Friends of the Downtown Submission to Chapel Hill 2020

A vibrant, vital, and economically sustainable Downtown is essential to Chapel Hill’s future and should serve as the focal point for visitors and residents alike. Downtown should respond to the needs of students, residents, businesses, and visitors. Our downtown should serve as a center of the Town’s life and contribute to its economic development. It should be a harmonious, accessible, sustainable, and well-designed mix of commercial, residential, and public spaces that respects the Town’s unique heritage and visual character. It must be a place that can be enjoyed with a feeling of safety and security at all times.


In order to achieve this, the Friends of the Downtown propose the following goals:

  • The Town of Chapel Hill should develop, adopt, and implement a comprehensive Downtown Master Plan that includes the following strategies:
    • Create a physical and economic plan for the coming decades
    • Expand the commercial retail areas beyond the Franklin Street core to include Rosemary Street and the streets that connect these two
    • Develop a clear articulation of desired uses, building heights, massing, and other physical features employing form and function-based zoning
    • Create public spaces for a variety of indoor and outdoor uses
    • Improved pedestrian, bicycle, and vehicular transport, both within the area and in terms of connections to the Town as a whole
    • Develop means by which financial support can be provided to achieve the goals and plan for Downtown
    • Maintain the essential and unique character of the area and Chapel Hill as a whole, including the preservation of the tree canopy and other    environmentally responsive features
  • Streamline the development/land use review process so that buildings and uses that conform to the Master Plan will receive expedited review. Such a process should also provide greater clarity and certainty to developers and others wishing to invest so as to foster such investment.
  • Improve public/mass transportation to and around Downtown to allow greater ease of access for weekdays, evenings, and weekends. Such improvements could include the use of loop shuttles, changing bus routes to address commercial needs as well as those of students, and construction of a transfer station in an appropriate location
  • Develop adequate parking – both through public and private means – in ways that do not absorb valuable residential and commercial space nor impair the architectural integrity of the area
  • Provide enhanced assistance – both financially and through other means – for the Downtown through
    • Support of events such as Festifall
    • Publicizing businesses and other Downtown-centric ventures
    • Creation of space for start-ups and other entrepreneurial activities.
  • Employ collaborations between the town and other major stakeholders, such as UNC and UNC Health Care, to enhance the Downtown
  • Enhance Safety and security through upgrading lighting – both overhead and at street level – greater/more effective police patrols, improving sanitation, and encouraging orderly street life and pedestrian traffic
  • Consider expanding the commercial/retail and community areas along No. Columbia Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. to the Hillsborough St./Umstead Rd. intersection in recognition of the demand for such spaces created by Carolina North

Chapel Hill 2020: Our Town, Our Vision

The largest public visioning and planning process in the history of Chapel Hill begins on Tuesday, Sept. 27, with the kickoff of Chapel Hill 2020, a communitywide effort to create a new comprehensive plan. Chapel Hill 2020 is all about involving the community from the beginning. Hundreds of "stakeholders" are expected to attend the kickoff at East Chapel Hill High, 500 Weaver Dairy Road. An open house is scheduled from 5 to 6 p.m., and the visioning process will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. All residents - and others who live, work and play in Chapel Hill - are invited to this free and open event.

At this first meeting participants will help identify a vision and key themes for Chapel Hill 2020. Bus service to the High School is available on the "T" bus route until 5:45 pm. Need a bus ride home? Contact the Planning Department at 919-968-2728 or email (subject line: bus ride) before Sept. 20, and we'll arrange for your ride.

"You have made Chapel Hill your home and we want to hear from you," said Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt. "If you hear about Chapel Hill 2020, you are invited. Truly, I hope you and everyone will get involved. Our future depends upon it."

Chapel Hill 2020 is led by co-chairs Rosemary Waldorf, project manager for Bryan Properties and former mayor of Chapel Hill; and George Cianciolo, a Duke University associate professor of pathology and former chair of the Town's Planning Board. Both are longtime residents of Chapel Hill who are committed to making Chapel Hill 2020 a plan that unifies the community and reflects our collective needs.

Who is a stakeholder? Anyone who lives works or plays in Chapel Hill - you don't have to be a resident to participate, you don't have to get an invitation to come to an event. Stakeholders are the people who will articulate the vision and the goals for the plan. Anyone can join at any time. What is in Chapel Hill 2020 will affect each of us — and it's your opportunity to make a difference.

You are invited to sign up at (see "Become a Stakeholder!") and join us at the kickoff on Sept. 27. We need committed stakeholders to share their insights and input during the 12 meetings after Sept. 27. Meetings aren't your thing? How about filling out a survey? Asking your neighbors what they think? There will be many roles and opportunities for ideas and input. When you sign up, indicate what aspects of the plan interest you most and we'll make sure you have a say. After all, it's your town, shouldn't it be your vision?

About Chapel Hill 2020

The communitywide visioning process named Chapel Hill 2020 will develop much more than a land use plan. We intend to discuss the hottest topics that affect our future. A few examples of discussion topics are as follows:

•  How should we manage student housing in the community?
• How do we see environmental protection and economic development trade-offs?
• How can we plan for transportation? public health?
• How do we make our community sustainable?
• What services do we want? How will we pay for them?
• How to manage economic development? A big box store in Chapel Hill?
• How do we foster collaboration among the Town, UNC and UNC Health Care?


The current Town of Chapel Hill Comprehensive Plan was adopted on May 8, 2000, and has been supplemented by various small area plans and other documents to guide the vision for Chapel Hill. The community and the Town Council have asked for a new Comprehensive Plan to bring these documents together, to reexamine the vision and to focus together on our community's future.

Chapel Hill 2020 co-chairs were selected by a Council-appointed Initiating Committee that finalized its plans about the visioning process in June 2011. The Initiating Committee, which has concluded its work, included Kathy Atwater, Elliott Bennett Guerro, Gordon Merklein, David Knowles, Lee Storrow, Jason Baker, Jim Curis, Julie Brenman, Allison DeMarco, Joy Steinberg, Jim Merritt, Rob Maitland, Scott Beavers, Anita Badrock and Doug MacLean.

The process, which was designed by the Initiating Committee, relies on an Outreach Committee that is charged with recruiting and involving stakeholders; a Logistics Committee that will provide logistical and fundraising support; and a Research Committee to reference reports and data, and oversee surveys, as requested by the stakeholders.

Stakeholders in the project will develop key themes for community discussion. Committees will be formed for each of the key themes for participants to explore, discuss, and build the basis for the new comprehensive plan.

For more information on the New Comprehensive Plan, visit, email or call the Town of Chapel Hill Planning Department at 919-968-2728.


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© 2016 Friends of the Downtown, a 501 C-3 Corporation