Economy & Downtown

Chapel Hill's downtown has long benefited from its proximity to a captive audience of University students without cars. While downtowns around the country have been failing, ours has survived fairly well. However, we have seen an increase in the number of chain stores locating downtown, and instability in the Downtown Economic Development Corporation. In the near future, we will see new Town-directed development on two major parking lots have a big impact.
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Carrboro's downtown has also done better than many towns of comparable size, thanks largely to the presence of Weaver Street Market and progressive shoppers from the rest of the county. The Board of Aldermen has been addressing the evolution of the downtown, and have established a number of community resources in the downtown area including free wireless Internet access, and a low-power radio station.

What Can the Triangle Do About the Coming Oil Peak?

As Triangle gasoline prices again top $2.50/gallon, NC Powerdown and the Duke Greening Initiative will sponsor the Triangle Conference on Peak Oil and Community Solutions on Saturday, March 25th, from 1 to 6 PM at Duke University's Love Auditorium.

Peak Oil is the time period in which the maximum production of oil (in millions of barrels per day) ever extracted from the earth occurs. Peak Oil may last for weeks, months, or even a few years. We are unlikely to know we have experienced Peak Oil until we are passed the peak. After the earth passes peak production, the gap between demand and supply will inexorably drive the price of petroleum-based products higher and higher. With 95% of America's transportation energy coming from oil products and much of our food being grown with petroleum-based fertilizers, the peaking of world oil supply has dramatic implications for the nation and the sprawling, mostly auto-dependent Triangle region.

How to deal with density

I've been thinking a lot about the evolution of our community to a more urban mode of development. I think this is generally a good thing because it allows us to continue to grow without sprawling ever-outward, and also supports more pedestrian-oriented land uses which will build the critical mass needed to support fixed-guideway (rail or dedicated busway) transit. This continued growth (at a moderate pace, of course) is essential to maintain at least a modicum of affordable housing options. We can't just close the gate behind us now that we've got ours.

But of course this doesn't mean that anything big is automatically good. Similar to Carolina North if it's done right urbanization can revolutionize our community. But if done poorly it could ruin many of the things we love about living here. So I have a growing concern that our current planning and development review process is built to manage the suburban-style growth that we have seen for the last couple of decades.

Hillsborough development issues

Looks like Hillsborough will be getting a Weaver Street Market, but not a light industrial area. This seems like a step in the right direction.

Plans for a Gateway Center with a branch of the market can move forward after Judge Howard Manning approved a settlement between the town and the center's developer Tuesday.

Mayor Tom Stevens said he thought some of the settlement's conditions addressed concerns raised by Board of Adjustment members who had voted against the plan for a market.
- Weaver Street Market coming to Hillsborough


A plan to bring light industry to the north side of town suffered a setback Tuesday night.

The town's Planning Board unanimously recommended that the Town Board deny a request to rezone 38.58 acres off N.C. 57 for a light industrial use.
- Panel's advice: Deny light industrial rezone

Anyone from north of I-40 care to share their thoughts?

Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping

Guest post by Steve Sherman

This week UNC and Internationalist Books play host to Bill Talen and Savitri Durkee, better known as Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping. Bill and Savitri hail from NYC, where their pentacostal anti-capitalism started with preaching against sweatshops in the Times Square Disney Store.

Since then, the Reverend has performed enough Starbucks exorcisms to get himself permanently banned, held services inside Wal-marts, and spread the gospel of community, justice and anti-capitalism through revivals across the country. He's been profiled in the New York Times Magazine (and the London Observer Magazine) and has a book, "What Should I Do if Reverend Billy Is in My Store?" just released by the New Press.

The Reverend will be giving talks about his work Tuesday at Ibooks and Wednesday on campus, and will lead a revival service Thursday night. For more information, visit

“Left of Center, Right at Home”

Fun, fun! The Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership is searching for a marketing slogan to attract business to Franklin Street. According to the N&O today businessman Lex Alexander likes “Left of Center, Right at Home”. Other members aren't so sure about this slogan. They want Alexander to go back to his Durham marketing firm and try again.

I think the Partnership needs some local input. Surely, we can help them out. Any suggestions for a catchy slogan?

Businessman Lex Alexander introduced the motto to fellow board members Wednesday after a recent brainstorming session with a Durham marketing firm.

They stared at him, wide-eyed and silent. Developer Tom Tucker managed a short "Uh... ." Other board members laughed nervously.

Alexander said the slogan meets at least one of the board's goals: It gets attention. "To me it says that we're eccentric, but it's a friendly place," he said.



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