Who made this site?

The Chapel Hill-based service and experience design consultancy The Service Design Group created this page as an information service to serve Chapel Hill citizens and Town Council.

Where did the information come from?

The information presented on this web page comes from content, documents and materials on the Obey Creek webpage of Chapel Hill's Town Council website.

What if something is incorrect?

This page presents only fact-based, unbiased information. Any omission or error will be corrected appropriately. Send requests to info@theservicedesigngroup.com

Why was this site made?

The Service Design Group's founder has followed this topic off-and-on. Whenever he looks for Obey Creek information, all he finds is content, emotions and opinions.

What does this site hope to achieve?

This factual and consumable presentation of information intends to make negotiations, discussions and decision-making more transparent and productive.

What does The Service Design Group do?

The Service Design Group helps organizations design and deliver service offerings, customer experiences, and business processes. It is owned and operated by Patrick McGowan.

Obey Creek sits in Southern Chapel Hill, across 15-501 from Southern Village. The 120 acre site resides within the Jordan Lake watershed, includes 40 acres of Resource Conservation District (RCD), and has some floodplain areas along Wilson Creek, as there are in Southern Village (note: no development is proposed within the floodplain). Obey Creek Ventures/Caves Valley Partners, from Towson, MD, bought the land between 2007 and 2009. East West Partners initiated development efforts in 2010. The site's current R1 zoning permits single family residences on 1 acre minimum lots (~79 - 124 homes). In November 2012, Chapel Hill Town Council voted to create a Development Agreement process for Obey Creek. Compared to traditional rezoning processes, Development Agreements allow greater flexibility in establishing land use and development plans.

Where are we?

Obey Creek Development Agreement Timeline

What's the proposed plan?

3D Model of Obey Creek Development - Chapel Hill, NC

1.6 Million sqft

Square footage includes buildings but not structured parking decks, surface parking lots, streets or access roads.

(Each square = 10,000 sqft)

Take me to the source

Uses at Obey Creek - Proposed Minimums and Maximums - Page 2

for comparison

Obey Creek
Southern Village Mixed Use Core
Southpoint Mall
University Mall


The proposed development agreement allows the developer to determine the exact mix of uses, with proposed minimums and maximums per category.

As a result, what is actually built could be largely commercial or primarily multi-family residential.

The maximum size of the buildings would be 1.6 million sqft, not counting structured parking.

Take me to the source

Uses at Obey Creek - Proposed Minimums and Maximums - Page 2

for comparison

  • Obey Creek "maximum retail, office & hotel"
  • 30% Retail38% Office19% Residential13% Hotel
  • Obey Creek "middle of the road"
  • 22% Retail24% Office48% Residential6% Hotel
  • Obey Creek "maximum residential"
  • 13% Retail12% Office62% Residential13% Hotel
  • Southern Village Mixed Use Core (Market St. & Copperline Dr.)
  • 17% Retail40% Office43% Residential
Retail Space (sqft)
  •  Southpoint (1.3m)
  •  Obey Creek max (475k)
  •  New Hope Commons (408k)
  •  University Mall (366k)
  •  Obey Creek min (200k)
  •  Southern Village core (55k)
Office Space (sqft)
  •  Obey Creek max (600k)
  •  Europa Center (240k)
  •  BCBS Building (188k)
  •  Obey Creek min (150k)
  •  Southern Village core (130k)
Multi-family Residences (# of units)
  •  Obey Creek max (800)
  •  Southern Village (500)
  •  Obey Creek min (250)
  •  140 West Fanklin (140)
  •  Shortbread Lofts (85)
Hotel Rooms (# of)
  •  Obey Creek max (400)
  •  Hampton Inn, Carrboro (142)
  •  Aloft, East 54 (130)
  •  The Franklin Hotel (67)
  •  Obey Creek min (0)

34 acres

Under current zoning, +/- 80 acres of 120 acres is available for development as single-family homes.

The current plan proposes development on 34 acres west of the creek and conserving all land east of the creek.

(Building footprint views are for comparison and are of the same scale)

Give it a try

Methodology = drop pin on Google Map, default scale of 200ft; do not adjust scale; screen capture - pan as needed and stitch together images as needed; trace building outlines.

for comparison

Obey Creek
Southern Village Core
Southpoint Mall
University Mall
New Hope Commons
UNC Hospital
RDU Airport
North Hills - Raleigh
Meadowmont Village

4 to 8 Stories

Buildings at main entrance (15-501 & Market) will be 4 stories.

Buildings further from 15-501 could be as tall as 8 stories.

(This graphic does not account for change in elevation.)

Take me to the source

See content starting on p.13.

for comparison

Obey Creek
Southern Village

Varying Block Sizes

Smaller block sizes are an essential component of human-scale design.

