Developer Eyes Franklin

Will this be a further step in the mall-i-fication of Franklin Street, or a big boost to the west end?

The Fayetteville developer who constructed the Top of the Hill retail and office building in the heart of downtown is negotiating to buy another key tract of land on Franklin Street... "I plan to build a building that looks similar or better than Top of the Hill," Riddle said...

The renewed interest in Chapel Hill's downtown commercial district is good news to some.
-News & Observer, 2/10/04

I can't understand why people seem to think there's some kind of blight on our downtown. Have you been to any other towns in North Carolina lately? We have one of the most thriving town centers in the state. In fact, we probably have one of the best downtowns in the nation for a town our size. Credit for this vitality is partially due to good planning (resistance to big-box stores and malls), and the proximity to campus (captive audience of students).




Rickie--there IS a pst office branch down on Franklin, I don't think they'll be putting one in on the West End. I guess i just assumed you were fom San Fran because of the Trader Joe's reference. My sis lived there--that's the only TJ's experience I've had. Sorry for the assumption!

There are lots of independant plant places around--not to mention Carrboro Farmeres Market on any Saturday in the SpPring/summer.


Terri, there is a downtown bookstore at 405 W Franklin Street, Internationalist Books.


Southern States is a very large national farmer's coop, with 300,000 members, 1,200 retail outlets, 5,000 employees, and interests very closely tied to big agribusiness. In my home state, they recently negotiated to sell all their grain elevators to Perdue (thus helping Perdue become even more vertically integrated, which is not in the interest of Maryland chicken farmers), and the co-op often signs on to big agri-business lobbying efforts along with companies like ADM, Monsanto, Cargill, etc.

Either that, or the folks my friends used to buy feed and seed from -- good local people, mostly family farmers who had to take second jobs -- have been following me around for years.

Yes, I think many people in Chapel Hill-Carrboro frequent locally owned establishments. But parking is only going to get worse in downtown, and I don't think any amount of parking meter tinkering is going to fix that . I think the answer will be to try to pack more people downtown in housing so that the businesses that already exist there will not feel the decrease in customers going to the Harris Teeter north complex or Lowe's quite so much. If you live within a 1/4 mile of Knight-Campbell or Internationalist, you're probably going to go there, otherwise, "most people" will probably head out to Lowe's or Barne's and Nobles or Border's. I don't think we can count completely on customer loyalty for independents to keep downtown prospering. It's just as important to plan ahead for the inevitability of a different market.

Which is admittedly a double-edged sword. If the market gets too hot on West Franklin I'm assuming that it will be hard to keep I-Books and the used bookstore around if their rent increases too much.

Oh, and I don't miss San Fran. I've never lived there, as a matter of fact. And God knows, we don't need a Californication of this area any more than it already is. But I don't think there is anything wrong with brainstorming about what we want as a community and aggressively courting those types of businesses....

A branch post office and a library would also be good over there... I miss the Carrboro post office and the old Chapel Hill library. Anything in the works on those fronts?

There used to be a regular food store, Fowler's, in the building -opposite the Malettete St. corner Visart - where the pizza joint and other little shops are. It was nice to have a real food store there. Now maybe with neo-traditional development ideas, we'll have another one someday.


hmmm.... I don't think I was implying that the TOTH building was a bad building. I guess I merely wanted to point out that, yes, as Melanie stated, it is HIS building, but morally a developer has a responsibility to develop it in a way that benefits the community. Not by law, of course, because we all know we can't legislate morality :). But, as Duncan says, the developer should be willing to make some trade-offs when those trade-offs don't burden him too much and he can still make a healthy return on his investment.

What about a nice vegan restaurant? :)

Or a gay bar?

Or a dim sum place?

Or a Trader Joe's?

Hey, this is fun.

What else do we need/want in downtown Chapel Hill? Anybody?

Please. No more pizza joints.

One of the unfortunate aspect of this development will be the probable loss of certain locally owned, long-term residents of the west end, such as Knight Campbell Hardware. I love having a hardware store with knowledgeable staff in town and sorely miss Fowlers, Roses and some of the other general purpose life-supporting businesses that used to constitute the east end community.

Rickie, I agree that Asheville has an excellent downtown that could offer Chapel Hill some great ideas. Anyone who likes the subtle culture of downtown Chapel Hill, loves Asheville because it oozes with culture. I think that when we all keep talking about a vital and sustainable downtown, we really are longing for the culture that we all know is there, but we just need to rejuice it.

Terri--what makes you think this will drive Knight Campbell out? I'm pretty sure they own their building--so it wouldn't be rent. Knight Campbell does a prety good business, too. why owuld they be forced out?

Dim sum would be okay--I don't there's enough vegans (willing to eat out often enough) to support a vegan restaurant. Gay bar? Do we really need that sort of self-segregation? I don't know enough about Trader-Joe's--but I'm guessing RIckie is really missing San Fran!


