Chapel Hill plans to revamp Rosemary Street

Chapel Hill leaders are tired of falling victim to the brain drain.

In an effort to entice budding entrepreneurs coming out of UNC to set up shop in the town, Chapel Hill officials are planning an initiative to revamp Rosemary Street into an enterprise hub.

Town leaders will collaborate with the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership and begin a planning initiative in the next four to six weeks.

Meg McGurk, executive director of the Downtown Partnership, said that while the initiative is still in its early stages, organizers are already gathering public input.

McGurk said revitalizing Rosemary Street, which runs parallel to Franklin Street, will strengthen the businesses and infrastructure already in Chapel Hill.

“It’s not just about change and new, but also about looking to strengthen what we have,” she said. “I think Rosemary Street is on the cusp of having its own identity, separate from Franklin Street.”

The revitalization plan, which was first discussed in the town’s Chapel Hill 2020 comprehensive planning initiative, hopes to attract and capture more local start-ups in downtown Chapel Hill, as well as provide additional opportunities for high-level jobs.

According to Chapel Hill 2020 documents, the initiative might also revitalize and redevelop Rosemary Street buildings — making it more attractive for potential businesses.

“We have certainly lost entrepreneurs to other communities over the past decades,” said Dwight Bassett, economic development officer for the town.

Earlier this month, Rosemary Street welcomed the opening of” LAUNCH Chapel Hill”:, a venture lab for start up companies.

Bassett said LAUNCH is a key first step for Rosemary Street’s revitalization.

He said that as start-ups graduate from the venture lab, they will look for a place to grow their business — and Rosemary Street is an ideal next step for entrepreneurs.

“If we don’t provide stage two and three opportunities, we could continue to lose these entrepreneurial enterprises to other cities.”

Bassett said new businesses need office space and research opportunities — two ingredients Franklin Street, which primarily houses retail and restaurants, lacks.

And Bassett said he hopes these fledgeling businesses will find a more permanent home on Rosemary Street.

Jim Kitchen, a UNC entrepreneurship lecturer, said he thinks revitalizing Rosemary Street will be helpful for businesses in LAUNCH.

“It’d be great for Chapel Hill to have an additional business district in the downtown area,” he said.

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