Downtown's destiny

In May we had a false start here on OP discussing the Downtown Partnership's logo and slogan when the the Daily Tarheel incorrectly reported that the slogan would be "Sophisticated travel destination." It seems they actually settled on the slogan "Driving Downtown's Destiny." However, it turns out that the DTH's description of their logo was pretty much accurate.

I can't find a web site for the partnership, so I scanned this image (left) from their newsletter. Although I like the old-fashioned feel, the whole thing leaves me cold. It gives me the feeling that they are emphasizing tourism and history. While these are nice aspects, I personally don't think they are as high priorities as defining downtown Chapel Hill as a place where the community lives, as opposed to a place you just visit and then go home to your real community.

I guess I am also a little wary of these folks who have appointed themselves as the keepers of downtown's image. Who gets to decide what "downtown's" logo is? Can I make one and announce it too? I sometimes wonder if I would agree with the DP on what "problems" we should be solving downtown. Perhaps it's because the DP's mission is to "..maintain, enhance, and promote downtown... through economic development." While I support economic development, I wouldn't put it at the top of my list of what downtown needs.

In fact, I don't think all that much is wrong with downtown. We've got a (slightly) urban center that most towns our size would envy, largely due to the fact that both the town and UNC believe that there is a more important constituency than cars. We need to continue and evolve this approach now that we have used most of the build-able land in town. How can we prepare downtown to increase the capacity of workers, residents, shoppers, culture, as well as people in transit which while retaining the community character what we all seem to find attractive?



There are a lot of great downtown destinations that I have enjoyed and I can't remember a single logo or slogan about any of them.

Ruby asks: "How can we prepare downtown to increase the capacity of workers, residents, shoppers, culture, as well as people in transit which [sic] retaining the community character what we all seem to find attractive?"

I think Ruby has concisely presented a critical, perhaps the most critical, question regarding the future of downtown but answering it requires that we first define "the community character that we all seem to find attractive". I think that, as Chapel Hill has grown and the demographics have changed, the variety of definitions for community character that you would get have increased substantially. If you ask CH residents what they want Carolina North to look like 30 years from now most will probably be able to give you an answer of some sort. But if you ask these same citizens what they want downtown Chapel Hill to look like 30 years fronm now I'm not sure you'll get an answer as readily. Most can probably say what they like or don't like about our current downtown but how many would be prepared to say what, if all possibilities are on the table, they would want it to be 30 years hence?

DTH had an "editorial from another reality" yesterday that seems relevant.

Thanks for the link to the editorial Terri. While I agree that Chapel Hill is a great place to live, I believe the DTH editorial paints too bright a picture.

The county's economic development is not keeping up with the county's cost of living. According to the article....

"Chapel Hill has erased homelessness by spurning [do they mean spurring????] economic growth so much that our unemployment level is less than 0.1 percent. Coupled with an aggressive campaign to make Chapel Hill a community with affordable housing for all, none in our humble little burg struggle on without their basic needs being met."

The writer credits Chapel Hill with providing these things. Unfortunately, the write overlooks the facts. A large majority of Orange County residents work outside of Orange County. Many of those people that live here have high paying jobs in the Triangle or even Raleigh. Vice-cersa, a large majority of those employed in Orange County live outside the county.

(If anyone has the specific numbers I would love to hear them. I believe that about 70% of Orange County residents work outside the county and 70% of those employed in Orange County live outside of the county).

Our county and town need to do a much better job at attracting high paying jobs. I am not sure how that fits in with the Chapel Hill downtown, but it is something we must adress when dealing with the economic development of Chapel Hill and Orange County as a whole.

Matt--you missed the point....An Editoral from Another Reality! It was sarcasm. None of the positives they list are real.

Sorry... skimmed over the link part of your comment....

Mark, isn't the logo and slogan for the Downtown Partnership and not downtown Chapel Hill?

"Driving Downtown's Destiny" sounds like
"Driving Miss Daisy"

Fred, the DP describes this as "a new logo for downtown Chapel Hill." If it was just their own logo I wouldn't mind so much.

The CHDP is a 501 (c) 3 not-for profit corporation established by the Town of Chapel Hill and funded by the Town and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The CHDP has seven (7) board members: four (4) are appointed by the Town of Chapel Hill (2 at-large, 1 downtown property owner, 1 downtown merchant); two (2) are appointed by the University, and one (1) at large member appointed by the other six board members.

As they didn't really "appoint" themselves, they seem to have some legitimacy for doing what they have done to promote the downtown. Therefore, I guess I look at it as the CHDP's slogan and logo for our downtown. I guess any "downtown" that has a slogan and/or logo had some organization that advanced it, since "downtowns" don't do these things on their own.

The Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership voted to adopt the Main Street Programming model (NC Dept of Commerce) and the town council endorsed that decision (or at least the mayor did). The Main Street program delineates the econonomic and social aspects of revitalizing downtown with townwide governance. To learn more about this approach, see

I don't know that I agree with the segmentation of downtown from the rest of town, but I do believe the partnership has adopted this direction with full support from elected officials and downtown businesses. The council's decision to create a separate economic development position reinforces that endorsement, IMHO.

Yeah, but they weren't appointed by "downtown" (especially not downtown residents). And their stated mission is limited to economic development, not environmental protection, cultural growth, supporting transit and pedestrians, community-building, or historic preservation. Which is not to say that it should be, but just a friendly reminder that they don't (and shouldn't) claim to speak for ALL of the interests of our downtown.

I guess that I'm reading it differently, Ruby. According to the Town webpage, "The mission of the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership (CHDP) is to bring the resources of the Town, University and downtown community together to maintain, enhance and promote the downtown as the social, cultural and spiritual center of Chapel Hill structure through economic development."

The Mayor is not yet the Council. A number of folks that attended the Main Street presentations had concerns - and they raised some rather good points.

"Economic development" is not the end-all, be-all engine of social, cultural or spiritual enhancement. In fact, poorly planned and executed economic development strategies are an anathema to those goals.

Discussions on downtown's future should include a wider array of voices - including some that might be diametrically opposed to the current thrusts of the DPC.

Considering the wretched slogan, "Driving Downtown's Destiny," is one of those thrusts and will be used to promote the "collective" downtown community, I think Ruby is correct in underlining that the DPC is the tail and not the dog.

Well, I don't know whether the economic development planned for downtown will be an engine of social, cultural, or spiritual enhancement.

I do know that I'm really excited about all the plans I've heard of so far--especially the new residential units with subterranean parking. How great will that be--to use Chapel Hill's most scarce commodity (land) for something other than an ugly parking lot!

As lucky as Chapel Hill has been to retain a vital downtown years after most have folded, we shouldn't delude ourselves that it will last forever in its current state. Our downtown's success has been in large part due to the captive student audience. But they're not really captive anymore--most live off campus, so shopping on Franklin Street is inconvenient (or, at least, it's no more convenient than shopping anywhere else). And they have free buses that will take them anywhere in Chapel Hill. The old Gap location has been vacant for ages, and it hasn't been the only one--the place that is now [B]Ski's was empty for 2 years. Even the Rathskellar recently closed its doors.

So perhaps the question shouldn't be "what's wrong with downtown the way it is?" It should be "what will be wrong with downtown in the future if we don't do something about it now?"

It seems to me that a higher concentration of people living downtown will only improve what's already there. More restaurants, more stores. More people out on the street, which will lead to less crime. More people walking to their destinations, rather than driving. More options for the many people who are moving here from more urban settings. More housing, period.

Sounds pretty good to me.


You make some really good points. The Chapel Hill Planning Board has been charged by the Town Council with "overseeing" the update/revision of the Town's Comprehensive Plan. From a personal point of view I find the metric that is most lacking is "what do you want Chapel Hill to be?". Most of us can say what we like (or don't) about Chapel Hill but, recognizing that change is almost inevitable, we often can't articulate what we want Chapel Hill to look like 20-30 years down the road (or even sooner). It really would be helpful to know what you view as the ideal community that you would like to grow old in.

Just as an aside, I thought I read somewhere that nearly 30% of Orange County residents work within the "UNC system".

I guess, if anyone has the job numbers you're looking for, I would love to know what the percent residents that work at UNC is as well.

The County says under 60 percent of county workers are employed within the county and about 40 percent of county jobs filled by residents of other counties.

UNC data is in the Planning Department's 2005 Data Book (Demographics) begining at Table 20.

Anita, the info is in the Data Book linked above in my prior post.

Thanks for the information. I was overstating, but I still think that these statistics are alarming. Why is it that people who work here can't afford to live here and people who live here work elsewhere. We have a major problem. If over 40% of our workforce works outside of the county, and just under 30% works at the Univeristy, that means private business in Orange County is employing less than 30% of Orange County's workforce.

I have long heard the 40/40 split--40% of our residents work outside Orange County, and 40% of our jobs are filled by people who commute in from other counties.

Dianne Reid at the Orange County EDC might be able to break that out a bit more. I also think the University tracks some of this information about its employees.

Matt, I think that there are lot's of folks concerned and workin on this. We must have workforce housing to anchor our community.

Matt, that's what many of us are concerned about. Workforce housing is one important component, but the other one is to improve the diversity, quality, and pay scales of available employment in Orange County. Right now we import lower paid workers and export higher paid workers. Workforce housing helps address the first group's need, but without following through with good quality economic development, you won't address the second part of this issue. I also don't believe we can continue our heavy reliance on the public sector to create jobs. Orange County actually saw a decrease in private sector employment over the past few years. That isn't good.


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