The town that time passed by - or will if the next council doesn't get moving.
One could easily argue that while UNC remains strong and grows, Chapel Hill is on a long downward economic and social diversity path, with convincing evidence. And that might be a good topic for a longer more thoughtful INDY article.
The Chapel Hill town government - a reflection of the "wishes" of the active political residents of town - has not neglected Franklin Street and downtown, but has not acted with the investment of time, personnel and expertise needed. At least I don't think so. However, the comments by business owners/operators and those others commenting on this thread about the lack of parking are in absolute numbers and location not based upon reality. I moved to Chapel Hill in 1988 - so 25 years last month. At that time there was less downtown parking than today. The Wallace deck was a miserable hole in the ground parking area. 140 West is new, but retained the parking that was on the site. More parking is available at the West Franklin end of the commercial district. And 123 West will provide even more. Don't give me the old line there is not enough parking. The Council(s) during the past 20 years have invested and added parking. That is not the problem. What has happened is increased competition from many physical and internet businesses and a change in product desires and decisions by individual business owners to change and remain successful or fold up. And perhaps most important of all, there has been little change in the "atmosphere" of the neglected Franklin Street environment that was here 25 years ago - except at the western end. Overgrown and uncared for trees, grass and weeds often growing wild, lighting that is not sufficient, and other signals of "no one in charge". Does Southern Village, Meadowmont, SouthPointe or any of the other shopping and eating environments look as neglected, dark at night, unkempt or panhandled as downtown Chapel Hill? Some residents I know are perfectly happy with this situation - they don't want visitors or economic health. Some have been know to say, I'll pay more taxes - just don't let any additional retail services come to town. Chapel Hill, like many municipalities in the past 5 years, cut services, budgets, goals, and expectations to the core. Unless the present Mayor and the 4 council members elected this fall exhibit "visible leadership" with an abundance of ideas that can be implemented, the next 4 years for Franklin Street will continue to be about an outdated physical environment with little visual or functional energy. When the private market is stifled as it was for many years is in Chapel Hill, it loses vitality and meaning. The current council has taken small but positive steps forward during the past 5 years. Lets hope the next council can continue to embrace the need for a vibrant downtown. It is our most importance community resource and is in need of continued maintenance and reinvestment by both private and public organizations.
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