I don't want to sit on Santa's lap

Is it just me or does the Downtown Partnership's* "Festival of Lights" sound like the mall-i-fication of downtown?

The partnership is working to organize a kick-off event on Dec. 3, when it would encourage businesses to have an "open house" with refreshments and holiday specials, and it would have costumed characters around downtown, along with caroling and other music.
She added that she also hopes to have lighting ceremonies as part of the event tailored specifically to Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, but that it's going to take more infrastructure, such as electrical outlets, to make that possible.
The partnership plans to set up a "Santa House" in that space at 100 E. Franklin St. during the month, Parham said. Santa himself probably would be there only on weekends -- what with all the pre-Christmas work and all -- but the idea would be to have other characters there, and a space for Mrs. Claus to read children's books.
"I think everybody, to some degree, doing their own thing is going to be fine," she said. "It doesn't have to be white lights, but we are going to encourage white lights."
In the budget approved Wednesday, Parham expects to put about $4,500 into buying a 22-foot artificial tree, which comes complete with decorations and lights on it.

- heraldsun.com: Downtown group plans light festival

Oy. And could anything be worse for downtown Chapel Hill than trying to compete with malls? That's a lose-lose: we'll never beat them at their own game, and we'll ruin the character that actually makes downtown much more appealing to Chapel Hillians than a mall!

* New website launched today! W00t!



Sounds like a great idea to me. Anything to encourage more shopping in town.

Doesn't downtown Chapel Hill need to do something? It seems that with the lack of parking and actual reason to go downtown that this is a great idea. To be honest, as mobbed as they get, shopping at the mall is still easier than Christmas shopping downtown. Why? It's easy to park and there is a selection of merchants.

Again, if CH wants people to shop on Franklin Street they need to provide a means for people to come into town and shop there. The bus is not the answer. Build more parking, make it central to shops, and then offer merchants tax breaks to open in town. This kind of promotion doesn't hurt either.

The college students will be taking exams and/or be gone from early December until January. This is prime Chapel Hill time when people come out of the woodwork to eat and shop downtown. Carrboro relaxes in a similar way every holiday season -- chiefly mid-summer and Christmas.

I can't remember why we were at Southpoint last Spring - I remember being frustrated- but my 5-year-old LOVED all the fountains. She wants to go back and see them all again.

I think the college students will find the costumed characters and carolers on the street annoying and from what I can tell - by the products offered - that's where Franklin St. retailers plan to make most their money. (This is not a complaint and it makes sense. I certainly had more disposable income before I had a mortgage and car payments. I bet my siblings miss the gifts I used to buy them as an undergrad.)

For Santa, we go to the Northgate, where there's a carousel as the ones in the parks close for the winter. A year round carousel in the First Union would be lovely and definitely bring us to Franklin St. more often. And instead of more multistory buildings - I'd vote for a ferris wheel.

Oh, I suck it up and shop there on occasion. I needed to buy a fall (or hair extension, as they call them now), and the only place I've seen them is at a stand at SP. And they've got the Apple store.

But every time I go there, I get the feeling that the proprietors of the establishments would rather I not be inside their places of business and examining their merchandise. Mostly fashion shops, as opposed to Apple or Bose or the Body Shop. I'm not stylish or fashionable, and I can't see paying $75 for a skirt, even if I can afford it. I'm more the Isaac-Mizrahi-for-Target type of girl.

At the risk of being labeled a "pretentious yuppie"--I just took a young friend shopping at SP. We went to Nordstrom's and found her a pair of shoes that accepted her presrciption orthotics AND looked cool. (No small feat!) A cool pair of lace-up Danskos.

I'd been "pre-shopping" in town--and not ONE store had the variety/selection that Nordstrom's had--and none of the OC stores had the pair we ultimately bought. So sometimes Nordstrom's (and thus, SP) is a necessary evil.

But I agree on the creepy bronze children.

And Southpoint is doing something for Durham (with the help of Chapel Hill and Carrboro residents) that isn't being done for Chapel Hill or Carrboro.

I applaud the downtown folks for trying to take positive steps to get people to shop downtown and contribute to our economy by keeping our dollars here. The fact that so many local residents shop out of our community ought to tell us a lot. So we can complain about Southpoint and complain about the marketing efforts of the Downtown Partnership, and then we can continue to complain about how high our property taxes have grown.

Bill Bell LOVES Chapel Hill!

Joan -- good point about Southpoint. That place has always creeped me out, especially the creepy bronze status of children. Ick. And I hate going there -- there aren't any interesting shops, and it's full of pretentious yuppie stores. And pretentious yuppies.

Maybe there's an opportunity to go with the flow and provide some extra unexpected costumed characters to the scene...

I've always been partial to the street scene in the "The Bishop's Wife", the original.


Remember what malls are- faked downtown "high streets." (as they are called in England) Rent the hilarious movie "Christmas Story" and if I'm not mistaken, when the family takes the kids to see Santa, they go to a store downtown.

I suspect that many years before my time, this may have been the norm in downtowns of medium-sized to large cities. I don't see the harm here. When we install speakers up and down Franklin St disguised as rocks and simulcast commercial-free Celine Dion music through them, then yes, it's time to worry.

On that topic, don't we have several terrific a capella groups running around town, on and off campus? I've never seen a downtown busking program that didn't bring something local and authentic to the table.

Ruby, I can see why this would be irritating, but I don't think you're the audience for this. After all, you probably already do a lot of shopping downtown. And, a Chapel Hill Christmas might be slightly less annoying than a mall Christmas.

The article noted that Santa would be in the old First Union, which seems to me a great use of an otherwise empty and abandoned office.

I don't know if we'll do the Santa thing with my little one this year, but I'd much rather go to downtown Chapel Hill for this than to Southpoint. And, once I'm there, I likely will do more shopping. The carriage rides sound great, too, and are definitely something I wouldn't have done before my son came along, but now might make a point of it.

Southpoint is trying to mimic places like Franklin Street, so I think it's fair enough for Chapel Hill to reclaim some of the holiday pomp.

I just hope that Santa is black. Really.

Marc, do small towns have "costumed charcters" and Santa Claus walking around? The small town grew up in never did, but everyone knows Chapel Hill is was weird.

Catherine, I understand the importance of the holidays to retailers, but how about something to appeal to my pocketbook like discounts and sales, extra transportation options, free stuff, community events, products I can't get elswhere, etc.

Maybe it's because I don't have kids (I doubt it), but this is just going to make me avoid Franklin Street. It already bugs me that I can't go shopping for *anything* in December without hearing Christmas music.

Downtown Chapel Hill can't compete with malls during the holiday season; but every Franklin Street retailer will tell you that December is make-or-break time. The Downtown Partnership is providing a large service to its constituents by helping them get geared up for the holidays.

Chapel Hill's character won't suffer from this push to attract visitors to the central business district.

I thought it was the small town feeling in Chapel Hill that some people liked. Won't this promote a small town feeling? If there are other attractions to bring people to downtown, won't more people spend money downtown? Or by mall-i-fication do you mean government trying to homogenize businesses to promote a particular environment?

I'm kind of torn on this one. Mall-ification is truly blech. But I like Christmas markets a la Germany -- though there it's an extension of the daily or weekly market in the square. It doesn't sound like the latter is the direction they're taking this, though.


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