“I don’t discount that seeing the trees come down is sad," said Meg McGurk, executive director of the Downtown Chapel Hill Partnership. “(The changes) are much more appropriate for a dense urban environment."
Not all Chapel Hill residents are enthusiastic about the renovations.
“These trees will be missed in the summer and make Franklin (Street) a far less pleasant place to be and to shop. I can't think of any reason why the planters would be removed,” Michele Easter, a resident of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area, said in an email to the town council.
"It has to be the case, remove the planters for sidewalk expansion and it create a more semi-public space,” said Don Tise, a downtown business owner and chair of the 2014-2015 Downtown Partnership Board of Directors.
These modifications are just a portion of the Downtown Master Streetscape Plan, finalized in 2009 by the Town Council. The streetscape plan is composed of measures that aim to enhance the pedestrian experience, create a safer downtown and aesthetically refresh the heavily used areas of Chapel Hill.
“Next, watch for improved pedestrian access, new bike racks, additional benches and relocation of newspaper racks and trash cans," Chapel Hill spokeswoman Catherine Lazorko said in an email.
These changes reflect the concerns and requests presented by business owners, town staff and residents.
“This same plan has led to streetscape renovations welcomed by businesses along West Franklin Street last summer. Now it's East Franklin Street's turn for a facelift,” Lazorko said.
Streetscape improvements also have previously been implemented along Rosemary and Henderson streets.
The work on the newest streetscape improvements began March 8 and will continue over the next six weeks, weather permitting. It is not anticipated that the work will hinder sidewalk traffic.