Dancing May Return to Carr Mill Mall

Many have expressed concern about a recent action by Carr Mill Mall to ban dancing by free-form dancer Bruce Thomas (even the CH Herald today opined "Let the dancing guy keep on dancing.").

Thomas has been enlivening the Carr Mill lawn for the last few years with his spontaneous, gracefully spiritual dancing. Other times, Bruce can be seen sitting in quiet meditation on one of the nearby benches. And, yes, he is a regular customer of Weaver Street Market.

The ban apparently results from a Carr Mill policy that states that only mall tenants and those attending their events can use the lawn space (thus, Bruce may dance during a WSM event but not otherwise).

To me, Bruce Thomas is much like the mime Robert Shields who became nationally renowned and synonymous with San Francisco's Union Square in the early 1970s (see the opening sequence of Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation for a taste of Shields). With Bruce there is the added dimension of his life story, the difficulties he has overcome, and the role model he offers to others (for background ).

Artistic expression contributes to the culture of downtown and also to the vibrancy of the downtown economy. Individuals like Thomas and hoop artist and instructor Vivian Spiral (also threatened by the ban) become the visible representation of a freedom of spirit and creativity that is identified with Carrboro.

Many people have wanted to take action in support of Bruce. However, a process is underway to review the Carr Mill policy with hopes of rectifying the situation. Weaver Street Market general manager Ruffin Slater will be meeting with mall manager Nathan Milian for a thorough review of the mall's policy. This discussion will begin after Milian returns from a vacation on August 7.

I am optimistic and hopeful that a win-win solution can be found that serves the commercial interests of the mall while opening the way to the continued use of the lawn area by people like Thomas and Spiral as well as the many children (and parents) who enjoy the space.



My kids have danced near Bruce, if not with Bruce, and they love him. My wife constantly marvels at his ability to be himself no matter who is watching, to not be inhibited by our Puritanicalism (if that is a word).

I too say, let the man dance.

At times I can be a curmudgeon, and sometimes I've rolled my eyes. But I'd rather Bruce were there than not there.

I say let the man dance.

We at The Carrboro News, applaud Dan Coleman and his level headed approach to dealing with such a delicate situation, a feat our newspaper could never replicate.

Our Newspaper, barely two weeks old has written extensively on The Dancing Bruce Debacle(a public relations nightmare for someone?) and invite you to read our interpretations of the news and our solutions which include The Bruceway and The Statue of the Dancing Bruce as a way to put this very difficult period in Carrboro history behind us all.

The Dancing Bruce Stories can be found in both our editorial and July news sections of TheCarrboroNews.com

We can dance if we want to,
We can leave your friends behind;
'Cause your friends don't dance and if they don't dance
Well, they're no friends of mine.
I say, we can go where we want to,
A place where they will never find;
And we can act like we come from out of this world
Leave the real one far behind."
--Men Without Hats, 1983

Yeah, I was thinking more along the lines of Footloose starring Kevin Bacon.

Mark, it's admirable how you've kept your sense of humor.

Can we get a mamba for Mayor Mark?

I met with the property manager on Thursday and urged him in the strongest possible terms to reconsider the policy. Hopefully the new round of discussions will lead to a more open policy. I have heard a lot of people saying that if this matter is not resolved soon, more significant actions can be expected. I think we need to give the management company time to respond (ie the month of August).

I've been really curious... Did Milian seem to think that Bruce and the hoopers actually hurt Carr Mill Mall business somehow? I can't believe that would be true. It seems to me that they are a part of the aesthetic that makes WSM and CMM the hub of Carrboro social and economic activity. I'm willing to let the guy see the error of his ways, but I just want to know what his logic was in the first place.

Check the link above to the Herald article (under "ban"). Milian speaks for himself. Based on my own conversation with him and what I know of Mark's, his comments to the paper are reflective of his views. They are different from those expressed by contributors to this thread.

The hoopers were featured on the cover of Chapel Hill Magazine in May... on the WSM lawn. Bad for business? Do other Carr Mill tenants mind the activity on the lawn?

Whatever makes Nathan tick (or ticks Nathan off), I can't figure out. He consistently obstructs public use of Carr Mill property, virtually all of which is generated by WSM -- Carrboro's finest corporate citizen. Nathan just doesn't get it.

Mark's talk about more significant actions and the management company's response (Nathan's boss), make me wish I'd been a fly on the wall when he spoke to Nathan "in the strongest possible terms." This is a clear-cut case of discrimination.

