It’s been a rough year for the UNC system, with humanities departments taking particularly tough hits. In January, system president Tom Ross gave news of his resignation. And earlier this week, the UNC Board of Governors announced that 46 degree programs across 16 universities would come to an end.

Despite the ominous beginning to the summer, but on the heels of an excellent 2015–2016 season lineup, Carolina Performing Arts and the Town of Chapel Hill united today to announce the creation of a new arts-centric space in downtown Chapel Hill. It’s slated to open in August 2017 and will be dubbed The Core@Carolina Square. The project is linked with CPA’s Arts@TheCore initiative, meant to integrate elements of the arts into more university curricula—humanities departments, sure, but also science, math and other technical programs. Some 60 classes participated last year.

UNC Chancellor Carol Folt, Chapel Hill mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, developer Jeff Furman and CPA executive director Emil Kang all spoke at a press conference this morning to discuss the new space. The Core@Carolina Square will be roughly 8,500 square feet, split into a 3,000-square-foot rehearsal space and a 4,000-square-foot-studio space.

Carolina Square
is a new development led by Cousins Properties and Northwood Ravin. Off West Franklin Street, it will take over the space once occupied by the University Square shopping center. The Core won’t be on Franklin Street itself; instead, it will be nestled between new condo and retail spaces and the Granville Towers dormitory. Church Street, which currently stops at Franklin Street, will extend all the way to Cameron Avenue. The Core will also house offices and be adjacent to a green space that may also host performances. A parking deck at the back of The Core’s building will accommodate guests. All of this development carries a $5 million price tag, with $4 million coming from the university. Carolina Performing Arts is still working on raising that last million.

It’s a lofty undertaking, to say the least, but Folt, Kleinschmidt and Kang all spoke to the potential culture-enhancing payoff. Kleinschmidt said he believed the project would strengthen connections between the university and the Chapel Hill community, acknowledging the perception that the town and UNC operate in separate orbits. Kang said The Core will also encourage visiting artists to explore new connections with the university’s “teaching, research and service missions.”

If Franklin Street is to have more condos, then, at least they will be counterbalanced by a space dedicated to the arts.