By Sarah Ang
Carrboro Commons Staff Writer
Lucy Davis is wary of the long-range effects the new developments at 300 East Main Street will have on the town’s overall ambiance.
“[Carrboro]‘s evolving the way we thought it would be, by and large,” Davis said. ” Some of the really large buildings they’re building – I don’t know that we envisioned something so massive.”
The Board of Aldermen approved construction plans for a 5-story building at 300 East Main Street almost four years ago. The approved plan calls for 338,800 square feet of building space, or 507,500 square feet, including the parking deck. The building is intended for a mix of commercial use, including retail, office, and restaurants; construction on the new Hampton Inn hotel is well underway.
Davis and fellow architect Georgia Bizios designed downtown Carrboro’s original layout over two decades ago. Davis said she and Bizios based downtown Carrboro’s design guidelines on a process found in A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction, written by urban planner Christopher Alexander. They finished the award-winning layout within six months after extensively consulting residents on their town preferences.
“It’s basically writing a little book,” Davis said.
Davis had designed Carrboro’s layout with its present and future purpose in mind. “[The layout] promotes variety and creativity within a unifying framework. And the framework is designed to improve the quality of life of people who use the downtown area, whether it be a shop owner, or a student going through there, or a neighbor.”
Taking a page out of Alexander’s book, Davis and Bizios included a pattern for a necklace of “greenspaces,” so nature would be as integrated as possible.
“And we even had patterns dealing with how people deal with the trash in the back of a building. All the things that go into making up a city area and making it a more lively and pleasant place to be in,” Davis said.
Traffic congestion is another of Davis’ concerns.
“I think Carrboro has a traffic problem to solve, and I don’t know how putting that much square footage is going to cause the traffic to potentially be really jammed up, you know, putting a lot more people there. I don’t know if they’ve done enough to address the traffic downtown. Chapel Hill, at least they have Franklin and Rosemary and [Cameron Ave.] that are going in the same direction. Carrboro just has that one Main Street.
“It’s like the tight end of a funnel.”
Davis may be wary, but others are ready to embrace the future town additions.
Jacques Menache, longtime arts supporter and ArtsCenter founder, agrees with the decision to build larger commercial structures and more advanced developments and constructions. He says he believes they will attract more people to Carrboro, especially its downtown.
“I think it will also bring revenue for the city, which in turn will allow them to bring new services to the people. I’m totally in favor,” Menache said.
“I don’t think we should remain a quaint little town that has no meaning. I think the only way to bring culture and business is to build one up high and build more densely.”
A longtime Carrboro resident, Davis particularly enjoys the lively street life downtown and is most proud of her designs for the highly successful Carrboro Farmers’ Market and the ArtsCenter.