Whither Chapel Hill?
March 5, 1973
by Mary Ellis Gibson
and Dean Gerdes
Chapel Hill is no longer a village. Most people would agree with that.
But the plans for the growth of Chapel Hill date back to the early 60s when the
town was still a village. As alderman Ross Scroggs has put it, 'Those plans have been
out of whack for years."
Looking back on the growth of the town over the last 10 years, the Board of
Alderman, the Planning Board, the Chapel Hill Planning Department and citizens have
become concerned with what will happen to the town in the next 10 years.
"We need to know projections for the future in a more reliable way," said Alice
Welsh, one of the Aldermen. "Everyone says eventually the growth of Raleigh,
Durham and Chapel Hill will be one million people," Welsh said. She feels that this
does not need to happen. "We need some better direction about where we should be
15 years from now," she said.
Scroggs said he feels a comprehensive plan cannot be drawn up for such a long
period but that a plan that can be reviewed and changed every three to five years
should be initiated.
In trying to construct a new, long-range look at the area, the results of two on-going
programs and a long-range policy plan will be used. The two programs are PITCH and
the Central Business District (CBD) study. The long-range policy plan was developed in
a year's study by Art Berger of the Planning Department.
miiiipm mini T imtitmmmmmmiinmm&tBmummMM ' 1 1 tfini.iii ll' linmiii it imiiii i -?r:--'-'- J
Aerial view of Chape Hill in 1919
PITCH is a program sponsored by the Planning Board and headed by Peg Parker. It
is designed to get townspeople involved in planning for the future of the town through
a series of hearings. The first will be held March 1 in the Municipal Building.
Representatives from nearly 140 organizations, ranging from church groups to
men's clubs to PTAs, have been asked to come to the meeting.
At the meeting, Parker explained, slides, graphs and charts of the town's growth will
. be presented in order to show how the town has grown and what problems it is facing.
"Basically, what we want to ask people is, 'Do we go along the same, speed up or
slow down?' in the years ahead," explained Parker.
In preparing for the hearing, four members of the Planning Board, five students and
Berger worked in collecting details on such things as people, cars and houses, Parker
"What we need to find out is exactly what people think about the future growth of
the town," she explained.
While the PITCH program is seeking input for the planning for the whole town, the
CBD study is looking specifically at what should be done in the CBD area, the height
of buildings and the effects of the public transportation system," said James Wallace,
head of the CBD study.
The study is concerned with the direction that the downtown will go in the next
few years and what can be done to keep it "people orientated," Wallace said.
The 20-member task force that is doing the study meets every three weeks and is
about two-fifths done with the study. 'The results should be out in late May or early
June," he said.
One of the attempts to gather statistics were the student questionnaires that were
passed out when students registered for spring semester.
"We had really good returns," said Wallace, explaining that about 50 per cent of the
forms had been returned to Robert Leary and Associates, who are doing the study.
"Our program is solution orientated," Wallace said. "It is not just one like the 33
studies that have been made around town."
When the program statistics and aims are finalized, a set of recommendations will be
drawn up to present to the Board of Aldermen and the Planning Board.
One of the programs initiated this fall was the GOALs program, which was set up as
a committee of the town government officials, working to set out specific long-range
goals. Berger, one of the members of that committee, said that it was disbanded
because of a lack of consensus among the members.
Berger's long-range policy plan states policies and the implementation of those
policies for the planning area of Carrboro, Chapel Hill and the subdivision districts of
the two towns. This area is about 19 square miles.
The 74-page document is based on a policy that would center on specific centers of
growth in Chapel Hill and the area such as the CBD, Glen Lennox, Eastgate and others.
Berger's plan is now being considered by the Planning Board, although no specific
action has been taken or will be until after PITCH collects more information from the
townspeople, according to Planning Board member Parker.
Armed with the information from these studies and the hearings, the Planning
Board will then be able to take a better look at what the people of Chapel Hill want
and what the area needs in planning for the next decades.
The image and flower ladies pushed into alleys
as Chapel Hill mushrooms into a Triangle city
by Mary Ellis Gibson
People said Chapel Hill as a village would be
destroyed when the flower ladies were relegated to an
alley, when Eastgate opened and when the University
began raising its enrollment to accommodate the baby
Now the tone is different, as businessmen predict that
a new shopping center will solve some traffic congestion
and preserve the village atmosphere.
But most people sigh and shrug while remarking
resignedly that Chapel Hill hasn't been a village in years.
The "village" is, indeed, inhabited by some 12,000
townspeople and about 19,000 students, according to
the 1972 Chamber of Commerce estimate. Chapel Hill
natives complain that life in the "village" is beset with
The village myth has been replaced by a four-lane
Franklin Street, the brick and glass towers of Granville
and the North Carolina National Bank.
The NCNB building, shopping plaza and parking deck
went up amid both cheers and cries of dismay and a
short walk down Franklin Street reveals that reactions to
growth are still mixed.
"I've lived in Chapel Hill for 21 years," one clerk
said. "And I don't like that big building down the street,
but it's there and we have to accept it."
"Growth is inevitable and we have to change as the
times change," she added.
Another businessman took an even more favorable
attitude, predicting happily that the-shopping plaza will
bring new customers downtown.
Across the street, however, sentiment was different.
Did you like the Chapel Hill atmosphere better five
years ago, I asked a clothing merchant.
"Five years ago? I liked it better 15 years ago," he
replied. "Five years ago it was just as big and busy as it is
Another merchant, who is moving his business to the
new University Mall to open this summer with 52 stores,
declared downtown Chapel Hill is no longer a village at
all but a hodgepodge of "banks, boutiques and hot dog
Some signs of change are already apparent. Central
Carolina, First Citizens, First Union National and North
Carolina National banks are already located on Franklin
Street. Wachovia will soon move into the building now
occupied by the electric store. Northwestern Bank is still
seeking a location on the street.
The shuffle and deal does not stop with new banks.
The electric store is moving to the present location of
the Carolina Barber Shop, and the barbers will occupy
space in the NCNB plaza.
Downtown businesses may also be affected by the
opening of the University Mall, says Joe Augustine,
executive director of the Chapel Hill Chamber of
The business most acutely affected by the opening of
the Mall will be clothing stores, because their
merchandise will compete on an item for item basis with
the same products in the; shopping center, Augustine
A manager of a downtown clothing retail store
asserted that the growth of shopping centers signaled the
death of downtown Chapel Hill. Other merchant
predict that the area is growing fast enough to suppor
both the Central Business District and shopping centers
Despite students' complaints of high prices, severa
merchants cited the importance of foot-traffi
customers, students without cars who must rely or
downtown businesses for their needs.
Though some people still characterize Chapel Hill a
ruraj, souther Arcadia, these visions are nov
incongruously mingled with prospects of urbar
Traffic, public housing, out-migration of shoppen
and home owners and waste disposal are problems of a
metropolitan nature that the "village" Chapel Hill mus
begin to consider.
Growth of the town has had major consequence
recently, but future development may bring even mon
complications with the expansion of the Researd
Triangle. The Census Bureau predicts cities witl
populations between 50,000 and 200,000 wil
experience exceptionally fast growth rates during th
next 25 years.
Meanwhile, Chape! Hillians can stoically accept th
transformation of their town into a smaller version o
Durham, or perhaps active citizen participation in at
planning will preserve a breath of the original "village'