I read the article when it was in the paper. It was what originally left me wondering what he was really thinking. Is he just blindly enforcing policy? Or is there some other motivation behind his action?

Catherine, do you have other examples of times that he has blocked use of the property?

The front lawn at Weaver St has served as a public park for over ten years.It serves a needed public good for recreation and economic develoment that no other area in our downtown serves.Hmmmm....an argument for eminent domain ? :)

Well, Jacquie, the first part of your comment is exactly the issue: That lawn is private property and the owners would like people to remember that. As for the management's thinking, I will let them explain themselves as they see fit, but I think part of the issue is that the owners have conflated (in their own minds) some of the more desirable uses with the less desirable uses.

Bruce and the hoop dancers are Carrboro icons, living treasures. I'm no fan of a bunch of hacks on every corner, but more like these folks only enrich our community.

Chapel Hill has its one percent for Art. Why don't we tag a similar onto our licensing? A modest proposal -- when business property tax comes due, can we promote performance art in town? Perhaps with a payment in lieu if the property owner doesn't want to allow performances (or they wouldn't be safe/appropriate). It wouldn't need to be a lot and we could spend the money by offering some payment to these wonderful people for the gifts they give us.

I was also upset to learn of the decision to ban Bruce's dancing. What folks are dancing around in this conversation (forgive the pun) is the suspicion that this decision had something to do with Bruce's race and sex. A black man dancing is perhaps more threatening to some than, say, a white woman hula hooping (or else she would have been asked to stop already, too. Or maybe she has?). I would love to be wrong on this issue--if anyone has evidence to the contrary, please let me know.

In any case, clearly Carr Mill Mall is within its rights as a private property owner to do this. I hope the fuss generated will convince Nathan that letting Bruce dance is in the economic interest of his tenants (which is perhaps the most meaningful issue of all here for Carr Mill).

However, if Carr Mill is going to start enforcing this policy (to quote Dan, "only mall tenants and those attending their events can use the lawn space"), then I wonder if they're going to kick the kids off next?

What happened to Bruce happened only days after another WSM regular, C.J. Robinson, was kicked out of Carr Mill Mall by CMM security after Nathan Milian accused C.J. of having his truck parked in the CMM lot for 24 hours. He had not. Hmmm. Two black men hassled. Do I see a pattern here.

Nathan Millian has never done anyting for the community. Carr Mill is rather a moribund mall as well. It is far from a welcoming place. I feel sorry for the businesses there.

If only mall tenants and those attending their events can use the lawn space, they should be allowed to use the mall parking lot as well. This regards the "no event parking" flags that go up every Thursday.

Nathan is also outspokenly opposed to the open air market slated to benefit WCOM starting in September, fearing that its patrons will sully his pavement every Saturday.

Now back to the issue at hand: the selective eviction of certain individuals from the lawn and the mall does constitute a pattern.

Mayor Chilton,

I hope now you can appreciate the conversation we had about Marc Frank and the apparent gentrification of Weaver Street.

For those of you who do not know about Marc Frank's situation, he was banned from Weaver Street after being accused of stealing, when in fact he was told by (unnamed party) that he could have the items for free. When (unnamed party) was confronted with the fact that he promised these items for free (unnamed party) he denied he promised them. Keep in mind Marc had paid for everything else at the store. But Marc looks "weird" (http://www.ibiblio.org/cybersufis/html/pages/poetry/ruhi/RUHIPAGE.htm) and maybe the trend is to "normalize" Weaver Street.

I hope you all can take a close look at Weaver Street Market's desires in all this. Ruffin did not comment on the issue of Bruce's dancing and we know where they stood on the issue of C.J. and Marc Frank.

By the way, next time you are in Weaver Street Market take note of the age, sex, and race of the cashiers and keep in mind Weaver Street's plans to close the kitchen on the Weaver Street site and move it to a "centralized location".

I also want to say that if the owner of Carr Mill is concerned about "performers" on the lawn they should ban every woman who carries a Gucci purse and every man who wears a tie.


There was a culture clash recently in Asheville about the Friday drum circle. All the yuppies invading downtown complained about the noise from their new pretentiously barfy condos. The majority of residents told them to shove it and the drum circle stayed in Pritchard Park. Carrboro should say the same to Carr Mill about Bruce.

