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.

IFC, Homeless No More?

Is anyone at all surprised to see that the IFC soup kitchen/shelter will not be moving back into the space that they had to leave "temporarily" so the Town could remodel it? You shouldn't be if you read OrangePolitics. I can understand them needing more and better space for their residential programs, but I can't see the free meals they provide being nearly as helpful if they are served a mile away from the center of town. Poor people don't just hang out downtown because there are students to ask for money, it's also near where they work for poverty-level wages (ie: the University).

It also comes as no surprise that downtown merchants will be glad to have the shelter permanently out of their hair. I wonder if the move will have much impact on the panhandling that some people seem to think is the biggest problem we have downtown. (Besides maybe parking, of course!) Only time will tell.

Many criminals have fed the negative stereotypes of homeless people by hanging around the shelter and by giving its address when they're arrested. However:

WSM board hiring

My favorite co-op is approaching the annual re/election of of members of its Board of Directors. The structure is unusual (to me, at least).

Weaver Street Market is governed by a seven-member board of directors, four of whom are directly elected by the two owner classes, workers and consumers (2 positions each). Two positions are appointed by the board itself to fill the need for particular skills or knowledge. The General Manager holds the seventh position.

A few years ago, I stumbled upon the WSM Annual Meeting, at which the members have the opportunity to select our two representatives to the Board. But I was then frustrated to find that the ballot was preprinted (with the names of the incuments) and it was too late in the game to propose new candidates. Some years I miss the notice in the newsletter, and so miss the Annual meeting and the opportunity to vote altogether.

New Blood Downtown

The Chapel Hill Herald reports that the Chapel Hill Museum has hired a new director, and the new Chapel Hill Downtown Economic Development Corporation is still looking to hire it's first director.

[CHDEDC Board Member Bob] Epting said Tuesday that the three applicants under consideration had made their interest known because of the notice that went around campus. But he said that didn't necessarily mean all three were UNC faculty members.

"We haven't had a discussion about those qualities, so I wouldn't speak for the board on that point," Epting said, when asked about what the board was looking for in an interim director. "Clearly, we are trying to pick somebody with an interest and excitement for both the development and the preservation of our downtown."

The board does expect that whomever takes the director's job would be paid for the work, he said.

Be Very Afraid

The Mayor of Chapel Hill has been gradually taking money and power away from the Downtown Commission and directing it toward this new body, Chapel Hill Downtown Economic Development Corporation. It's quite clear from yesterday's Chapel Hill Herald article that the University is involved deeply with this new body - not that they weren't pretty influential with the old one, for that matter. But the suggestion that the first staff person for this corporation should be hand-picked by the University is too much. And if you weren't sure whether to be suspicious, I have two words for you:

I Believe

It's exciting to see the Town move forward with plans to develop a transit hub downtown. (I know most folks probably wouldn't use the word "exciting" to describe this, but that's how you know I am a geek.) The Triangle Transit Authority has already started Phase 1 of it's regional rail plan, which will connect downtown Raleigh, north Raleigh, Cary, RTP, and downtown Durham. Chapel Hill will be added in Phase 2, along with the airport (which should have been in Phase -1, but that's another rant).



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