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.

The Grocery Shopping Project: Whole Foods or Whole Paycheck?

In January I wrote about my first experience shopping at Weaver Street Market for my major grocery needs. I've been an owner for several years, but primarily limited my purchases to single meals at the cafe, doing the majority of my shopping at the neighboring Harris Teeter.

I thought I'd follow that up by shopping at the Whole Foods in Chapel Hill. Not as convenient to me in Carrboro as the Harris Teeter or Weaver Street, but after having a friend laughingly call it "Whole Paycheck," I decided to put my paycheck on the line and see how it compares.

This experiment was never intended to be rigorously scientific, but I did bring my standard grocery list of cold cuts, cheeses, fresh fruits and vegetables, granola bars, mixed nuts, crackers, chips, bread, milk, juice, eggs, morningstar products, and room for anything else that might catch my eye. Since I go out to eat (and drink) fairly frequently, I tend to avoid purchasing some pricer individual items like beer, wine, and meat.

Top <strike>10</strike> 11 Reasons for a local Luxury Tax

Guest Post by Roland Giduz

To: Chapel Hill Town Council
From: Roland Giduz, local citizen
In re: Council's Legislative Agenda

Mayor Appoints Self to Downtown Corporation; Wicked Eyesore addressed

Last night the Chapel Hill Town Council appointed Mayor Kevin Foy to fill an open seat on the Chapel Hill Downtown Economic Development Corporation (CHDEDC). I have to admit, I think there is a real need for members with more political experience and community accountability on The Corporation, and the Mayor does have those assets.

However as a member of the elected body that appoints Corporation members, isn't this a potential conflict of interest? I'm afraid this step may only serve to muddy the waters, when we really need some clarity downtown.

Last night the Corporation's chair also petitioned the Council to condemn the Wicked Eyesore:

The [Wicked Burrito] building, at 214 W. Franklin St., vacant since January 2000, is owned by Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon Inc. of Wichita, Kan.

Corporation members cited the lack of upkeep on the building as one reason to consider condemning it. The petition refers to the building as “a major downtown eyesore.”

Bush Spending Cuts Will Squeeze Local Budgets

IFC Director Chris Moran is circulating an article from the Chronicle of Philanthropy (President's Budget Seeks to Cut Many Programs That Subsidize Charities) that explains some of the impact of the Bush budget on social services.

This proposed budget is a serious local concern. If we wish to maintain responsible levels of social services, the pressure will increase on the local budget and on local taxes.

Here are a couple of examples of cuts given in the article:

The Community Development Block Grants program, through which local governments give money to charities and other groups for housing and economic development, would be eliminated. Grants for that program totaled $4.7-billion in 2005.

All money for vocational education, which totaled $1.2-billion in 2005, would be eliminated.

On the other hand, some items are getting increases:

The Compassion Capital Fund -- which provides grants to local charities, including programs run by religious groups -- would get $100-million, nearly double the 2005 figure.

See you at the bus stop

How often are you near a bus stop and trying to guess whether it's worth waiting for the next one or just hoofing it? This happens to me all the time. Partially because it's hard to tell if you have just missed the bus or if it's just about to come - but that's only if you are actually blessed with knowing the schedule.

More often I am already downtown, and in a bit of a hurry. Knowing when the next bus is will make me much more likely to ride. Probably even more than the fact that it's free. Which is why I was so excited to read about Chapel Hill Transit implementing a new system to display this information at bus stops.

Chapel Hill Transit is preparing to issue a request for bids on a new high-tech system that will give transit staff and riders a wealth of information about how the buses move through their routes.

Among other things, it will let riders at certain stops know whether their bus has just left or whether it will be along in three minutes.

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