Franklin Street has long served as an entryway to campus, but the University's presence on the downtown strip itself hasn't always been visible.
The new UNC Visitors Center, located at 134 E. Franklin St. by Carolina Coffee Shop, aims to change that and further integrate the University with the Town of Chapel Hill. The center also aims to reach a wider audience and connect with visitors through exhibits and tours.
Unlike undergraduate admissions building Jackson Hall, the center's focus is not just on prospective students, but on general visitors to campus, alumni or anyone who'd like to learn more about the University. Tours held by the Visitors Center provide history and facts about UNC, as opposed to providing information about admissions.
Examples include the “Black and Blue" tour, which provides an African-American history of the University, and the "Sense of Place" tour, which takes visitors to well-known campus landmarks like the Old Well.
The Visitors Center is trying to function in a way that connects the University with the local community and students, Rhonda Beatty, director of the center, said.
For example, she said a digital portrait gallery in the new center displays pictures and profiles of current UNC students, in the hope that visitors can connect with their stories.
“Our hope is that when they come in here they will learn something about Carolina — that they will learn about the important work that students and faculty are doing in the community, across the nation and the world," Beatty said.
Within the building's entryway, a display case showcases various partnerships with campus. It currently showcases BeAM, the network of on-campus makerspaces, with later displays planned for the Hanes Art Center, Wilson Library and possibly the athletics department.
Beatty joked that maybe the space will display an eventual NCAA championship trophy.