Generally, blocks over 400 ft support walkability less than smaller blocks, while blocks under 250 ft result in less efficient use of land.*

The current development agreement does not specify minimum and maximum block lengths.

Take me to the source

Block sizes provided at 3/25/15 meeting.

* = As stated by Victor Dover in 3/25/15 public meeting. Dover Kohl is a technical team contract for the Town.

for comparison

Obey Creek (longest block)

600 ft.

Charleston, SC

500 ft.

Southern Village (Weaver St. to Pazzo)

280 ft.

Portland, OR

220 ft.

Obey Creek (shortest block)

190 ft.

What are expected impacts?

Significant Traffic Increases

Obey Creek will add 15,858 new trips per day to adjacent streets

Peak hour traffic at 15-501 & Market St. will increase by 41%.

Take me to the source

For total new trips added to adjacent roads see p.14.

For AM, Noon, and PM peak flows in all directions of the intersection, see Figure 4A (p.41), 4B (p.42), 8A (p.48), and 8B (p.49).

for comparison

More Cars, Longer Delays

Intersections will exceed capacity by 2022 with or without development.

Obey Creek will add additional volume and delays to area intersections.

Traffic mitigation solutions exist for some, but not all, intersections.

Take me to the source

For AM peak flow, Northbound, see p.114-Culbreth NET; p.120-Market St. NBT; p.124-Smith Level NET; p.130-Manning EBT; p.140-Finley EBT

For per vehicle delay, see p.28, rows 10, 12, 15, 20 and 23.

For information on mitigations, see p.28, 31-36, & 56-60.

for comparison

Week Day AM - Northbound Through Traffic

A Range of Revenue Outcomes

Currently available fiscal analysis looks at two development scenarios.

Both produce a positive recurring profit.

Take me to the source

Fiscal analysis PDF from 1/8/2015 meeting

for comparison

Scenario 1 - 1.5M sqft

22% Retail, 16% Offices, 8% Hotel Rooms, 54% Residential

+$2.3M Rev.


= $1.0M

Scenario 2 - 680k sqft

29% Retail, 22% Offices, 0% Hotel Rooms, 49% Residential

+$1.2M Rev.


= $635k

What Now

Chapel Hill citizens and Town Council hold differing opinions on "what's right" for Obey Creek / Chapel Hill. While it's improbable to develop a solution that completely fulfills the desires of all groups, it is possible to...

Create a minimum
viable solution

Address pervasive
concerns expressed by citizens

Provide more in-town retail options

The Obey Creek proposal provides additional retail options for citizens. The current plan specifies total retail space may be anywhere from 200,000 to 475,000 square feet.

Make it easy to get around town, not just to drive through it

The proposal leaves many transportation topics unanswered, including walkability, interconnectivity, bike access, public transit, greenways and traffic mitigation.

Explore options and run the numbers

The plan has not considered alternate sizes, conducted a cost/benefit analysis, or performed sensitivity/confidence testing on assumptions.

Maximize positive outcomes / minimize impacts

Weigh the +/-'s of different land uses and intensities to produce optimal results for the town (e.g. balance building uses against traffic generation)

Create a human-scale, walkable development

The current plan reflects significantly taller buildings and larger footprints, more comparable to the UNC Hospital campus than to recommendations in the Compass Committee report.

Achieve town
council's top-priority goals

Increase commercial tax base

It's unclear the extent to which this property will increase the commercial tax base, given the wide range of possible development mixes and significant residential allowance.

Increase net revenue for the town

It's unclear whether revenue from this project will outweigh costs or if the costs will erode any potential profit for the town.

Increase affordable housing

The current plan addresses the desire for additional affordable housing and sets aside units specifically for affordable housing.

Create transportation systems for eveyone

Primary focus of engineers to date has been on maintaining traffic flows along 15-501. Plans do not address how ped-bike paths connect to broader bicycle and greenways plan.

Facilitate "Place Making" in Southern Chapel Hill

While the current plan creates a southern gateway to Chapel Hill, details for phasing requirements, the urban/suburban boulevard, block size and walkability remain unclear.

For additional information about
the Obey Creek Development Agreement:

About this site: The Chapel Hill-based service and experience design consultancy The Service Design Group created this web page as an information service to serve the citizens and town council in the presentation and distribution of information related to Obey Creek. No compensation or incentives, monetary or other, were provided or received in relation to this effort and neither The Service Design Group nor its officers have a financial or business interest in Obey Creek. In developing this resource, every attempt has been made to find fact-based information and present it free of bias – any omission or error will be corrected appropriately. The Service Design Group believes consumable, well-designed, fact-based, and thoughtful presentation of information can help any cause and leads to greater participation, dialogue and transparency for all parties. The Service Design Group LLC is owned and operated by Patrick McGowan.