As an owner of The Original Ornament in Carr Mill Mall, I can say that what you read in the paper was exactly the first of what we, as merchants, heard about Bruce and his "dancing problem" on the Weaver Street Lawn. There has been mention to some of the mall businesses that there could be a boycott of the shops for this action taken by Nathan. Please know that we do not want people to take that out on us; it would hurt the small group of businesses in a way that would have nothing to do with Nathan. We pay rent to Nathan but, unfortunately, have never had much say in other matters related to the mall. Comments made to me are being notated and passed along to Carr Mill Management, as they are most interested in customer feedback-certainly when it is negative. Please go to www.carrmillmall.com and email Nathan directly. Thanks

Hola desde Mexico!

I think the Town of Carrboro should offer to purchase the peice of land infront of weaver street market from its present owners. Making this community space legaly owned by the publics local government is the only solid way the public can truly decide what to do with it. In return for a good purchase price the Town can lease the use of the property to Weaver Street Markety for 99 years.

Please consider this a fair solution for the business you represent Nathen. I think it would be an act of good faith, a way to make some money on the lands present value, and a method to perminatly forstall the inevitable clash of the ¨hippies and the yuppies¨. I think the future friction would damage all of Carrboro and Chapel Hill.

[I was dreaming about this issue in the hot sun worrying about home... Great internet cafe called Cafe Club accross the street from out hotel. :) ]

Earlier this morning, Bruce asked me to let people know that he wants any response to this situation "to be about love, not about anger or hatred or threats." I asked him to write out exactly what he would like to have conveyed which I will post when I hear from him.

I know Chapel Hill hasn't hired a director of lessons well-learned yet...so I'll volunteer for a moment and suggest that this Weaver St.Market public space problem serve as a cautionary tale for Chapel Hill's own development efforts.

We must not cede complete control of formally citizen-owned spaces to a private developer. It seems like every iteration of RAMs development plan further circumscribes FULL public access to what used to be our community's own space.

BTW, while Carr Mill mgt. sparked the latest problem, WSM has been much more aggressive of late, at least based on my own observations, either threatening or actually "tresspassing" folks off the lawn.

Wow Brian!
Thinking of Carrboro while you are on your honey moon.
Say hi to your bride for us
Yes-I agree Carrboro should find a way to own the front lawn at Weaver St.It is too important to risk loosing access to.
The soace has been important to the town for many many years.Before Weaver St was there it was a wonderful grove of old growth trees that people used to gather under.When the mill was the center of the town the grove was used by workers to eat lunch .It is in many ways the center of the town.
It would be great if we as a community-notice I am not saying "we as a board"-could find a way to own the space

Make that "formerly citizen-owned" space.

I'm appalled by the entire situation with Carr Mill Management's recent decisions, and agree that anger & frustration shouldn't be taken out on the mall tenants. Meanwhile everyone, tenants and all, should be allowed to constructively contribute their opinions to the management--AND BE HEARD..

Perhaps those in power should take a brief trip to University Mall and perceive what a centrally (although less conveniently) located commercial site looks like when people eventually congregate elsewhere. Definitely hit by the advent of Big Boxes and South Point, it only really began to die its slow painful death when new management made bad decisions, disregarded input and feedback from their tenants, and misperceived whose business should and "shouldn't" be encouraged.

Eccentricity, rhythmic movement and chaotic enjoyment? They're part and parcel of what attracts this much traffic and busine$$ to this part of town. Carr Mill's ownership and management should think carefully about two things: a) what elements *in reality* makes this space so popular to so many people, and b) what's *really* bugging them (management) about the activities here? If there's trouble with parking or crowding or panhandling or noise levels or the amount of time an activity goes on, then those problems can be solved for what they are.

I grew up locally, watched this town evolve, and appreciate the variety of elements that converge to make it what people love so much--yet, we can love something to death. If the management has some true gripes, they should be responded to as such, but the management has to be clear about problems per se instead of singling out individuals (especially on the basis of appearance) that aren't doing anything wrong.

I don't love having trouble parking, but there are other places to go park and other ways to get here.
I don't love crowds or grill-smoke, but brave them now and then to support my community and hear music with friends--otherwise I do my shopping on other days.
I don't ever again want to witness a dog bite a child, but their monitoring by responsible adults can be improved.
I don't love watching male customers ogle female Market employees to the point of discomfort, but if they cross boundaries they get corrected, by management and customers both.

And like management, I don't love it when people commit crimes. The only place I've ever been seriously threatened with harm was the Carr Mill lot in 1990--but no dancer, hooper, or harmonica player swaying his volvo with music ever mugged me or anyone else I know. In fact, those "regulars" are exactly the folks who notice the minute something wrong goes down, just like the grocery bagger who nailed my then assailant. The point is that we ALL benefit from having people so familiar with the rhythms and faces that occupy this space. Bruce has kept an extra eye on more than one child getting too close to the street (including mine). I miss the joy and mood-boost of seeing him dance. I miss CJ's jams, and I don't want a hoopless lawn. Please, lets find a way to work this out.

