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Wallace Deck could support Kidzu

A consultant's feasibility report says a one- or two-story structure could be built above the Wallace Parking Deck in downtown Chapel Hill.

The report shows the deck's original 1991 design, which was always meant to support a 10,000 to 12,000 square foot addition, is still valid. The probable cost of construction would run $200 per square foot. (That's $2 million for the math-challenged.) 

Kidzu, the children's museum on Franklin Street, wanted to move into the old post office space around the corner from the parking deck. That's not going to happen, given the needs of the court system that shares the building. But they'd probably go for the deck space, though they say they also have a site in Carrboro they're looking at.

Town Council member Bill Strom leads the committee that received the feasibility study this week, and he and the other two members present Thursday are Kidzu fans. But deciding what goes up there goes beyond the committee's scope.

"The council's gonna have to sort this out," Strom says. "The possibilities are endless." 



The Lexus driver and the cigarette butt: An update

Our post yesterday on the Lexus driver who rolled down her window to toss her cigarette butt on Chapel Hill's Franklin Street is closing in on 1,100 reads.

We've also received a dozen comments. Here are just a sample:

"The NC DOT has a Swat-a-Litterbug program where you can report such incidents. Check out the link at:
Personally, I think that all litterbugs should be required to
participate in an adopt-a-highway program as part of a mandated
community service program to pick up the cigarette butts they so
mindlessly and thoughtlessly toss from their car windows."

"If you wrote down her license plate number, you could report it on the
NC DOT Litter Bug site. I do it all the time. May not do much to the
offender, but it makes me feel better knowing I'm reporting those lazy

"She was making an ash of herself. Next time get her license plate number."

Of course, not everyone appreciated the post:

"People don't want a butt collection in their car so they throw them out. Stop being such a whiney bitch."

Greenbridge tower crane: By the numbers

Here is a quick look at the Greenbridge condominium project being built in downtown Chapel Hill's West End. As I write this, workers 200 feet in the air are attaching the jib, or swinging arm, of the first of two cranes that will be used on the project.

Tower crane: 189 feet

Height of taller of two future condominium towers: 128 feet (10 stories plus rooftop mechanicals)

Number of concrete columns to hold up building: 120

Number of dump trucks it will take to excavate dirt: 5,500 to 6,000

Percent excavated to date: 80 percent

Number of condo units: 98 (15 affordable)

Market price: $300,000s to over $1 million

Look for a short construction update coming in Sunday's Chapel Hill News.  



Museum director, police chief to share Friends of Downtown bill

The Friends of Downtown are offering a 2-for-1 deal Thursday. Instead of one guest, they'll have to.

Chapel Hill Museum director Traci Davenport was already scheduled to discuss "The Character and Characters of Chapel Hill," focusing on the museum's new permanent exhibit "Meet Me on Franklin Street."

Today came word that the Friends have also secured Chapel Hill Police Chief Brian Curran, who will speak about downtown safety. The recent armed robberies in town and the assault on campus Saturday make Curran's appearance especially timely.

This month's meeting is on Thursday, July 31 at 10 a.m.  on the second floor of the Franklin Hotel.  Parking is provided behind the hotel in the Herald lot and no permit is needed for our meeting. 

The Friends of the Downtown holds its regular meetings on the last Thursday of each month with speakers sharing knowledge on many aspects of downtown Chapel Hill.  Meetings are open to the public. 

Buns: good beef, no cheesecake

I met a friend for lunch last week at Buns, the new burger joint at 107
N. Columbia St., where Jersey Mike's subs used to be. This guy is a
married man I know from church, and he joked that we shouldn't tell
anyone the name of the place, or they'd think it was a strip club.
Turns out Buns just makes a damn good burger. They also serve coconut pineapple, carrot, and red velvet cakes -- but no cheesecake.

Race relations in Chapel Hill

Not everybody who opposed renaming Airport Road was racist. But enough tension emerged from the debate for the town to appoint a "Continuing Concerns Committee." Fast forward four years, and the committee -- now called the Justice in Action Committee -- is about to hold its first major public event.

"Are We a Town Divided," a community forum, wil take place at 7 p.m. Thursday in Chapel Hill. We'll have a story about it in Wednesday's Chapel Hill News (wait until then for this link to take you there). The forum will include a showing of a documentary on the famous blue eyes/brown eyes experiment, which if you haven't seen it is unnerving, to say the least.

