Northside Memories

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

A couple excellent student driven articles on Northside appeared this week.

Carrboro Commons’ Megan Gassaway published this article which reviews the history of the Northside community through long time resident Ms. Keith Edwards eyes.

Too often local media focuses narrowly on the business of carving up the community rather than providing a broader context – injecting the human dimension into the story – which better informs the wider community on why folks living in Northside mourn its passing.

Courtesy ReeseNews

Reese News,UNC School of Journalism & Mass Communication’s Digital Newsroom, leverages the power of the multimedia ‘net to give voice to 10 community members’ concerns in their story The struggle for a neighborhood.

It’s no secret that Northside isn’t the neighborhood it used to be.

The change is visible in the increased diversity of its residents and the ten-story high-end condominiums that tower across from the traditionally working class neighborhood, where massive duplexes are replacing single-family homes. Change is also evident in  the growing tension and frustration of residents in a neighborhood plagued by the effects of gentrification.

The pressure for development is taking its toll on the historically black neighborhood, and the town is struggling to balance the need to grow with the needs of neighborhoods like Northside.

Since 2010, the town has been working with the Raleigh-based consultant KlingStubbins to develop a Downtown Framework and Action Plan, which could revise and redevelop parts of downtown Chapel Hill and the surrounding areas.

The downtown proposal could have significant effects on Northside. In its current draft, the framework suggests building new road connections and parking decks in areas where homes currently stand. It also underscores certain areas of Northside as prime for redevelopment.

Well done folks!

Want a bit of additional perspective on the development pressures facing Northside?

IndyWeek reporter (and former Daily Tar Heel editor) Joe Schwartz put together another excellent overview last June (2010): Greenbridge: A new chapter in a tense history .

Greenbridge, as reported by the Chapel Hill News, faces its first foreclosure hearing next Tuesday. This Sunday they promise a further exploration of not only Greenbridge’s problems but other Downtown developments putting pressure on Northside, Cameron Ave. and Pine Knolls neighborhoods.

Change is going to happen. The question is how the whole of our community can benefit from that change. Articles like these help create a broader perspective, one that has been missing so far, in the discussions over development policy Downtown.

It is critical that the nearby neighborhoods play a vital role in determining their own fates. Until their voices are heard and their neighborhoods are treated like living, breathing communities rather than convenient parcels of land for future development, our development policy is as broken as Greenbridge’s financing.

Radical Shift in Vision For Downtown

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

Just got back from another presentation/planning charrette covering the Town’s new Downtown Development Action Plan and Framework.

The plan, created with input from UNC, the Downtown Partnership, Downtown businesses and local citizens, is supposed to look at economic, cultural and social development opportunities over the next 5 to 8 years and layout a fairly structured framework for encouraging change that meets both these goals and those encapsulated in the Town’s 2000 Downtown Small-Area Plan, Comprehensive Plan and other relevant guidelines created over the last decade.

Today was the first opportunity the public has had to review Kling-Stubbins’, a Raleigh planning consultancy, realization of that input into an initial proposal.

First reaction? Wow!

Back in April I attended both public input sessions to lobby for my vision of Downtown. I made a number of practical and visionary suggestions (as CitizenWill readers might expect) of how we could improve Downtown including using ongoing development initiatives like the University Square project to catalyze action. Today I saw quite a few of my and other folks suggestions captured and integrated into the proposed framework. Very encouraging.

The framework sketches out a series of evolutions that go far beyond a 5 to 8 year horizon: a new grid of east-west/north-south roads, linear parks stretching along Pritchard and Roberson creating several north-south axes through Town, creation of smaller human-scale city blocks to encourage greater pedestrian access, a multi-model transit station along a corridor running on the east margin of Parking Lot #5 (folks might remember my lobbying for such a corridor and its rejection by Council and RAM Development), an emphasis on work-force/mixed income housing OVER luxury condos, more parking especially along the margins to build up capacity, along with a slew of transformative elements to make Downtown physically and psychologically more productive.