I've talked to the guys who work at Knight Campbell and at least last year, they were struggling--as are many of the downtown merchants. I go out of my way to take business there, Southern States in Carrboro, Branch's book store, etc. rather than the chains so that we maintain those established, local businesses. That doesn't mean I wouldn't like for some new ethnic restaurants to move in. Also, I'd add some arts/crafts stores to the wishlist and a downtown book store....

I do the same--but also get a lot of plants at Dickinson's--and much of my wood and building supplies at Fitch. (As opposed to Slowes.) We have an ART supply store downtown--Studio Supply is on the West End. Better parking would certainly help. I get my hair cut & colored at D.B Sutton & CO--and it is a pain to have to worry about the meter.

It would be nice ot have something in the Wicked Burrito's spot...but I don't hink THAT will be happening anytime soon!


It's not cynicism, but realism. Look at the intended markets for all of the new condos that have been built or are intended to be built around downtown, be it the west end or the east end. Again, so long as the University refuses to take responsbility for its rapidly increasing enrollment, those are the sorts of developments that will continue to be built.

I do believe there _is_ a trade-off between profits and the greater good of the community. The trick is finding developers willing to make that trade-off. They're out there.

What makes you think he will build something detrimental to the West End? Do you think his building on the East End was detrimental? I'd say TOH helped revitalize downtown, myself--though there are STILL alot of empty storefronts on East Franklin. I don't know how long you've lived here--but a number of people were predicting that TOH would "ruin" downtown when it was built.

WHATEVER he builds--it's bound to be better than that car dealership. And I, for one, would rather KEEP that property ON the tax roles--AND producing sales tax revenue to boot. But then, I own peoperty. If I were a renter I might not feel that way.

As to the desirability of a steak house--depends on the quality of the beef and the atmosphere. I know a NUMBER of people who were excited at the prospect of Jordan's restaurant--who were put off by the quality of the food and the "sports bar" atmosphere. There are a LOT of carnivores in this town...and many of us go to the West End--the wine bar is a particulr favorite--it's usually NOT packed with college kids. Not that there's anything WRONG with college kids--I'm mother to one myself--but sometimes one wants a more "adult" atmosphere...


The article quotes the developer saying that he'd have a retail mix with "high-end student housing" on top. So, there'd be some people living across from the Med Deli, but probably not the "creative class" you're talking about. As long as the University fails to provide housing for a greater proportion of its students, the student market will always be the most lucrative and dependable rental investment in town.

As to downtown shopping--I don't buy clothes downtown anymore. I'm 44, and there isn't anything for me--it's all geared to the 20-30 crowd (IMHO). I really miss Emma's. I know the students are the driving force for the East End--but one of the reasons I like the West End is that it seems more--"adult." Student housing might change that--but it'll be HIS building--who am I to complain?

A GOOD steak house would be a welcome addition to the CH restaurant mix. I hope the scale of the building is in keeping with the scale of the West End...but if the guy buys the property and keeps it to code--I won't complain.


I USED to do a lot of shopping downtown but parking got to be expensive and/or impossible. I would definately patronize a good steak house (frequently too) Driving to Raleigh for a steak bites!

Is there any type of small grocery available in the downtown? I wonder if something like that would fly...Nothing a huge as Food Lion, but someplace to get just basics like canned soup, fresh veggies, or laundry detergent...

There's a quick-mart sort of place on Rosemary--and from the WEST end of Franklin it's not TOO long a walk to Weaver Street and Teeters in Carrboro.


It's true that if the developer buys the land, it is his. But I think most people in town would agree that anyone who is invested in the town should show some level of commitment to developing something that would improve (or at least not be detrimental) to the community. If a steak house is going to make West Franklin an even more amazing place, then so be it (I'm personally of the opinion that the current frequenters of the west end wouldn't be very keen on a steakhouse). But the point is that I don't see a tradeoff between profits and the greater good of the community. You can develop and still serve the community's interests... or am I not being cynical enough?

Yes, we do have one of the most thriving downtowns in the state, but I think we're second to Asheville. Part of this can be explained by the tourism influx in Asheville, creating a core base of shoppers that we don't have. However, they have also made a major effort over the past decade to locate more and more housing downtown for that "creative class" everyone is fond of talking about. As a result, Asheville has a really vibrant core of tourists AND residents that live there. Though we have the students, it seems that most all the people going to the west end are driving there from other parts of Chapel Hill or the triangle. So why not try for mixed use with residential in this new building. We know the housing market is there and it might just create more of a sustainable downtown once we start getting more folks that live there.

I don't know that West End needs or could sustain a multi-level mixed office/restaurant, but I know lots of people that would want to live across from (or in) Med Deli or the Wine Bar.


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