Wake up folks, it is a PRIVATELY owned piece of land. I wouldn't want people hoola hooping or dancing on my property either. I am sure there have been complaints from the professionals working in the mall.


"Just bc you own a commercial property doesn't mean you are the Lord King over that bit of land."
Actually, yes it does. It gives you the same rights as owning the land that your own house is on. Private property ownership is actually the basis for civilized society and as soon as we trample on those rights (as Catherine DeVine suggested), then we're on the road to totalitarianism.

"So far, reading everything I can find on this, the only reason given for barring Bruce is that (his?) dancing is “inappropriate” according to the mgmt, which is really an insult and begs the question of why him (race, sex). All the examples you cite as similar borderline cases are covered under current laws and have nothing to do with this case.

Nothing the mgmt has said or done makes me think this has anything to do with “bums or drunks” or “standards”. "

In no way, shape, or form, does anybody who owns private property, have to have any reason, WHATSOEVER, for asking somebody not to come onto their property.


What I'm wondering is, since the mayor felt that he had to intervene into a private matter, having nothing, whatsoever to do with the town, is why he's not offering his own property for dancing and hooping and whatever else I feel like doing? The mayor works across the street, at Community Realty, and has a lovely parking lot covered in mulch which would be *perfect* for dancing, hooping, drinking, panhandling, or whatever you'd like to do! I suggest that those who are removed from Carr Mill Mall's property simply go across the street to the mayor's place of work, and perform there. After all, how could the mayor, who felt the need to intrude into private matters, who works at COMMUNITY REALTY, a "non-profit", possibly object?

Might I also suggest that all those who wish to tell Carr Mill Mall's owners what they can do with their own property, please post their own home/business addresses so that we can use their property as well?

"Nathan is nice enough to let the people at Weaver Street sit out there and eat at the tables and socialize." Just bc you own a commercial property doesn't mean you are the Lord King over that bit of land. So far, reading everything I can find on this, the only reason given for barring Bruce is that (his?) dancing is "inappropriate" according to the mgmt, which is really an insult and begs the question of why him (race, sex). All the examples you cite as similar borderline cases are covered under current laws and have nothing to do with this case.

Nothing the mgmt has said or done makes me think this has anything to do with "bums or drunks" or "standards".

As an owner of a business in CarrMill Mall, I wonder if anyone has stopped to hear the other side of the story. I do not in any way mean this to be hostile, but there are always two sides to the story. I know that not everyone loves Nathan, but he has a job to do like the rest of us. I understand that everyone loves Bruce and he is harmless, but the actions of CarrMill Management, as I understand it,were not meant to be a personal affront to Bruce or CJ or the hoop ladies. CarrMill Mall and the surrounding area is slowly becoming a haven for bums and drunks. Check with Carrboro PD and you will see that they are there almost daily, if not twice a day, because someone has stolen from the markets or someone is doing drugs in the bathroom, or drinking on the property, and the list goes on. There is also and excessive amount of panhandling. In order to clean up the area and keep it safe for customers and employees, it is important to have standards across the board. That way there is no confusion about what is allowed and whats not. I know it doesn't seem fair, but imagine if someone was palying explicit gansta rap on their stereo in the parking lot. Would that be okay? If a couple wanted to do a seductive strip tease. Would that be okay? If you let one, you have to let them all. All I am asking is for everyone to consider all sides of the story and understand that the lawn is private property and Nathan is nice enough to let the people at Weaver Street sit out there and eat at the tables and socialize. Don't let this backfire. He doens't have to let anyone be out there. Also, please understand that the businessess in CarrMill Mall are all locally owned and operated by residents of Carrboro and surrounding areas. Boycotting our businessess will only cause us to struggle even more in an economy that is already going down the drain. We need the support of our community to make it.

"Nothing the mgmt has said or done makes me think this has anything to do with “bums or drunks” or “standards”. "

Thats because no one runs to the papers or signs a petition every time the mall management trespasses someone from the property or asks someone to leave. Please check the Carrboro PD logs and you will see that there are numerous persons not allowed onto CarrMill Mall property. Better yet, come spend a day with mall secutiry and see what goes on during the day. Just yesterday a man was nicely asked to please stop approaching people and preaching to them because it was inappropriate and not allowed on the propety. It isn't just Bruce they are asking to stop. Just like with anything in the papers, you can't always believe what you read. Just because a repoter writes a story, it doesn't mean that that reporter wrote everything that was said.

