Hazardous Consequences: Mystery of the Vault Contest

Thursday, April 5th, 2007


Everyone gets two (2) guesses – their “real” guess and an outlandish assessment (please, keep it clean. Yes, skeletons are welcomed).


Over on SqueezeThePulp former (and soon to be?) Carrboro Board of Alderman candidate, Orange County Democrat Women President, local businessperson and activist Katrina Ryan has offered a delicious La Rez meal for the grand prize winner and guest.

Thanks Katrina for stirring the pot!


(click to expand)

I’ve covered the devolving fortunes of our Town’s Downtown Development Initiative (DDI) since last Fall.

Throughout, I’ve referred to the Lot #5 development as an expensive boondoggle, a miserable mistake, poor public policy, a looming Behometh, a monument to the triumph of political ego over the public good.

I’ve also called it a potentially vast money pit.

Our elected folks might argue with most of my characterizations but not, it appears, my claim that Lot #5 is a money pit.

According to the recent environmental assay, Lot #5 contains

An unknown feature located at position A was identified as a potential metal vault approximately 8ft by 10 in area.

Former Councilmember, NC legislative bill drafter and longtime Chapel Hill observer Gerry Cohen speculates on the vaults contents:

I’m going to assume that Ross Norwood abandoned the vault when his lease was terminated around 1970 and he was kicked off the site. I will offer advance speculation that it is filled with cash. I’m being serious about this. I think I posted earlier about the swindle with his dollar bill machines, and there was a post in another thread on OP from a former employee at Ross Norwood Esso about “questionable ethics”.

Like Geraldo Rivera’s Al Capone’s mystery vault stunt, the over-hyped Lot #5 project is already fated to disappoint.

Whether the vault exists, has cash in it or not, I thought the mystery was worth some speculative fun and a community reward.

To that end, I’m sponsoring a contest to reward two local community organizations with cash donations.

Post a comment on this thread detailing your ideas about:

  • the most outlandish, Chapel Hill related, treasure this vault might contain (Dean Smith’s bronzed baby shoes?) and
  • the most accurate description you can summon on the vaults contents (a $100,000 in singles as per Gerry) or what “the vault” might actually be (Jerry Garcia’s missing VW Bus?)


  • Please keep entries clean and “family friendly”.
  • Winners will be selected based on accuracy and creativity.
  • I will contribute $150 to each winning person’s local charity/organization of choice.
  • Though the awards will stay within our local community, local residency is not required.
  • Sorry, no one working for the construction or excavation firms can participate.
  • Contest closes one hour before the vault is revealed.
  • Finally, while I’ll be the sole judge on both criteria, please feel free to influence the outcome by voting for what you think is the most outlandish, creative idea.

So, some good – and a bit of socially redeeming revenue – will come from building on Lot #5.

I invite other organizations more PR savvy (Liz, maybe the Downtown Partnership?) to build an “event” around this vaults unveiling – it might be the most “rewarding” aspect of this project for years to come.



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