A Turkish Cultural Center for Chapel Hill

On November 21, The Town Council unanimously approved a local Nobel laureate’s plan to create a Turkish cultural center on East Franklin Street. The Council approved a special use permit for 1609 E. Franklin St, formerly the site of a contentious hotel proposal that was not approved.

The Sancar Turkish Cultural Center, named for UNC scientists Aziz and Gwen Sancar, will feature net-zero energy buildings, which means that the roof-mounted solar energy systems will produce sufficient energy to offset any energy taken from the electrical grid to run the buildings’ energy systems.  The architectural firm of record, Innovative Design of Raleigh, now only designs buildings that meet the AIA-2030 targets for reduced carbon footprints.  This building design will set the standard for future sustainable development in Chapel Hill.

During the public hearing concerning the project, the applicant, neighbors, and staff met several times and discussed possible options to address the concerns of the neighbors and the interest of the applicant. The Council approved the original plan – a guesthouse with a 20-foot wide driveway, which was designed to meet energy and sustainability goals, as well as cultural program interests.

Shauna Farmer gave a neighbor’s perspective:  The project’s “environmental stewardship of the property – including its water management and slope protection, landscaping choices and building plans – protect adjoining property and our shared water, and set an example of responsible land use. I also believe that the site placement of the buildings, with residential use on the side facing residences and commercial use on Franklin, will protect the residential character of Coker Hills.”

Jordan Scepanski told the Council,  “I believe the establishment of a Turkish cultural center here in Chapel Hill is something that will be an important event not just for the town, but for the entire region and even for the state of North Carolina. There may be other such centers in the U.S., but none that I’m aware of having quite the ambition and the reach of the proposed facility and certainly not the commitment to such as evidenced by Aziz and Gwen Sancar’s foundation.”

The Sancars have run the nonprofit Carolina Turk Evi (Turkish Center) at 743 E. Franklin St. since 2007, hosting scholars and researchers, and promoting understanding between Turks and Americans. The new center will be built at a time when anti-American rhetoric is unfortunately on the rise in Turkey and anti-Muslim rhetoric on the rise in the U.S.

This is a wonderful development for Chapel Hill!

Read more:

Nobel prize winner to open Turkish cultural center in Chapel Hill, Daily Tarheel

Council gives go ahead to Turkish Cultural Center in Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill News

Can a Nobel Prize Winner Bring Peace to a Contentious Property in Chapel Hill?, Indy

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