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.

Take a hike - downtown

OK, all of you who have been complaining about the downtown environment, time to take a hike. The Downtown Partnership is organizing "clean and safe" walking audits to survey the area for problem spots.

People interested in participating in the audits -- 90-minute guided tours -- should contact the partnership at 967-9440 or chdowntown@bellsouth.net.

There will be daytime and nighttime audits for each section of downtown:

* East End auditors will conduct audits at 8 p.m. Dec. 8 and 8 a.m. Dec. 9.

* Middle auditors will conduct audits at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 7 and 8 a.m. Dec. 8.

* West End auditors will conduct audits at 1 p.m. Dec. 7 and 7 p.m. Dec. 9.

- News & Observer, 11/29/05

Investing in cooperative retail

Chapel Hill Herald, Saturday November 19, 2005

Last summer, as the threat loomed of a Wal-Mart just south of the Chatham County line, there was much talk of how to stop the retail giant from moving in and sucking the life-blood out of local business. Less attention was paid to strengthening our home grown retail sector to create an economic base that might withstand such an onslaught.

As the Wal-Mart style big box has spread, the business districts of small town America have been hard hit, losing their historic retail anchors and leaving residents to drive out to a freeway interchange for the nearest strip mall.

In 2001, Powell, Wyoming was in trouble when the Stage store, the latest owner of the downtown department store that had operated for generations, decided to pull out.

Citizens of Powell formed a corporation and began selling stock to open their own store. Some 800 investors bought shares, and in the summer of 2002 the Mercantile opened in a 7,500-square-foot space downtown that once housed a portion of the Stage store.

Wal-Mart is coming!

Just kidding, it's actually the movie "Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price" playing all over the Triangle this weekend. Lot's more great info on this from the Facing South (the wonderful blog of the Institute for Southern Studies, which you all should read).

In Chapel Hill, it will be shown at the Community Church on Sunday 11/13 at 1pm and Thursday 11/17 at 7:15 pm. Here's a complete list of Triangle screenings.

I heart downtown Chapel Hill

Is anyone else as sick as I am of the Chapel Hill News harping on how much downtown sucks? Last weekend there was a big spread mostly about how we are doomed (again). It was way too lengthy for me to dissect it all, but if you read it, please share your thoughts.

Here's one great letter to the editor in response:

How dare they be homeless?

I, too, am outraged at the panhandling that occurs on Franklin Street. Even all of the letters from Sunday's paper could not convey my disgust at those homeless. How dare they ask me for money! I mean, they chose to be homeless; it's their fault.

They buy drugs and alcohol and don't save their money like us good, righteous folks. They stand there smoking expensive cigarettes, and turn right around to ask me for change. They waste their money, so they deserve to sleep on freezing concrete. My rights are being trampled when they ask for money, and their poverty makes me so uncomfortable.

WSM leadership, again...

It's that time of year again, for members ("owners") of Weaver Street Market to have their say about the organization's leadership, sort of. The Board of WSM is made is made up of 2 members elected by consumer owners, 2 members elected by worker owners, 2 board-selected members, and the general manager. That's right, the board selects some of it's own members. It's sort of like electing 6 town council members, letting the town manager vote, and then letting the council choose another three members - good for stability, bad for dissent.

This year owners get to vote for one of these two board candidates:
• James Morgan, an incumbent who has served 8 years on the WSM board.
• Billy Madden, a former WSM employee who wants to see the Board do more outreach to owners and the broader community.

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