Carolina North will be a mixed-use research and academic campus located two miles north of downtown Chapel Hill. The campus will spur economic development locally and throughout the state, providing jobs for highly talented employees and in-town housing that is affordable for those working at the site. In June 2009, the town of Chapel Hill and UNC signed the 20-year Carolina North Development Agreement.

Carolina North renderingThe Agreement states that development in the first 20 years will begin with the construction of up to 3 million square feet of building space on a 133-acre space. Up to 228 acres of the University-owned of the 947-acre property will be developed over the next 50 years for academic, research, medical, and cultural functions with supporting housing, retail, office, recreation, and open space uses. The Carolina North Development Agreement also sets aside 311 acres for conservation.

Development will include compact housing, primarily for people affiliated with UNC, which will comprise a minimum of 25 percent of the total floor space. It is estimated that approximately half of the first 800,000 square feet of buildings will be academic, one-quarter will be for private research and development, and one-quarter for multifamily housing.

Buildings and Grounds

All buildings constructed at Carolina North will be sited to maximize the renewable energy that can be collected and utilized by building-integrated energy systems and will be constructed so renewable energy systems can be added at a future date without major modifications to the building structure. Each building will be constructed and equipped to use at least 30 percent less energy than ASHRAE 90.1 2004, the standard currently specified in the N.C. Building Code. Energy performance models will be submitted to the town prior to construction and building commissioning reports will be submitted post-construction.

The campus will be served by an innovative nonpotable water system that uses harvested rainwater and stormwater, as well as reclaimed water from an on-site membrane bioreactor, to provide water for energy processes, toilet flushing, irrigation, and fire fighting. Total potable water savings are expected to exceed N.C. Building Code requirements by 55 percent. Stormwater management will be incorporated into the site, building, and landscape design. Stormwater runoff will not exceed pre-development, or existing, conditions. “Working landscapes” throughout the site will form an integrated stormwater management network that supplies the nonpotable water system.

The University will strive to maintain or increase the total amount of tree canopy coverage. Trees identified for removal as part of a construction project are replaced inch-for-inch elsewhere on campus.  Since 2008, contributions to the historic tree replacement fund have totaled $250,000. The tree planting hierarchy includes young trees for working landscapes, mid-age trees for streetscapes, and mature trees for permanent landscapes. All landscapes will be planned with appropriate native and non-invasive species that support low maintenance, low water use, and low fertilizer use.

All non-healthcare buildings at Carolina North will be designed to meet or exceed the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (USGBC LEED) Silver criteria. All healthcare buildings will be designed to meet or exceed the minimum USGBC LEED for Healthcare Green Building criteria.

Design guidelines for Carolina North include the use of low stone walls and brick sidewalks in order to repeat the outdoor visual themes of the University’s central campus. The height of buildings adjacent to major roads will not exceed four to six stories on the perimeter of the property and eight stories on the interior of the property.


Carolina North Design Guidelines



Parking will be limited with transportation demand management strategies, such as local and regional public transit, bicycling, walking, and park-and-ride. A maximum of 1,525 parking spaces will be constructed to serve the first 800,000 square feet of buildings. The plan is one space per every four commuting students and per every two University and UNC Health Care employees. Private research and development facilities and health care patients and visitors will be allotted parking at the rate of 2.5 spaces per 1,000 square feet of building. Civic and retail uses will provide 1.5 spaces per 1,000 square feet, housing 1.25 spaces, and University visitors 0.20 spaces. The intent is to reduce parking ratios over time as transit, pedestrian, and bicycle alternatives are enhanced.

The University will maintain public access to the extensive greenways, trails, and bicycle paths that meander through the Carolina North property. A greenway and bike path connection between Carolina North and the main campus that is not located within a major roadway is the first joint project that will be explored. Potential joint-use outdoor recreation areas, performance spaces, and community gardens will also be evaluated by the University and the town.

Additionally, the town of Chapel Hill and the University continue to work on several transit planning efforts that will impact access to Carolina North. The half-cent sales tax to support regional rail was approved by the voters, and the Chapel Hill Transit Partners discussed and agreed upon the use of the increased funding received by Chapel Hill Transit, including additional service that began in August 2013.


Site Development

An Ecological Assessment Report completed in 2007 incorporated a weighted analysis of multiple landscape ecology criteria. Wildlife corridors, tree cover and composition, soil type and slopes, and hydrology and stream buffers were among the features considered. Six of the most ecologically sensitive areas comprising of a total of 311 acres will be put into conservation easements. In January 2013, the Sate of North Carolina approved restrictive covenants, a mechanism that will allow the conservation areas to be protected in perpetuity. Triangle Land Conservancy (TLC), a third-party contractor, will monitor compliance with the restrictive covenants. TLC will visit the conservation areas yearly and submit a monitoring report. The policy documents and existing procedures will be revised periodically to reflect a continuous, progressive, and adaptive approach to stewardship and management strategies for the conservation areas as well as the 50- and 100-year limited development areas.

The University continues to review opportunities for restoration or enhancement of riparian buffers. Coordination will be sought between wildlife or natural corridors along streams and essential utility lines and greenways. Appropriate stream access and crossing points will be provided. Erosion and sedimentation control measures will be included in all land-disturbing projects. An erosion and sedimentation control plan will be developed for all projects larger than 20,000 square feet, a considerably tougher threshold than required by state and federal regulations.


Carolina North Forest

Carolina North Forest tourManagement of the forests and existing trails within Carolina North is the responsibility of the University’s Land Management and Trail Office established in 2007. These 750 acres of land will remain undeveloped for at least the next 50 years. The Land Management and Trail Office has surveyed the outer boundaries of the site, mapped service roads and trails, and removed insect-infested trees. Many of the existing trails were created haphazardly and contribute to soil erosion and water pollution. In a working partnership with Triangle Off Road Cyclists, a GIS map of all these trails was recently superimposed over a contour map to help identify the most, and least, suitable trail locations. The most problematic trails will be rerouted or closed. All future trail work will adhere to the guidelines for sustainable single-track trails as set forth by the International Mountain Bike Association.

The foresters have also installed signage, information kiosks, and garbage and recycling bins. The office has sponsored many biking and running events and spearheaded various volunteer projects to improve trails and amenities. Additional activities include plant identification walks, the removal of exotic and invasive species, and the annual giveaway of firewood culled from University properties.

The Carolina North Forest has tremendous potential for research and environmental rehabilitation projects. There is a range of educational opportunitiesrelated to archaeology, biology, botany, environmental science, geography, and hydrology for the University and broader community. Field work is readily available for students at the elementary, middle, and high schools adjacent to the property.


Carolina North Trail Maps


Carolina North Forest