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.

Free the Internet

Here's another chance for the town of Chapel Hill to catch up to Carrboro: free wireless Internet downtown.

It seems to have been a resounding success for Carrboro. Some businesses might worry about dozens of folks setting up their laptops for hours while only buying a pastry and coffee, but WSM has got plenty of space on the lawn, and more importantly having free wifi just adds to their role as the community hub. That attracts customers that aren't even using the wireless.

But Chapel Hill has a new angle on this. They are discussing covering the downtown neighborhoods like Northside where some residents can't afford high-speed Internet access.

Across the town line in Carrboro, officials decided last year to put a few thousand dollars into expanding the wireless network in the downtown area, enabling people to connect -- for free -- to the Internet with their laptop computers equipped with wireless cards.

Weaver Street Market Looks at Changes

Chapel Hill Herald, Saturday June 18, 2005

According to the International Cooperative Alliance, "a co-operative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise."

This is a definition that provides great flexibility of interpretation. Co-ops can be as small as a group of neighbors meeting their child-care needs or as large as the 1,000 orange growers who work together to market their products under the Florida Natural brand.

Unfortunately, the term cooperative has often been stretched so far that it is hard to distinguish a cooperator from an investor. Owners of Weaver Street Market who are currently considering proposed changes to the market's investment system would do well to contemplate this distinction.

Downtown Don'ts

The Town Council talked about a few of the things they don't want to see in the new mixed-use re-development on Lots 2 & 5 downtown.

They don't want to be The Streets at Southpoint, though they avoided speaking the name of the behemoth to the east that's anathema to Chapel Hill business leaders. "I hate that manufactured Main Street," council member Mark Kleinschmidt said.

"That's my biggest fear, that it will look like a mall that's trying to look like Main Street." Council members nodded...

"This space is so important to us," Mayor Kevin Foy said. "The way it looks should respect the existing architecture in the town but doesn't mimic and doesn't try to imitate it."

The council wants modern. It wants cool. It wants something looking to the future in a place that for many -- UNC-Chapel Hill alumni, in particular -- is memory lane.

- News & Observer 6/21/05

Summer series is ON

Here's the schedule so far for Chapel Hill's Summer Movie and Concert series - of which YOU are a sponsor, OP Readers!

Events are Wednesdays at 7:30 pm at McCorkle Place on Franklin Street.

June 22
concert: Cool John Ferguson (the rockin' blues)

June 29
movie: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

July 6
concert: Dub Addis (reggae)

July 13
movie: Bend it Like Beckham

July 20
concert (t.b.a.)

July 27
movie: Hitch

August 3
concert (t.b.a.)

The summer festival sponsors include: RBC Centura, Ram Development Group, Carolina Brewery, Carolina Car Wash, Chapel Hill Tire Car Care Center, Coldwell Banker Howard Perry and Walston, Earth Fare, Harris Incorporated, Local 506, The Readers of OrangePolitics.org, Rosemary Village, Spanky's, UNC-Chapel Hill, University Florist, Chapel Hill News, Pa'lante Magazine, WCHL 1360 AM

Carolina North report a tidy piece of PR

Chapel Hill Herald, Saturday May 28, 2005

The leaders of the go-go-growth crowd are true believers. Since they hold fast and firm to a common principle, the ethic of "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" holds sway. In truth, it is often the same back.

Thus, when UNC released its Economic Impact Analysis for Carolina North last Wednesday, it was not surprising that the contact provided for "economic impacts on the local community" was Aaron Nelson of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce.

UNC's report was all good news and Nelson's e-mail to chamber members matched it with effusive praise. He characterized Carolina North as "relieving pressure on the housing market." Let's see: 1,400 to 1,800 new homes to accommodate 7,500 new employees. That's about a 6,000 unit deficit, an odd notion of relief.

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