On the planning side, Kling-Stubbins recognized that the overlapping jurisdictions between Downtown’s TC-2 zone and the Northside NCD (neighborhood conservation district) presented some serious challenges both for the neighborhoods and managing controlled growth along the Rosemary St. corridor (principally to the north). Addressing the incompatibility between the currently approved Downtown development projects and the maintenance of Northside, Cameron and Pine Knoll neighborhoods’ integrity is a key issue facing our Town. The framework presented this afternoon didn’t shy away from this issue but, instead, made solving the clash of competing objectives a priority.

In the “everything old is new again”, a few elements, like recreating the informal alley that ran through Fowler’s parking lot to connect Rosemary St. and Franklin St. to offload some traffic and add additional intersection corners (which attract and support high rent business), were rolled out. When I asked the consultants why they resurrected historical components of Downtown that I thought had worked, they admitted they were not aware of the history but had derived these proposed changes from first principles.

Another encouraging aspect of today’s presentation was how data-driven the process Kling-Stubbins used.

Analysis showed that, in spite of Council’s rhetoric in selling the ridiculous Lot #5 project, there are actually quite a few “eyes on the street”. Peak pedestrian traffic at Columbia and Franklin was over 10,000 folks. Consultants remarked that the high pedestrian counts throughout Downtown indicated quite healthy and enviable conditions especially in comparison to other benchmark college towns (Athens, Austin, State College).

Market evaluations show a need for Downtown work-force housing in lieu of more luxury condos. Again, contrary to recent Council policy.

For all my glee there are some sticking points – including incorporating wider public input, making Downtown neighborhoods partners and using TIFs (tax incremental financing, a problematic form of tax transfer payments) to pay for required infrastructure.

The Downtown Partnership will be posting the slide presentation, backing analysis and other materials used today on their website tomorrow (DownTownChapelHill.com).

I plan to whinge on more about the positives and negatives once those materials are available.

So, executive summary: framework is shaping up, has integrated public input, presents a revolutionary vision of Downtown the implementation of which will take decades.

Feb. 19th: Busy Thursday

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

A couple meetings tonight that folks may want to check out.

First, a meeting on Northside and the corrosive effect burgeoning development, taxes and shrinking opportunities is having on that traditional community.

From today’s Herald-Sun:

Local activists united to address what they view as “historic discrimination, rising property taxes, and development that threaten communities of color in Chapel Hill” will share alternate visions for collaborative sustainability and social change at 6 tonight.

United with the Northside Community Now (UNC-NOW), St. Joseph C.M.E., NAACP, and EmPOWERment Inc. will host a community meeting at St. Joseph C.M.E. Church, 510 W. Rosemary St., to discuss the impact of local development on historically African American neighborhoods.

“It is important that we come together as a community to be the voice of righteousness and justice in the face of the injustice and racist environmentalism that is threatening our neighborhoods,” the Rev. Troy F. Harrison of St. Joseph C.M.E. said in a news release.

Second, at 7pm, the second Town-sponsored community outreach on the Carolina North development agreement.

A Public Input/Information Session on Carolina North will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 19, in the Chapel Hill Town Council Chambers of Town Hall, 405 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Carolina North is a proposed satellite campus of UNC-Chapel Hill. It is expected to be contained within about 250 acres of the Horace Williams Tract’s 1,000 acres and be built in phases over the next 50 years, as proposed. The property lies just to the north of Estes Drive adjacent to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

The Thursday session will provide an update on the status of UNC-Chapel Hill’s
Carolina North plans and a description of issues being addressed by policy-makers and Town/University staffs. These issues include the following: design standards and public art; police/fire/EMS facilities and services; school site; recreation facilities; greenways, connections; historic, cultural features; stormwater management on site; water use and reclamation; energy conservation, carbon credits; Solid waste management; remediation of landfill; stream buffers; trees, landscaping; sedimentation; neighboring lands, compatibility, buffers; noise, lighting. A public comment period is scheduled.