I see that particular point of yours, Amanda. It's why I brought up the need for specificity regarding what, exactly, the problems facing management (including security) are. And it's why I made my distinction between people whose behaviors are (let's just say) bothersome or eccentric to some people (dancing, jamming, hooping), versus behaviors that are problematic (inconsiderate parking), versus people whose behaviors are threatening or illegal to a larger number of people (harassment, panhandling, theft, and my case, attempted abduction at gunpoint).

I still believe that there are ways to make work easier for security, management, and the business owners, while not eliminating some of the elements that contribute positively to the attractiveness of the lawn. None of us--customers, business people, or office occupants--want harrassment, theft, threatening behavior or unsafe walking & driving conditions, so let's deal with those issues per se. I still do not see what dancing, hooing, and harmonica playing have to do with the above problems--is it becasue they contribute to a crowd? Or is it because some people are being stereotyped by color, occupation, appearance, behavior, and for some unclear reason, being associated with people committing crimes?

And let's face this one more time: Carr Mill's lawn is a piece of *commercial* property, not a private residence. As a commercial property consisting of dirt, grass, mulch and trees, its most valuable asset is that it attracts people to come and stay to shop in the buisnesses as much as possible. There are certainly people in the entire Triangle area who don't feel as good as I do about Bruce dancing, hoops spinning, harmonicas playing, but somehow I doubt they will shop here more if those elements are eliminated.

John, it seems to me that many of the comments here, mine included, indicate that concerned people significantly recognize what makes Mall management and security jobs difficult, and support working WITH the mall management--on issues that concern safety and access, which concern all of us.

At the same time, when you use the following words to group people: "a place for Bruce to dance, for the hula hooping people to hoop, and for your local drunks to harass you and your kids?" you are providing exemplary evidence of my point about the fact that stereotyping, false association and faulty extrapolation are at work here. (And to what end? Why? Nobody wants to boycott the businesses in this mall, but people do seem to want decisions that basically make sense).

Please outline the cause and effect relationship between Bruce dancing on the lawn at 8:30 am, and a drunk harassing me or my kid. I just want to make sure I understand what you mean.

Please outline the cause and effect relationship between Bruce dancing on the lawn at 8:30 am, and a drunk harassing me or my kid. I just want to make sure I understand what you mean.

There is no direct cause and effect relationship. My point is that the Mall management has to draw the line as to what's allowed on the property. If no line is drawn, then that patch of dirt will become a place for anyone to hang out, including the handful of panhandlers/drunks that have destroyed downtown Chapel Hill. I think that a policy of "customers only" on the property is a pretty clear line. So is "customers only, but no loitering for more than a few hours" (coffee shops do that so that people can't buy a $3 cup of coffee and set up camp there to write a novel).

How do you think that they should make a distinction between customers and people camping out? Do you really think that Nathan has the time to evaluate every person who hangs out on the "lawn"? Besides, with the positively horrible, knee-jerk, racist, reactions that I've read in this thread (people screaming about discrimination because Bruce is a black man, all the while ignoring the fact that Nathan has booted plenty of people of all races and sexes), he'd be run out of town if he had to pick and choose who got to use their property. The best way to prevent that patch of land from becoming a de facto public park is to draw a line and stick with it.

But hey, why think about the subject when hysteria is an option?

Also, could some legalese-fluent person help differentiate here between these three: Private property, public property, and commercially-zoned/privately owned property open to public use? I'm tired of hearing the CM lawn discussed as though it's Nathan's personal front yard.

Amanda and John are right - for the Mall management this is a property rights issue. As John points out, that's generally accepted as a good thing, a potentially civilizing influence on society.

And Milian and his renters have broad discretion to ask folks to leave - very broad. From my understanding, as long as Milian and company don't violate any public accomodations laws/ordinances, they're free to ask you to leave if they don't like your looks, your behavior or even if they just SUSPECT you're going to cause mischief.

Very broad rights to police their private property. Necessary rights as Amanda underlines. Yes, there's been mischief, noise, thefts, assualts. Equal protection under the laws would seem to override management's ability to discriminate the trully dangerous from the potentially annoying. But this is, as John's hammered home, private property and the owner's discretion is nearly paramount. It appears that this owner's broadening desire to corral unsavory elements have him throwing the baby out with the bath water.

As far as the boycott, Amanda, while I'm a member of WSM, while my family and friends are frequent customers of the pretzel place, the toy store, the bead shop, the trail shop, Elmo's - in fact, most every store in Carr Mill - we don't have much influence on Carr Mill Mall's management. We don't DIRECTLY pay the bills.

