Project backed by Nobel Prize winner approved for a local Turkish foundation


The Sancar Turkish Cultural and Community Center approved, features a 9,700-square-foot community hall with classrooms, offices and a two-story scholars guesthouse on 1.7 acres. This is will be the view from East Franklin Street, between Psychology Associates and the Ballet School of Chapel Hill. Aziz and Gwen Sancar Foundation Contributed.

Chapel Hill Town Council approved plans for a local Turkish foundation that’s backed by Nobel Prize winner Aziz Sancar to build on Franklin Street where a hotel was previously planned.

The special-use permit will allow the Aziz and Gwen Sancar Foundation to move forward with its plans to build a 13,000-square-foot clubhouse and guest house at what is currently a vacant residential property at 1609 E. Franklin St., near the intersection of Elliott Road, Chapel Hill, NC.

The foundation is buying the two-acre property from Raleigh real estate investor Don Walston, who had purchased the land in 2007 with plans to build a six-story hotel, but those plans were shelved in January after agreements couldn’t be reached with the town.

The Sancars have said that the goals of the center will be to expand their efforts started at the Carolina Turkish House they opened a few years ago near the UNC-Chapel Hill campus to host speakers, programs and exhibitions related to Turkish history, culture, and contributions to the arts and sciences. The house also provides short- and medium-term housing for Turkish graduate students and visiting scholars.

A two-story guesthouse will provide visiting scholars to the Sancar Turkish Cultural and Community Center at 1609 E. Franklin St. with affordable accomodations and a sense of community while they are visiting Chapel Hill, NC. Guests will leave for the community center from the first floor, but they will park at the end of a driveway off Velma Street. Aziz and Gwen Sancar Foundation Contributed.

Aziz Sancar, a native of Turkey, is the Sarah Graham Kenan Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the UNC School of Medicine. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2015 for his work in the studies of DNA repair. His wife, Gwen Sancar, is also a professor of biochemistry and biophysics at the school.

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Much of the funds backing the Turkish Cultural Center project will come from proceeds from Sancar’s Nobel Prize money that was donated to the foundation. Sancar’s share of the prize was about $310,000.

The design team for the building project includes the Innovative Design architectural firm and civil engineering firm B+F Consulting, both in Raleigh.


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