FROM THE HILL
Hillsborough Hospital Planned;
UNC Won’t Expand Bed Tower
Uadd about 300 beds to the hospital on
the UNC campus and instead will
NC Health Care has shelved plans to
build a 68-bed hospital in Hillsborough.
The decision represents a priority reversal
dictated primarily by the economic downturn.
The organization that runs UNC Hospitals had
planned to add to the Chapel Hill campus first
and then build a smaller facility at Carolina
Then “the world economy went in the
ditch,” said CEO and medical school Dean Bill
Roper. “The effects on us have been dramatic.
Hospital revenues are down 30 to 40 percent.”
Roper said the impact of the economy on
individuals also had produced a “tidal wave” of
uninsured patients seeking treatment at the hospital. UNC Health Care also had counted on the
state for about half the $750 million cost of a bed
“Obviously, the state’s not going to give us
that money right now.”
UNC Health Care has an option to buy 83
acres of land just off Interstate 40 in Hillsborough. Pending state approvals, Roper hopes a
full-service hospital could open there in three to
four years. He said that Chapel Hill medical staff
have responded enthusiastically to working there
and that the facility would offer general and outpatient surgery, orthopedics, and family and
internal medicine, as well as emergency service.
More critical cases would continue to be handled at the campus hospital, he said.
That hospital is operating at capacity all the
time now, Roper said, and a bed tower addition
still will be needed in the future.
The state would not have to authorize additional beds since UNC would transfer 68 from
the Chapel Hill hospital after converting some
double rooms to singles there. UNC Hospitals
expects to pay $17.5 million for the land from its
The economy also has hit the medical
school’s proposed expansion. Proposed regional
medical schools in Charlotte and Asheville have
been put on hold indefinitely due to a lack of
funding. The plan was for UNC to grow its first-year classes to 230 from 160 students to meet the
needs of the state’s growing population and to
place some third- and fourth-year students in
Charlotte and Asheville. An internal study over
the past two years concluded that the UNC
expansion was more efficient than building a
new free-standing school in Charlotte.
UNC Plans to Build Below-Market Housing
Aning, UNC’s Carolina Commons below-market housing plan is starting the long
fter many years of discussions and plan-
process of becoming a reality.
Carolina Commons would offer UNC faculty
and staff single-family town homes and condominium homes at below-market rates on a 63-
acre tract the University owns in Carrboro. The
off-campus housing development is a first for the
“This project has been in people’s minds for
quite some time, and I think it really comes out
of the need for a housing price that doesn’t really
exist in the community right now,” said Mary
Jane Nirdlinger, project manager in facilities planning.
The hope of the project is that the financial
component combined with the neighborhood’s
proximity to campus will attract talented faculty
and provide them with affordable and convenient
The proposal calls for 166 dwelling units,
including single-family, town home and condominium units. Seventeen of the units would be
sold at market rate to help subsidize the below-market units. The site, which is bisected by Bolin
Creek in northwest Carrboro, has been owned by
the University since 1940.
Nirdlinger expects the town, public and University review process to take about a year.
The homes and landscaping of Carolina
Commons will be designed to be environmentally sustainable and as green as possible. The
project plan has been submitted for a review
process to the town of Carrboro.
Nirdlinger said that no actual prices for the
houses have been set and that the biggest challenge is the conflict between making affordable as
well as environmentally sustainable housing.
“The target is below-market prices, but the
market shifts over time,” Nirdlinger said. “We’ll
be looking at actual prices when we get further
into the process. It’s an exciting project. We just
want to make sure we do it right.”
Name That Bird
Alan Feduccia has long challenged the view that birds
come from advanced theropod
dinosaurs that developed flight
from the ground up. Now, a new
species of the oldest known
beaked bird has been named
The fossil of the early
Cretaceous period bird was
recently discovered in dried up
lake deposits in northeastern
China, an area that has produced
a “gold rush” of fossils, Feduccia
said. The S.K. Heninger Professor
emeritus and former chair of the
biology department previously
helped to describe the genus
Confuciusornis — named after the
Chinese philosopher Confucius.
The study describing the new
species says it is dedicated to
Feduccia for his contribution to
the study of the origin and evolution of birds.
Feduccia, who came to UNC in
1971, said having a bird named
for him “is a thrill.” The new bird
— about 120 million years old —
is the largest known species of
Confuciusornis discovered so far.