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.
When they adopted the Land-Use Management Ordinance in 2002, the Chapel Hill Town Council created a new way to protect residential areas, it's called the Neighborhood Conservation District. The first community to develop an NCD is Northside, where I live. If you are unfamiliar with it, Northside is a historically black and working-class neighborhood downtown (north of Rosemary Street, south of Bolin Creek, east of Carrboro, and west of Columbia Street). Low prices and convenient location have made the neighborhood increasingly attractive to student renters and their investor-landlords who can afford to pay more than many families and contribute less to the community in my opinion.
I have lots more I'd like to say about this, but what I want you to know right now is that the Town is holding a public forum to discuss the recommendation of the citizen committee that is working with the Planning Board to develop this Neighborhood Conservation District for Northside. Here's the scoop:
NORTHSIDE NEIGHBORHOOD COMMUNITY FORUM
The N&O reports that UNC is considering getting much more involved with commercial properties downtown. It sounds promising, but it raises some serious concerns. And I'm still a litle suspicious about the Mayor's hand-picked "steering committee" that has superceded the long-standing Downtown Commission.
As Chapel Hill officials focus on revitalizing downtown, UNC-Chapel Hill administrators are floating an idea that could give the university a large role in where shops, restaurants and businesses would go. ...In recent weeks, Nancy Suttenfield, vice chancellor of business and finance at UNC-CH, has been touting the concept of using a university foundation to invest in commercial real estate, with the notion of keeping the properties on the tax rolls and creating an opportunity to control how key buildings are used.
Although I was at the Chapel Hill Town Council meeting in person tonight to present the Horace Williams Commitee's report, I dashed home to watch the exciting conclusion from the comfort of my sofa rather than wait it out in the Council Chamber which was filling up with hard-drinkin' lovers of civil liberties. And a TV camera! Did anyone see channel 17?
I think at least a dozen local residents spoke to the Council against this proposal to require expensive sprinkler systems in just three bars in town... which are not coincidentally in the same building downtown on East Rosemary Street. This proposal was made in the name of safety after the tragic fire at a club in Rhode Island. What the requirements fail to do is protect us from pyrotechnics and blocked fire exits, which were two of the main causes of the fatal fire.
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