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Shake Shack burgers planned for Chapel Hill NC mall

The Shake Shack restaurant chain known for its burgers, shakes and fries is looking to open its second Triangle location.

The company is planning its first storefront in Chapel Hill at Eastgate Crossing at 1800 E. Franklin St., which Kite Realty Group acquired in late 2020 from Federal Realty Investment Trust. A restaurant opened in Cary’s Waverly Place in August 2019 and was greeted by long lines of customers.

The restaurant wants to renovate an approximately 3,000 square foot vacant outbuilding that was recently occupied by Zoes Kitchen. Zoes closed in 2019 after its parent company was acquired by the Cava Group. It also housed the Boston Market, which closed in 2016.

“There are other tenants in this (mall) who have expressed excitement about this tenant, and we’re (excited) too,” said Matthew Van Dyke, senior project manager for Kite Realty Group.

He spoke Thursday night at a meeting of the Chapel Hill Community Design Commission. The project developer asked the commission to approve a series of modifications to the exterior of the building and to the parking lot. The project will also extend and partially cover an outdoor dining area on the patio.

A vote is possible from the December meeting. Council approval would send the project to Chapel Hill City Manager Maurice Jones, who would finalize the Certificate of Suitability required to build.

Shake Shack plans renovations

The Shake Shack site is in the city’s Blue Hill neighborhood, a long-standing commercial area that runs along East Franklin Street, Fordham Boulevard, Ephesus Church Road and South Elliott Road. Projects in the neighborhood are guided by a form-based development code that describes how buildings should look and fit into their surroundings.

The code also speeds up the approval process by routing projects to the Community Design Commission and City Manager for hearing and approval. The city council does not review neighborhood projects.

Each Shake Shack is different, designed to reflect the community around it, company officials said. The proposal for Chapel Hill features dark green brick on the front facade, accented by black window, door and skylight frames. Variegated panels alternating between green and white would be used on the other sides of the building.

Large planters would separate the patio from the parking lot. Shake Shack would renovate the interior of the building, Van Dyke said.

The current patio “is very small,” Van Dyke said. “It’s not really inviting. It’s not enough, especially with what we are still going through today with COVID.

He noted that Kite Realty Group had made a number of improvements since purchasing the mall, which was built in 1958. The company is also modifying a storefront for Aldi, a Germany-based discount grocer, and recently added a moved Kipos restaurant.

Commissioners were broadly supportive of the project, but called for a second review. They asked the developer to bring back a more lush landscaping plan and ideas for concealing the building’s mechanical systems.

“It feels natural and right, so I appreciate you bringing a fresh perspective to parking and how to reconfigure these things,” Commission President Susana Dancy said.

Shake Shack founder and leader Danny Meyer started the company in 2004 from a hot dog cart in New York’s Madison Square Park to raise money for a public art project , according to the company’s website. Its reach is now global, with four locations near Charlotte and one in Cary.

Officials at Kite Realty and Shake Shack did not respond to The News & Observer for additional comment on Thursday.

This story was originally published November 11, 2021 9:54 p.m.

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Tammy Grubb has been writing about Orange County politics, people, and government since 2010. She is an alumnus of UNC-Chapel Hill and has lived and worked in the Triangle for more than 25 years.