This meeting will be aired live on Chapel Hill Government TV 18. Additional informational sessions on Carolina North have been scheduled for 1 to 5 p.m. March 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. April 1.

For more information, contact the Town of Chapel Hill Planning Department at (919) 968-2728 or carolinanorth@townofchapelhill.org.

Additional material is posted online at www.townofchapelhill.org/carolinanorth.

Tonight presents an excellent opportunity to not only get information but to help steer the discussion on what should be part of the development agreement which will codify the community’s expectations.

A middle finger to Northside

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

I wasn’t able to attend the spoken-word event concerning the corrosive effects of Greenbridge on Northside last evening, but according to the Daily Tar Heel, it stirred some sharp discussion.

UNC junior Kane Smego, who performed slam poetry at the event, described the project as two towers, “one 10 stories, the other seven — like a middle finger to the Northside.”

The Greenbridge promotional video added some controversy:

The video features interviews with black Northside residents recounting family history intermixed with narration about the proposed Greenbridge site.

Many of those featured in the video now say their words were taken out of context and misconstrued to seem as they were in full support of the project.

“I didn’t realize what I said was going to be used in that manner,” said Dolores Bailey, a Northside resident who was featured in the promotional video. “So that bothers me a lot.”

Delores (not Dolores) did support Greenbridge’s zoning application though she also wanted to carve out a better deal for the neighborhood:

Delores Bailey, a Northside resident, pointed out that Greenbridge could help but would not solve all of the problems in that area of Chapel Hill and/or Northside. She said the notion that preserving downtown is more important than preserving a neighborhood makes her “shudder.” Ms. Bailey said there were people in the neighborhood who did not understand that Greenbridge would be 10 stories high. She proposed putting half of the affordable units in the neighborhood, adding that this would address more needs. Ms. Bailey said that developers had listened, and that even though she had problems with the project she supports it because it is an attempt to work with the neighborhood and an understanding that some people will be living in its shadow. She stressed the importance of Greenbridge being respectful of the neighborhood and not making it feel shut out.

As far as that shadow, I argued that the socio-economic shadow this throws across Rosemary was not adequately discussed or evaluated (the physical shadow is pretty large also).

Alum08 at the DTH said:

It’s truly unclear what NOW is hoping to accomplish. This organization’s sole achievement has been complaining about something it does not fully understand. Additionally, this is all final and in the past. Why, as bright Carolina students, are we focusing on this instead of the future?

The future Downtown, at least as it is constituted by our current leadership, is high – high cost, high density, high buildings. The consequences, especially the long-term cumulative consequences, have not been adequately evaluated by our community.

Here’s a comment I left at the DTH:

It’s a shame that this dialog didn’t happen when the project was going through the approval process. I was one of the very few folks that stood up to challenge the project. I took a lot of heat for pointing out that this project would accelerate the gentrification going on not only into Northside but spreading South to Cameron, West to Pine Knolls, etc.

There are other shoes to drop here: the commercialization of Rosemary to the North, the cumulative impact of the Town’s Lot $5 project/Short Brothers project/University Square redevelopment on the nearby neighborhoods, the gentrification of nearby local businesses (how long will unsubsidized local business last as their rents rise or landlords redevelop to attract boutique shops?) and other corrosive effects of the high-priced/high-density vision our Council maintains.

Delores, as well as did other local leaders from organizations like the Hank Anderson Breakfast club, supported the project wholeheartedly. It was quite difficult to contest the social justice issue in the face of their support.

There’s a lot to like about Greenbridge, even as it sheds some of its “green” cred. I argued it was in the wrong place and that it would exacerbate the community displacements seen in Northside, Cameron and Pine Knoll.

Again, while Greenbridge is a “done deal”, there is still an incredible need to explore these other issues. I’m glad some other folks are taking up the challenge.

Characterizing Delores’ acquiescence as wholehearted is maybe too strong a sentiment but as I recall, in the end, there wasn’t a lot of struggle to get the final approval.

