Economy & Downtown

Chapel Hill's downtown has long benefited from its proximity to a captive audience of University students without cars. While downtowns around the country have been failing, ours has survived fairly well. However, we have seen an increase in the number of chain stores locating downtown, and instability in the Downtown Economic Development Corporation. In the near future, we will see new Town-directed development on two major parking lots have a big impact.
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Carrboro's downtown has also done better than many towns of comparable size, thanks largely to the presence of Weaver Street Market and progressive shoppers from the rest of the county. The Board of Aldermen has been addressing the evolution of the downtown, and have established a number of community resources in the downtown area including free wireless Internet access, and a low-power radio station.

Town Hall- Downtown Chapel Hill

On February 25th from 5:30-6:30, I'm hosting a Town Hall at DSI Comedy on Franklin Street focused on our downtown. Come hear about what's new for Franklin and Rosemary Streets in the coming year, and share your vision about what you want downtown to look like in the future!

Date: 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015 - 5:30am

Location: 

DSI Comedy

Let's Do Parking Right: A Look at the Evidence

Parking, like traffic, is a recurring theme in local conversation about growth and development. We often hear from some community members that there is nowhere to park in downtown Chapel Hill/Carrboro, that a lack of parking is hurting local businesses, and that the parking minimums required for the Ephesus-Fordham renewal district are insufficient.

But the facts simply don’t support these claims. The reality is that providing more parking – especially surface parking – is fundamentally incompatible with urban land uses.*

Numerous urban planning scholars have researched parking, and their research has consistently confirmed that more parking is not desirable on any metric – unless, that is, you want more people to drive and create more traffic.

The Truth About Traffic

Whenever there’s a new development proposal pending before a local governing board, the center of the conversation always seems to gravitate toward traffic. Given this tendency, I think it’s important we understand historic traffic changes in Chapel Hill and Carrboro.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation maintains historic traffic counts for urban areas around the state, including Chapel Hill. These traffic counts date back to 1997, with the most recent data being from 2013. With this in mind, let’s take a look at the average annual daily traffic in some major areas around town:

 

Area

1997

2004

2013

Change, 2013 vs. 1997

W Franklin St (just west of Columbia St)

17,400

18,000

12,000

Residents Give Feedback on Proposed Carrboro Arts and Innovation Center

More than 40 people came out to Carrboro Town Hall earlier last night to give the Board of Alderman their thoughts about a proposed Carrboro Arts and Innovation Center downtown. The project, a joint effort of The ArtsCenter and Kidzu, would consist of a center with three performing arts center and kids museum located at at the intersection of Main and Roberson Streets.

The two partners propose raising half of the $15 million cost, with the town paying for the other half. They argue that the costs on the public side would be covered by tax revenues from a new hotel on the current ArtsCenter site that would also be part of the development. The town would own the new building, and the two non-profit partners would form a new organization that would raise funds for operations and manage the facility. That organization's new board will be appointed by the town. The partners estimated the economic impact of the project at around $320 million over the next 25 years.

A Goal for 2015: Increased Walkability

Walkable, dense neighborhoods are good for us. That’s what this recent CityLab article concludes, citing numerous peer-reviewed research studies. And not only are these kinds of neighborhoods good for us, they’re good for the sustainability of our communities long term. For example:

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