That's why the call for a boycott is in the air.

I hope it doesn't come to that but, instead, that enlightened self-interest will kick in.

John and Amanda, while it is "private property" and it is "nice" that Nathan let's us customers "at Weaver Street sit out there and eat at the tables and socialize", let's don't kid ourselves, that boon is offered as part of his commercial establishment's enticements. Without the socializing lawn, how successful would Carr Mill be?

For that matter, considering the community's long support of Carr Mill (even forgiving the clear cutting of the grand old trees in the Harris Teeter lot) and considering how Carrboro's elected folk have nurtured that location - creating a range of events and activities whose focal point is this slab of private property - it doesn't seem too much to ask for Milian and company to be more accomodating to the eccentricities of our Paris of the Piedmont.

But they have those very broad rights, rights that don't carry many legislated responsibilities. And that's alright. But, if they want to exercise their rights contrary to their pecuniary interests and they "reap the wind", well, that's alright too.

I'm sure WSM would love nothing more than to own the lawn and for that matter the entire mall. Unfortunately, Nathan is not the owner, just the property manager. Some MD outfit owns it, I believe. As for store owners, Casey I agree it makes no sense to boycott. What would be nice is for store owners to contact Nathan and tell him you are not bothered by Bruce's dancing and ask him to retract his action. Amanda does make a valid point about needing to be vigilant about bums. I found a guy pretty much taking a shower in the WSM bathroom a month or so ago. Not pleasant or sanitary. I said something to the guy about it being a bathroom not a shower, and he said "I'm sorry it offends you. I just got out of the hospital." Perhaps I'm somewhat unsympathetic, but...

Boycotting Carr Mill Mall businesses is not the right thing to do. All you will accomplish is putting some very good and hardworking business owners into great financial hardship.

If you don't like the mall policies, take it to the mall management. There are plenty of creative minds out there, figure out some way to make your point without balancing it on the backs of business owners who were not involved in the decision in the first place.

For example, why don't you convince one of the mall businesses to hire the dancing man or the hoop lady as an attraction, and then take your business there--and only there---for the day--and spend your money supporting your philosophical beliefs? The increased sales in the store would be a positive barometer to take to the mall management in support of your position.

"In no way, shape, or form, does anybody who owns private property, have to have any reason, WHATSOEVER, for asking somebody not to come onto their property. "

Title II of civil rights act: http://www.usdoj.gov/kidspage/crt/pub.htm

"Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination in places of public accommodation because of race, color, religion, or national origin. Places of public accommodation are hotels, motels, restaurants, movie theaters, stadiums, and concert halls."

Amanda made some excellent points, but I still see that nobody who is NOT a business owner has considered anything from the perspective of the business owner.

The biggest threat facing businesses in downtown Carrboro and Chapel Hill are the various addicts, drunks, and panhandlers who constantly harass anybody that they can find. Chapel Hill has largely let these people destroy downtown Chapel Hill, already. There have been countless letters to the editor, web site posts, and direct comments to business owners that people simply stop coming to an area if they're going to be harassed.

What regular people don't see and don't realize is that Carrboro business owners are CONSTANTLY fighting this fight. They're constantly watching their property, constantly having to remove and tresspass people from their businesses. If they didn't, then Carrboro's downtown would be as bleak as Chapel Hill's is, just a few blocks away. The two towns refuse to do anything about this problem from a legal standpoint. What few panhandling/soliciting/loitering laws there are just aren't enforced.

As a business owner, you have a few choices:
1. Ignore the problem. Customers will simply stop coming to your business.
2. Spend your entire day patrolling your property, watching for the problem people, and removing them.
3. Making a policy about how your property can be used, and who can be on your property.

Carr Mill Mall is the largest commercial property in downtown. #1 is not a possiblity, because downtown Carrboro will simply die (again, look a few blocks up at Franklin St.).
#2 is not only time consuming, but also difficult to enforce (The drunk claims to be a customer, or dances around and claims to be a performer when he's not peeing on a building).
I can only assume that Nathan has chose option #3 which makes total sense for a property of that size.

My point is that the line as to what is acceptable and what is not acceptable MUST be drawn if businesses are going to survive a town that lets the panhandlers do what they please. If Carr Mill Mall loses a handful of customers that are upset that people can't spend their entire days on their property (and I don't think that they'll lose a single customer, quite honestly), that's an acceptable trade-off if management thinks that will prevent more undesireable people from harassing their paying customers.

