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.

Downtown is waiting

You may be among the many Chapel Hillians who have been wondering why some of the best business locations on Franklin Street stand vacant with no inhabitants. Apparently it's because their owner, Fayetteville developer Joe Riddle, is waiting for the "right" tenants. Riddle owns the Top of the Hill building (former home of the Gap, the Sunglass Hut, and the Carolina Theatre) and some lots on West Franklin on either side of Lantern and the art supply store, including University Chrysler. He doesn't seem to be in a rush to find those uniquely suitable tenants either.

Could it be Riddle is too distracted with other matters? Or does he have so much money that he can afford to hold on to prime real estate until the right mood catches him? Either way I see it as bad for Chapel Hill.

Local currencies foster interdependency

Chapel Hill Herald, Saturday December 03, 2005

There is a strange paradox in American culture. On the one hand, we are taught to view ourselves through the lens of individualism, extolling the self-made "man," and looking out for number one. On the other hand, there has rarely been a society more characterized by the utter economic dependency of its citizens than ours.

We depend on distant, faceless corporations for the energy to warm our homes, cook our food and power our vehicles. We depend on them for our entertainment and our communication, our clothing, tools and materials, and for many aspects of our health care.

Historically, few humans have ever been independent in a true sense. Nor have we had the kind of dependency that characterizes modern society. Rather, we have been interdependent, denizens of self-reliant communities where what one could not do for oneself could be accomplished by a tribe, extended family, community or village.

Local businesses underwrite right-wing rants

Guest Post by Eric Muller

Is Raleigh Metro Magazine delivered to your home without your ever having subscribed to it? It is to mine. It's a monthly high-gloss magazine that's trying to be a guide to The Good Life here in the Triangle, with stories on food and wine, art and architecture, music and theater, local businesses, and the like. And lots of advertisements from local businesses. It's the kind of magazine you'd expect to be handed by a real estate agent if you were thinking of moving to town. A polished, visually attractive, feel-good, community-boosting, inoffensive publication.

Wait. Did I say "inoffensive?" Let me change that. It's inoffensive until you get to the back pages of the magazine, where editor and publisher Bernie Reeves cuts loose with his political views in his monthly column. And when I say "cuts loose," I mean "cuts loose." This is stuff that would make Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh or even Michael Savage blush.

Here's a sampling of views and quotes from his columns:

Artist Selected for Downtown Project

According to the N&O:

A designer with a striking, modern style will play a pivotal role in designing parts of downtown Chapel Hill's brick-laden landscape.

Mikyoung Kim will be the lead artist shaping the look of an estimated $75 million effort to transform two town-owned parking areas into a mix of condos, shops and open space.

Based in the Boston area, Kim has left her mark over the country and even abroad.

She has completed a huge canal project in Seoul, South Korea, helped redesign a federal courthouse in Little Rock, Ark., and worked on projects in a Boston wharf district, among many other projects.

Some of her most prominent work involves colorful fiber-optic lighting and illuminated streams of water. She describes it as "orchestrating an experience."

This seems like very big news for the town. Kim sounds like an artist whose work could help elevate downtown Chapel Hill in the region, especially given the potential of UNC's coming Arts Common.

Check out Kim's work here.

Local leaders aspire to be frosty beverages

Thank goodness the Daily Tarheel is even covering the Community Leadership Council. This is a group of mostly self-appointed community "leaders" who are getting more information about critical issues like UNC's development plans than the Town of Chapel Hill gets. I didn't see this meeting reported on in other outlets, but I don't get paid for this so maybe it slipped under my radar.

Unfortunately, either this recent CLC meeting was incoherent, or the DTH is just filtering their reportage in terms they think students will understand: beer. I read the article a few times and I couldn't figure out what hapenned at the meeting, but I didn't fail to note at least five beer analogies in the story.

Forget being like Mike. Chapel Hill leaders want to be like beer.

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