An urban downtown

Are we ready? As a lover of urban spaces, I must say I am pretty excited about the proposals brewing for downtown Chapel Hill and Carrboro. (I have linked to respective towns' websites who have pretty good information, and maps!)

By all accounts, the plan for Carrboro is getting rave reviews. This is being proposed by a private company who owns the strip mall that the Arts Center and the Cat's Cradle are in, and some land around it. (Apparently they don't own Butler's Junkyard, er I mean Garage, which is between the strip mall and the bikeway.) While I share Ethan's concern that this could come out looking like SouthPoint, I am mostly very excited about this wonderful space emerging a mere 5-minute walk from my house. Rickie pointed out that the owners are still taking comments.

Chapel Hill's project is on a different scale and is being initiated by the town itself, although the expectation is that private developers will actually build and operate most of it. They are looking at maximizing three town-owned properties that are currently used for parking. The town has been ruminating collectively about this for years, including community design charettes where people were invited to walk around the site and share possible visions, and paying high-profile consultants to tell us about the latest in new-urbanism and market studies.

The Council seems to be closing in on specific plans. It's ambitious, including housing, retail, transit stations, and more. Because of the huge scale of it, I find it kind of scary. But I really can't find much abot the proposal to complain about. And I believe this type of compact (and, yes, taller) development is just what we need to enable the town to grow economically without growing geographically, ie: sprawling.

I know that some folks who moved to the Chapel Hill area for "small town feel" might not share my vision for downtown. But as someone who has lived here since 1972. I'm excited to see that the community is maturing along with me. The whole idea behind this, sometimes called "neo-traditional" development, is to foster public spaces that we experience together, instead of socially or economically segregated enclaves where we can hide from other people. It represents more urbanism and less cul-de-sacs, and I personally look forward to it.


My concern is always whether genuine public space is being created. The test is--can the public use the space? Can someone approach people to register to vote, to sign their petition against the occupation of Iraq or gay marriage, to ask people for money? If they can, it's public space. If not, not. It puzzles me why Charlottesville and Athens have such vital downtowns, yet have much smaller metro areas to draw from than Chapel Hill (and to state the obvious--its not like downtown Durham or Raleigh offer much competition). So I really look forward to any efforts to improve this area. Let's just make sure its real public space.

I wonder if Charlottesville and Athens would have such vital downtowns if they chose to put a homeless "shelter" a block away from the town's main intersection??

...whether you realize it or not. WTF does supplying a need for the underprivileged and otherwise ignored of our society -- yes, these people are part of our society; they're human beings just like you -- have to do with the vitality of downtown? I suppose you also think downtown would do better if none of those darker-skinned people were allowed in either (well, except to do all the manual labor)? I can't believe people still say such stupid shit in this day and age. Maybe you should get off your high horse and come up with a solution so that homeless shelters aren't needed in the first damned place.

I lived in Charlottesville. They, like every other place in the US have a Homeless problem. Why are people homeless? Inequity in distribution of wealth.We break our arms patting ourselves on the back, but the reality is that most of the people who say that Homeless people don't have a right to exist have never known poverty or homelessness.They also believe that it must be someone's fault for being poor instead of the fact that opportunities are limited.It's so disgusting and egotistical for anyone on the left or right to believe that their heritage, parents and in some cases, just dumb luck had nothing to do with where they are. I believe the phrase, "There but for the grace of God, Go I."This doesn't make me a polyanna. I know these people have problems, but for people who start on 3rd Base and think they hit a triple to talk out of their butt makes me sick.McHett - I think you might have been too restrained in your criticism of such a vile, disgusting excuse for human being. Thank you for saying it first.


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