzo center provides a revenue stream for the school, as it hosts professional conferences with on-site meals and lodging.
UNC presented a concept plan for Phase III of the conference center Monday night. Phases I and II consist of three buildings, including the historic Dubose House, totaling 161,000 square feet and 120 guest rooms. Phase III would add another 90,000 square feet with 80 guest rooms.
A corridor planned for a future light rail line connecting UNC to the rest of the Triangle runs through the middle of the site. To avoid building on a historic graveyard or on steep slopes, Kenan-Flagler proposes parking on one side of the rail corridor and the new building on the other.
But Town Council members expressed concern that would force the Triangle Transit Authority to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to build a bridge over the access road between the building and the parking lot.
"It is one bridge for one building," said Councilman Ed Harrison. "It is an expense that a lot of us will have to pay for."
Harrison suggested a parking deck as a way of minimizing the project's footprint.
"It really has to have a lighter footprint than it has right now," he said.
Not every council member agreed the development ought to be concentrated on the west side of the rail corridor, with the rest of the Rizzo buildings. Councilman Matt Czajkowski said building the bridge might protect trees, prevent additional stormwater contamination and preserve historic elements of the site.
"It is clearly about tradeoffs," agreed Councilman Gene Pease.
Mayor Kleinschmidt said the topography may force the TTA to build a rail bridge regardless of the Rizzo plan. Harrison suggested a more detailed concept plan to help the council evaluate the various impacts.