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Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership’s executive director of nearly 3 years resigns

Jim Norton, executive director of the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership, is stepping down after almost three years on the job.

Norton has announced his plans to explore other career opportunities, according to a statement released Thursday following a closed session at the partnership’s monthly Board of Directors meeting. He did not attend the meeting.

The Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership’s Board of Directors first confirmed Norton’s plans to resign on Tuesday.

George Draper, board chairman, said he could not comment on what led to Norton’s resignation, or whether or not Norton was offered a renewal of his three-year contract.

Assistant Director Meg McGurk will take on the role of interim director while the board searches for someone to take Norton’s place permanently.

“I think that it’s a great opportunity for the partnership as a whole to really evaluate what they want in a future executive director,” she said.

The Downtown Partnership is a nonprofit organization funded by the town and UNC to help keep downtown clean, safe and economically thriving.

Draper said they would begin the process of looking for a new director next week.

Greg Overbeck is an owner of Spanky’s Restaurant & Bar and 411 West, and is part of the Chapel Hill Restaurant Group.

He said he felt Norton has played a large roll in strengthening town relations with Franklin Street businesses.

“Chapel Hill for a long time had a reputation for being a difficult place to open a business, or do business, because of all the ordinances,” Overbeck said.

He said Norton worked to improve parking on Franklin Street — partly by getting restaurants with parking lots, such as Noodles & Company, to open up their lots for free parking at night after closing.

“We looked at him as an ally of businesses in Chapel Hill, and I’m really sad to hear he’s leaving the partnership,” Overbeck said.

Draper said he felt as though Norton had some success as director.

“I think that he accomplished some of his goals, and other goals he wasn’t able to accomplish,” he said.

Though Draper said he wouldn’t have predicted Norton’s resignation two months ago, he said he didn’t expect Norton’s resignation to cause any significant delays in the partnership’s plans.

“We’ve already started discussions today about where we’re going to go from here,” he said.

As interim director, McGurk said she will focus primarily on making sure the projects the board has planned for the summer, including the Locally Grown Rooftop Music and Movie Series, go according to plan.

She said she didn’t think her temporary position would turn into a long-term job, because she enjoys her job as assistant director more.

“I’m very happy to step up during the interim period,” she said.
“But I think I’m happy with what I’m doing.”

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