In your next four (or five or six) years here, each of you will venture into the pasty kingdom of Tar Heel blue known as Chapel Hill at least once. Some of you may want to catch a rock show at the world famous Cat's Cradle, though others may prefer to party several nights a week at college town hotspots like The Library or The Cellar. Still others of you may enjoy watching as Herb Sendek smokes the man who drops the word "friggin'" more than Bob Sagat in a fistfight, that quizzical Roy Williams.
But all of you will, at some point or another, say the following as you cross the battle lines: "Geez, Raleigh would be perfect if we could only pick up Hillsborough Street, pick up Franklin Street, and switch the two."
It's true. Hillsborough Street is the armpit of the civilized college universe, an abysmal college artery in which the panhandlers are more likely to mention "growth capital" and "cost/benefit analysis" than the businesses that, at least temporarily, hold down its storefronts. Consider 2500 Hillsborough St., a small but attractive space across the street from a campus bus stop and one of the busiest post offices in the Triangle. Three weeks ago it was a Starbucks, but now it's an empty space (like so many others on this nowhere-but-to-downtown road) where the blue-and-white sign sitting in the window and offering a lease is more of a death wish for potential entrepreneurs than an actual opportunity.
I'd like to say that Starbucks' recent closing is a harbinger of the chain's loosening of its grip on the per-cup coffee craze it started. No such luck. Face it, this is a college street where McDonald's cannot survive and where the only truly great restaurant isn't actually intended for college students.
But here is one quasi-original solution: Track down the whining, sniveling snobs who complained so much about the drinking and drumming that took place on a decadent but prosperous Hillsborough Street more than a decade ago, show them the college wasteland it is today, and squeeze the money out of their gentrified, cigarettes-and-carrot-juice pockets until they have bought and repaired what they originally scorned and broke. Make them pay.
Until then, there's always Chapel Hill.