Race and ethnic tension has flared in our community in the past week. Latino residents have protested new rules at a Carrboro complex that has been towing cars of some residents, some of them illegal immigrants. A barbed wire fence has gone up at a second Carrboro complex, generating more concern.

In Chapel Hill, our tensions are more subtle., perhaps because our housing prices make ours a more homogenous town. When Delores Bailey of EmPOWERment, gave our staff a Northside tour a few weeks ago, she remarked how the once predominantly black neighborhood had gone from 85 percent owner-occupied to about 15 percent owner-occupied. Chapel Hill's Hispanic population is also low. So at least in this town, we can't talk about race without talking about socioeconomic challenges, another topic of Thursday's discussion.

What do you think about the state of race relations in the Chapel Hill/Orange County area? Tell us what 's good and what could be better. Tell us what people don't like to say or talk about. If we get enough  responses, we'll print some with coverage of Thursday's  meeting in the Sunday Chapel Hill News.

Plaudits for Percent for Art program

Talk of upping Chapel Hill's 1 percent for public art ordinance to 2 percent seems to have faded away, while the town works out some organizational problems in its public art department. A lot's riding on new administrator Jeffrey York, whom I've yet to meet but have heard good things about.

Anyway, a couple of us spoke with some Town Council members a few months after the town's latest public art opened at the Town Operations Center. The project came under some criticism because it cost a lot and was placed where most members of the public will never see it. Town leaders defended the project and  the  public art program, though some local  arts leaders have questioned it too. ArtsCenter director Jon Wilner, for example, has said the money should  at least go to local artists, if not to local arts programming.

Now in fairness, we report that those pieces of art at the Town Operations Center have won national recognition. The two pieces are the curved stone wall embedded with tools and the winding marble bench created for the operations center on Millhouse Road in northern Chapel Hill. They were among 45 projects recognized as outstanding public art during a conference last month in Philadelphia.

Read more here.

Say it ain't Sal's: What do you miss?

Reader Sue Sweezy sent us this note after reading our story about Sal's restaurant losing its lease in Chapel Hill's Eastgate shopping center.

"Suggest to the Mr. Tornetta that there is restaurant space available in Timberlyne Shopping Center. The French restaurant just closed. WE will woefully miss Sal's. It was our family favorite while my kids grew up here."

I'm betting there are other (Eastgate) Sal's fans out there. Add your comments here, about Sal's and other local restaurants you miss. If we get enough we'll publish your comments in a future issue of The Chapel Hill News.

HUD investigating Orange

It appears the federal government is investigating a housing discrimination complaint in Orange County.

The complaint was filed by Robert Campbell, a Rogers Road-area resident and outspoken opponent of the county's solid waste operations at the nearby landfill. The complaint was filed against the County and Town of Chapel Hill.

A letter about the complaint was in the publicly available correspondence of County Manager Laura Blackmon. It's dated June 17, and says only that the Department of Housing and Urban Development hasn't completed its investigation within 100 days of the filing of the complaint.

There are a series of checkboxes for various reasons, and there's an 'x' next to "conduct more investigation because the information gathered so far shows a need for more investigation and analysis."

The letter also says the investigation should be finished in December, but it doesn't spell out what HUD is investigating. 

Campbell and other area residents have also filed a complaint about the county's solid waste operations with the Environmental Protection Agency.  

Orange County landfill doesn't gain any time

Orange County just got another estimate on its landfill lifespan.

But it didn't gain any time. The landfill is still expected to fill up and close in April 2011, says a consultant's estimate released this week.

Solid Waste Director Gayle Wilson said he'd hoped to gain a few months, and that the landfill bought a new compactor to try and squeeze in more trash. But a change in state regulations about what can go into construction waste dumps means more construction-type trash has to go into the municipal landfill, he said.

The county is in the middle of a search to find a transfer station site for a building where trash will be collected to be shipped out of the county.

There's a possibility the transfer station won't be ready in time, Wilson said. The county may need an interim solution, possibly an open-air concrete slab that would serve as a temporary transfer station.

The Orange County Commissioners had originally decided to put the transfer station where the landfill is now. But neighbors say they've lived next to the solid waste operations for long enough, and the board decided to reopen the search process late last year.

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