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The Daily Tar Heel

Students Propose Open Market

The parking lot, designated as No. 5 by the town, is located across from University Square on West Franklin Street. This area is a part of the town's Downtown Small Area Plan, which was adopted in March 2000 to encourage residential and office development downtown.

Sophomores Florian Moeller and Tiffany Kiernan and junior Alice Teich presented to the council ideas for an open air market to be created in the No. 5 parking lot.

All three students are members of UNC's Student Environmental Action Coalition, which is working with the Orange-Chatham Sierra Club to turn the parking lot into an open space.

"We feel that it is (the council's) responsibility to get the ball rolling and increase the quality of life in Chapel Hill," Moeller said.

The students presented their ideas for a town plaza that would include an open-air market to house restaurants, cafes and a large space for the performing arts.

Robert Porter, chairman of the Sierra Club, said he supports making the No. 5 parking lot a vibrant public space.

"We believe it should be a pedestrian magnet and that people will want to go there because of art studios, concerts and performances," Porter said.

Teich said the plaza would be similar to Carrboro's Weaver Street plaza, which she cited as an example of a place where people come together to be a community.

"Unlike Carrboro, Chapel Hill's population is very student-oriented, yet there's no interaction between students and the community," Teich said.

Porter said having a town square would solve this problem by integrating students and community members and by providing a common gathering area for Chapel Hill.

"We would support small restaurants and businesses that would attract people to this square," Porter said. "We are not proposing a park, rather we are proposing a gathering space."

All three students said they fear the land might house new office buildings, which they feel would decrease the quality of life in Chapel Hill.

"(The plaza) would be a place to meet with friends," Teich said. "It seems really inappropriate to put offices there."

At Wednesday's meeting, council member Joyce Brown suggested including the student's ideas in a downtown design workshop resolution.

But the council opted to wait on the measure and passed two resolutions --one stating its goals in creating the downtown design workshop and the other approving the process of putting together the workshop.

Porter said the Sierra Club wants the land to remain publicly owned and that all groups should come together.

"We should not miss this incredible opportunity to make something special there."

The City Editor can be reached at citydesk@unc.edu.

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