Also, from the viewpoint of Carr Mill Mall, they need to make sure that the property doesn't become truly a public space, and put a stop to that progression before it becomes a problem. Just from this message thread, we can see that we do have people like Catherine DeVine (a candidate for the Board of Aldermen) who are advocating stealing it from them, and we have the mayor who feels that he has some kind of right to dictate what people do with their private property. There's a real estate law on the books that says that if a property is used by somebody for X amount of time, and the owner doesn't enforce their rights to the property, then that property actually becomes owned by the squatter. In this case, the town could potentially make a case for stealing the land if Carr Mill Mall just let it be used as public space indefinitely.

If people want to get upset about this, talk to the Mayor. Why isn't the town providing, with all of our tax dollars, a place for Bruce to dance, for the hula hooping people to hoop, and for your local drunks to harass you and your kids? (Actually, they are... the town commons is one block down the street).

Regular people really need to stop and realize that all of the business owners in downtown are doing their best just to make ends meet in one of the most expensive towns in North Carolina that provides no support for small business.

It's completely unrealistic to expect private businesses to provide good products and services and good prices with good parking, all while maintaining space for people to use for free.

Without the socializing lawn, how successful would Carr Mill be?

More importantly, would Carrboro even exist without that little patch of dirt? It's completely within Nathan's legal rights to ban anybody from using the "lawn". If he does, down goes WSM and Carr Mill Mall, down goes downtown, and down goes the whole town, including everybody's property values. I really think that people criticizing his decisions really need to put a bit more thought into this. His allowing people to use that patch of dirt has helped out the Mall, but it has much, much farther reaching implications than just the mall. I'd argue that by them letting WSM use the lawn, that the whole town has benefitted many, many, many times more than WSM has, or even all of Carr Mill Mall. Personally, I'm very grateful for him letting the property to be used the way it is. Without it, many of us wouldn't be here.

I'd like to think that Carrboro would've existed and will exist no matter what the disposition of the WSM lawn. Further, I'm guessing Jacquie's "eminent domain" comment was in jest.

As far as John's assertion, I disagree that "Chapel Hill has largely let these people destroy downtown Chapel Hill, already" and that Chapel Hill "refuse[s] to do anything about this problem from a legal standpoint. What few panhandling/soliciting/loitering laws there are just aren't enforced".

I'm not a business owner but I've worked downtown for going on 6 years (and have spent quite a bit of years before that on Franklin St.). The police are engaged downtown. They do use the laws to intervene when there's a problem (more the velvet glove than the iron fist). Generally, it seems to work without generating a very negative vibe.

West End (closer to Carrboro) is more vibrant than ever. Folks aggregate there morning, noon and night. Though there's issues to be dealt with, I don't see a Chapel Hill wasteland downtown.

Why don't Chapel Hillians cherish our downtown as much as Carrborians cherish theirs? Maybe it's a lack of a pleasant, central meeting place - one with a place for the kids to play, a clean restroom to use, a drinking fountain (it's not like many people enjoy hanging out on the top of the 120 degree Wallace deck). Maybe it's the lack of "sustaining" businesses - grocery stores, hardware stores, clothes stores catering to all generations,all sizes, etc.

Parking? Having to drive downtown? Competing nearby attractions? There's a long list of complaints that we probably have all heard of one time or another.

John - I agree with some of your comments about panhandlers and the difficulty they are causing Carrboro businesses. I think your comments about "stealing" the land are over the top. And what business do you run? To say Carrboro provides no support for small business is just false. For instance, how many Carrboro businesses have gotten support through the revolving loan fund? Let's boil this down: Nathan has made a bad decision on Bruce's dancing. It may be his right as the property manager but it's a bad decision and he needs to retract it ASAP.

Also, could some legalese-fluent person help differentiate here between these three: Private property, public property, and commercially-zoned/privately owned property open to public use? I'm tired of hearing the CM lawn discussed as though it's Nathan's personal front yard.

There's no third option. There's public and private (and of course, other special situations). The owner of a commercial space has all of the rights of any other private property owner. othe All the zoning does is say that you can/cannot build a home/business on the property.

Carrboro is in a precarious situation. The lifeblood of downtown largely centers around that little patch of dirt that Nathan's management company lets WSM use. If they felt like it (ie: were in a bad mood after getting harassed by angry, ignorant people), they could conceivably put up no tresspassing signs and kill the whole thing (note that this has happened for other reasons to Franklin St.).

And, contrary to what the mayor thinks, there's really nothing that Carrboro can do about it. Carrboro really doesn't have any leverage in this situation.

