Kirk Ross on Bloomington, his home town

I wish Kirk Ross had published "A Tale of Two Towns" a week earlier, before 75 or so of us went to Bloomington.

I gently lobbied Kirk to sign up for the trip in late May when it was announced, and he was essentially non-responsive. It looked to be pricey, even with a scholarship, and Kirk's journalistic mission nowadays appears to be mostly NC politics, which he covers well and which needs covering well.  

After our bus tour Sunday, Jim Ward and I had already come to an understanding that closely resembles what Kirk says in the column about downtown Bloomington and our end of things: "...with the exception of parts of Carrboro, we’ve not had the kind of old warehouse district that someone with a dream and big bucks can turn into a 21st-century space."  We'd just been given a drive through what's clearly a working class/industrial town with a large public university next to it. As you may have noticed, Chapel Hill has one industry (which does not own a single building in the Carrboro town limits), and there's almost no spare space next to that industrial complex. Both towns, you've surely noticed, have "large" buildings out of the ground or being built, because that's really our only option. Bloomington has both: new large buildings that some folks probably resent greatly, and industrial/warehouse sites redone in admirable ways. To me, as someone who knows central Durham quite well from two decades of living and working there, Bloomington much more resembles a small version of Durham (one-third the population) than it does Chapel HIll/Carrboro.  

Will be interested in any comments on Kirk's analysis, which, while it came too late in one sense, is well-timed for those of us who want to reflect on our visit.  


I felt the same way after coming back from the Inter-City Visit to Ann Arbor 4 years ago. I loved what they had done with unerutilzed spaces, but we have almost no spaces like that. I also agree that this is something that is helping Durham kick so much ass lately.This is why Chapel Hill really has to think about higher densities. Is it just too much to hope that we can still keep things cheap while building up? 

I also wonder if we're thinking creatively enough about what can be done beyond downtown.  UMall we know is ripe for denser re-development (perhaps in a better econ climate).  Would love UNC to have creative ideas for density at Eastowne. The town is taking proactive steps with the Ephesus Church Rd area, but there are other (larger) spaces too. This flexibility in thinking (in my mind) argues against fixed-path rail as our transit future.  Would much rather us invest in BRT that could serve that end of town as well as downtown/hospital.

Yes - I'm with James on this one.  Unfortunately we seem to be creating a patchwork of ideas and services from other places without a process that thinks creatively through how to apply them to what's distinctively Orange County. Even our guiding principles about the environment and sustainability need an overhaul to reflect 21st century technologies and trends (such a review would clearly show that advances in emissions for bus transit greatly outpaces rail). With the transit tax referendum around the corner,  the BoCC is still haggling funding, management and cost sharing issues.  It looks like Chapel Hill Transit will not be able to use the sales tax money to fund existing services.  (page 353   There are so many people in this area from other interesting communities.  There's no shortage of ideas.  Just missing the steps to convert the right ideas into tangible solutions that enrich our communities and quality of life.  Bonnie Hauser

Although Bloomington, like many mid-western cities, has the advantages of being founded and built-up in an era/region that was more friendly to city planning, I don't see the lack of old "warehouse" buildings as being a central detriment to Chapel Hill. After all, Southpoint Mall manages to mimic the warehouse look, even though it was built in the past decade. Instead, the challenge Chapel Hill & Carrboro face is that the two, together, feature an urban rectangle (Rosemary & Franklin in CH, Main & Weaver in Carrboro) that is underdeveloped. While the new building projects will add new residents to the area, both towns are subsidizing (as I understand it, at least) new parking lots that will all but guarantee that the towns will not be able to achieve the population density necessary for prosperity. Likewise, the presence of underutilized buildings and empty storefronts suggests that the towns are not taxing this valuable property at a high enough level to force owners to either make it generate revenue or sell. (Moving from a property tax, which heavily weighs building improvements, to a land tax, which instead heavily weighs the underlying value of the land, would be a good idea for the downtown district).The light rail is, in my mind, a separate initiative, as it will allow other parts of Chapel Hill to respond to increasing demand for car-free living and walkable neighborhoods by connecting places of employment to places where people live and shop. While Chapel Hill will benefit from light rail (and would benefit more if they made it easier for people to build apartment buildings and offices in places like Meadowmont), I suspect most of the advantage will go to Durham, which isn't as wedded to a past image of itself as Chapel Hill and, furthermore, benefits from having been a city when legislators and citizens weren't afraid to reshape their landscape and lifestyle in order to embrace modernity. 


Community Guidelines

By using this site, you agree to our community guidelines. Inappropriate or disruptive behavior will result in moderation or eviction.


Content license

By contributing to OrangePolitics, you agree to license your contributions under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.

Creative Commons License

Zircon - This is a contributing Drupal Theme
Design by WeebPal.