If there’s one lesson to be learned from last night’s event it is that our Town needs to look at improving our community outreach effort, get creative and more expansive, in order to build a broad consensus.

Hail to Our New Chief: Brian Curran Takes the Helm

Monday, September 24th, 2007

[UPDATE:] Not 15 minutes went by before I got the chance to congratulate Chief Curran in person. He was making his rounds through the Northside neighborhood (I noticed him rolling around Town before – he doesn’t seem to be much of a desk jockey).

[ORIGINAL]

I’ve had an opportunity to meet Brian in a few different venues these last few months and my initial impression that he was a talented officer capable of leading our department through transitional times has only been strengthened.

When he was initially appointed to take Chief Jarvies position I did a little research and was impressed by the commitment he has shown our Town.

When Town Manager Roger Stancil cast a wide net seeking a new Chief, I was hoping that our own law enforcement folks would be considered fully. With the failure to secure Roger’s first choice (due to the candidate’s failure to pass a health exam), I was looking forward to a re-evaluation of our home team bench.

Today Roger announced the permanent appointment of Brian to Chief.

Concurrently, Roger set some specific goals that will keep Brian busy over the next couple years.

To: Mayor and Town Council
From: Roger L. Stancil, Town Manager
CC: Senior Management Team

Date: September 24, 2007

Subject: Appointment of Brian Curran as Police Chief

I am proud to appoint Brian Curran as the Chief of Police of the Town of Chapel Hill. This appointment is effective immediately.

Since April 1, 2006, when Chief Gregg Jarvies retired, Brian Curran has served as our Interim Chief. During that time, he has exhibited the qualities that our community said they wanted in a chief during a series of community focus groups. As I made my decision, I reviewed the notes of those focus groups carefully. The words they used describe the behaviors and characteristics I have seen in Brian: Fair, honest, well-rounded law enforcement experience, understanding Chapel Hill, experience with University relations, understanding of neighborhood needs and concerns, leads by example, decisive, team player, experience with managing large gatherings of people, ability to relate to everyone in the community, good manager, approachable.

Having seen those behaviors, I have decided Brian is the best person to lead our Police Department and become a part of the Town’s Senior Management Team as we work collaboratively to make Chapel Hill an even better place to live.

Brian has worked for the Town of Chapel Hill since 1982. He began work in the Parks and Recreation department. He then served as a non-sworn communications specialist with the Police Department before becoming a Public Safety Officer in 1987. He has served in various roles in the department that give him a broad view and an understanding of the department and the community. I have attached his resume for your information.

The process.

As stated above, I carefully reviewed the characteristics of a chief of police as stated by the various community, employee, management team and Town Council focus groups earlier this year. I also reviewed the matrix of leadership characteristics that evolved from those focus groups. I reviewed the remaining finalists in the original round of applications as well as the applications received since we readvertised the position in July. I assessed the behavior of Chief Curran since he became interim chief in April. I asked the interview panel from our assessment center, supplemented by other assessors, to interview him and provide feedback. Based on the behavior I observed in his interim role and the feedback from the interview panel, I determined that Brian has demonstrated the characteristics sought by our community and is the best person to lead our police department.

The charge.

I have charged Brian with the following goals:

  • Assess the department, involving our employees and the community to tell us what we are doing well and where we have opportunities for improvement.
  • Create a leadership development program for our officers and our non-sworn employees to develop our future leaders internally.
  • Take positive steps to create a diverse command and supervisory structure that represents the various cultural faces of Chapel Hill.
  • Expand the community policing efforts of the department so that community policing becomes a belief system within our department.
  • Take the lead in innovation and teamwork to find solutions to community issues.

I look forward to working with Chief Curran.

As so do I, Roger. I especially like the goals Roger has set our new chief. Community policing needs to be a reflexive ethic of our department. Developing AND RETAINING our young turks will serve the Town well over the next few decades. And working to encompass the diversity of our community should make our law enforcement officers task smoother.

Congratulations Chief Curran.

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