Personally, I'm grateful that they let it be used at all.

Nathan is on vacation until next week, perhaps we should postpone all boycotting until the person who actually makes the decisions is actually in town. Boycotting businesses will only make it harder for us to survive. If you all would like for us to close our doors so that Bruce can dance, thats fine. Then there will be no place for anyone to conduct business and downtown Carrboro can go down the tubes like downtown Chapel Hill. All we are asking is for people to take a step back and look at the whole picture of what is going on. I could care less if Bruce dances or if CJ plays his music. However, I do care if the drunk old man harrassing my customers is allowed on the property. The problem is, there is no easy way to make sure that the latter doesn't happen without clear cut lines about what is allowed and what isn't. I think alot of Mall Managements reasoning stems from the thought that allowing these things to happen does draw a crowd and they are concerned about the type of crowd it draws. CJ and Bruce are both allowed to be on the property and are welcome there, they were just asked to not play their music loud or dance, is that such a bad thing? Aren't there more pressing issues in this county to deal with? Perhaps we could start with pushing the town to crack down on the panhandlers and the bums who are making us have to make these decisions.

What it all boils down to and the purpose of my posts is that the business owners of CarrMill Mall are in a tough spot. We confront Nathan, and we piss of the person who allows us to conduct business or we don't and we piss off the people who support our business. Its a lose lose situation. Either way, we suffer. Please do not allow this to happen. Boycotting the mall isn't going to speak to Nathan any more than emails or phone calls. And also, understand that there are alot of things that go on during the day at CarrMill mall that the average citizen isn't going to be aware of. This is mainly due to the diligence of mall security and Sterling. Everything that does happen is done to provide a safe and enjoyable experience at the mall for everyone.

Was it just me, or did I see both CJ and Bruce at Weaver Street this week?

Amanda, other than noting that we've heard folks talk about a boycott, no one here has called for one.

I don't think anyone wants to see Carr Mill go down the tubes.

Do the Carr Mill business folks ever meet together to discuss general Mall issues? If so, maybe they could invite the concerned public (which are probably also your concerned customers) to a meeting to discuss the situation and maybe help hammer out a solution.

While the current situation is fairly specific, what constitutes a violation of Carr Mill Mall's rules, there is a greater context here...

Again, I think this is an excellent springboard to use in discussing the impending conversions of Chapel Hill's downtown public properties into private usage. We haven't had a timely, specific and measured discussion of the disposition of these properties and how the rules of the game will change when RAM controls the board.

Do the Carr Mill business folks ever meet together to discuss general Mall issues? If so, maybe they could invite the concerned public (which are probably also your concerned customers) to a meeting to discuss the situation and maybe help hammer out a solution.

If anything, WSM should take a position on this. They're the one using the lawn exclusively, they're supposed to be a "co-op", and they're easily the largest tenant in the Mall (outside of HT and CVS). It's convenient that Ruffin has not taken a position on this, and told the Herald-Sun "no comment".

Of course, if WSM wanted to solve this problem, they probably could do so just by leasing the space themselves, and they could set their own policies (although their policies may not be any different). That would be the most responsible thing to do.

They won't lease the space, because then they'd be in the same position as Nathan is right now. Just letting the "lawn" be used by anybody for any reason is an untenable position to be in. It's a bad idea from a legal and a business standpoint and they know that, so they just keep quiet on the subject.

John, Carr Mill Mall management can do as they please with regard to this matter, but they can expect to hear from the community regarding it (including from the Mayor). As far as you dancing in front of the business I work for, if you are anywhere near as talented as Bruce then I am interested in the possibility. Please call me with more details at 919-636-0371.

I work for Nathan.

However, he is on vacation this week and I do not speak for Carr Mill Management.

Let me reiterate...

I do not speak for Carr Mill Management.

I am rarely in the Carr Mill office but while there I have received numerous complaints about the Hoola Hoopers and the Dancer and others in the past that are not coming to mind right now.

You can't please everyone…

Bruce was not trespassed but asked not to perform while on the property. If we allow one performing artist at what point does it end?

Nathan has been managing CM for over 15 years. Does anyone here remember CM 15-20 years ago?


Nathan was and is instrumental in turning Carr Mill and the Town of Carrboro into the cool place we all enjoy today.

Lighten up…~Deb


As a Carrboro resident, I spend a lot of time in downtown Carrboro, and I just haven't seen these bums and panhandlers. Maybe I'd notice them if they started dancing on the lawn at Weaver Street (or Community Realty).



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