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The Daily Tar Heel

Chapel Hill Block party fosters neighborhood bonds

UNC students face a sharp transition when they first leave dorms for off-campus housing.

Beyond learning to cook and pay utilities, students must also learn to accommodate non-student neighbors.

To ensure this happens, Chapel Hill police, businesses, community groups, residents, University officials and students will once again join forces for tonight’s Neighborhood Night Out and Good Neighbor Initiative Block Party.

The event will celebrate this joint effort with a walk, music, raffles and food at 6 p.m. at the Hargraves Community Center.

“It’s really a town event that brings together the University, community volunteers and the downtown businesses,” said Aaron Bachenheimer, an organizer of the initiative.

Students began to disrupt historic downtown neighborhoods as they became the majority residential group, said Linda Convissor, UNC’s director of local relations.

She said complaints ranged from loud parties and littering to students’ talking loudly and urinating in lawns on the way home from bars.

Bachenheimer said the need for the program grew out of police concern about mounting differences between students and residents.

Its growth has been a product of commitment and success, however, not increased tension.

“When you talk to the Chapel Hill Police Department and folks who live in the neighborhoods that surround downtown, they’ve seen real positive results,” he said.

The program also informs students about town services, such as recycling and trash pickup, their rights as tenants of landlords and how to pay utilities, UNC Student Body President Hogan Medlin said.

“As an off-campus resident myself, I remember it being very helpful two years ago when I got that information living on Church Street,” Medlin said.

Bachenheimer said he would like to see future events take place throughout the entire year to reinforce the student-resident bond.

“The ultimate goal of this whole thing is that when a UNC student moves off-campus, we want them to feel like they’re a part of the community,” Bachenheimer said.

“Whether it’s in October or next April, they will have a sense of, ‘I can go next door and talk to my neighbor if there’s a concern,’ and vice versa.”

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