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.

Change is afoot downtown

On a recent walk to the Post Office I noticed quite a lot of changes in retail storefronts downtown. In the former Strong's/Roastery/Judge's Coffee space (which I remember as Barrel of Fun arcade when I was a kid, and maybe a laundromat before that) something called "Jack Spratt" is hapenning. Anyone know anything about that? Also on the 100 block of East Franklin is "Polo," the new Ralph Lauren store. Just what we need now that the Gap is gone (joke!). Nothing seems to be happening in the Gap space, which used to be a movie theatre when I was little.

Paying our dues

Well I guess it's time to begin the annual hand-wringing over Chapel Hill's budget. The manager often overestimates any anticipated tax increases so that the Council can easily find a way to reduce or eliminate the increase. But this year they are talking about a 20% tax hike! I personally agree with George Lakoff who points out that taxes are an investment in our future (and when it's municipal, that's the not-too-distant future). "Taxes are the way we support the common good," says Lakoff.

Local colors

This week on OP we have discussed issues related to the physical center of our community such as transit, sidewalks, redevelopment, realignment, Carrboro's wireless internet, and Chapel Hill's downtown development corporation. All of these "downtown" issues truly affect our entire community. I have been thinking a lot lately about the politics of place, on a neighborhood level.

Carrboro Transportation Forum is Thursday

The Town of Carrboro is holding a forum for the discussion of the Carrboro Downtown Transportation Study. This is a great chance for folks to hear about different options that the Town is looking at. Possibilities include limiting cars on Weaver Street, installing roundabouts on Main Street, bigger sidewalks and more on-street parking. Come check it out Thursday Dec. 2 at 6:30 at the Century Center.

Here's the invite on the Town website (www.townofcarrboro.com):

Please plan to attend a community forum on the draft Carrboro Downtown Transportation Study, to be held on Thursday, December 2 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in Century Hall of the Carrboro Century Center, located at the corner of Greensboro and Weaver streets in downtown Carrboro.

The future of public wireless

Recently the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania has been working on rolling out what could be the largest public wireless network in the USA. That momentum was interrupted when Pennsylvania house bill 30, a.k.a. the "Verizon Bill," was introduced to the Pennsylvania legislature in Harrisburg.

Simply, Verizon doesn't want competition from the Wireless Philadelphia Initiative on providing wireless internet access. The key part of Verizon's argument is that the City of Philadelphia would be charging the citizens to construct the wireless network, pay for its long term maintenance, and supposedly for access to the wireless network itself. Verizon claims it would not charge citizens for the CREATION of a wireless network. But it is clear they would have to charge for ACCESS to the network once this future private network was constructed.

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