CHAPEL HILL -- UNC will lease about 1.7 acres at Raleigh-Durham International Airport to build a hangar and offices so it can move medical flight operations away from Horace Williams Airport.
The deal, approved Wednesday by the university's Board of Trustees, helps clear the way for UNC to use the Horace Williams site for its proposed satellite campus, Carolina North.
The Area Health Education Centers' Medical Air Operations now uses Horace Williams to fly health care personnel to clinics statewide.
A closing date has not been set for Horace Williams, but UNC officials expect to complete construction of the RDU hangar by the fall of 2008, said Bruce Runberg, UNC's associate vice chancellor for facilities planning.
The new space would not be for private pilots, who can use Horace Williams. Some of those pilots have criticized UNC's plans for that airport.
The terms of the RDU lease have not been finalized, but Runberg expects it to last for 20 years, the maximum period airport officials allow. The cost is not to exceed about $8,700 per year, he said.
UNC plans to build offices, hangar space and parking spots on the RDU land.
The trustees unanimously approved the acquisition, expressing few concerns about preliminary design plans for the site.
UNC is budgeting $3.5 million for construction, and the trustees will hear a more detailed presentation about the design in May, Runberg said.
Before deciding to move the medical operations to RDU, UNC officials considered nearly two dozen other airport sites in Orange, Chatham and Alamance counties.
Some UNC doctors and medical personnel have opposed the move largely because it takes less time to drive to campus from Horace Williams than from RDU.
When asked last month what he thought of the future of Horace Williams Airport, UNC Health Care CEO William Roper said he understands that, "The university has decided that it has other uses it wants to pursue for that site."
UNC officials are moving ahead with those pursuits. They want to present a preliminary concept plan for developing Carolina North to university trustees in July and a final plan in September, Carolina North Executive Director Jack Evans said.
Carolina North would be a mix of academic, research and residential space on about 1,000 acres.
The university is starting to host monthly public feedback sessions on the project.
At the first meeting, on Tuesday, UNC officials will describe examples of activities they foresee occurring at Carolina North and will present three ideas for conceptual approaches for development.
The presentation will be at 3:30 p.m., and again at 5:30 p.m., at the UNC School of Government.
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The Horace Williams Airport will remain open for one more year as UNC continues working on a plan to move the university's medical air program.
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