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The Daily Tar Heel

Officials Say Chapel Hill Businesses Are Growing

By Daniel Cho

Staff Writer

Town officials say that despite the poor economy and growth of nearby towns, Chapel Hill is still growing and attracting consumers from around the Triangle.

Downtown Commission Executive Director Robert Humphreys said the commission launched a marketing campaign last fall that aims to draw consumers to Chapel Hill.

"Right now we are running an ad on National Public Radio for our Web address so people will come and try out Chapel Hill," Humphreys said.

He also said the Downtown Commission orchestrated a print campaign aimed at luring visitors that consisted of by ads that ran in The (Raleigh) News & Observer.

Humphreys said both campaigns focused on Chapel Hill's unique commercial attributes.

"The main thing that sets us apart from other Triangle towns is the fact that most restaurants and shops are small and independently owned," he said. "There are no big chains like in Raleigh and Durham."

Several town officials had high praise for Chapel Hill's commercial situation and said they expect it will only improve in the future.

Town Council member Mark Kleinschmidt said the town has set itself up nicely to deal with the economic downturn. "Other communities would die to have what we have," he said. "We have wonderful artistic resources."

Kleinschmidt emphasized the attributes that Chapel Hill has to offer consumers.

"We have a foundation to keep Chapel Hill attractive and carry us into the future," he said. "Maintaining the level of uniqueness is vital for us to go toward our destination."

Other than the artistic aspects of Chapel Hill, officials noted that the town has a renowned downtown district, one of the largest universities in the nation and a thriving music scene.

Council member Pat Evans praised the County Tourism Board for bringing business to the area.

"The board has been working hard to bring in professional conventions and meetings" she said.

Officials said they are not concerned about the threat of having business taken away by rival towns.

Chapel Hill Chamber of Commerce President Aaron Nelson cited the new Southpoint Mall, which will open this spring in Durham, as one source of potential competition.

But Nelson said Chapel Hill is also going through some changes. He said the Ram's Plaza is being renovated and upgraded and that the downtown area is going through a process of planning for the future.

The vision for the downtown sector includes construction of pedestrian spaces, parks and new two- and three-story buildings. Four areas of the greatest development interests are Parking Lot No. 5 at the corner of Church and Franklin streets, Parking Lot No. 2 at the corner of Columbia and Rosemary streets, the University Square area and West Rosemary Street focusing on Mitchell Lane.

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

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