The future of Downtown Chapel Hill: Study to help determine vision of Downtown mobility
The revitalization and improvement of Downtown Chapel Hill is a priority of the Town and community members alike. To support this effort, the Town Council approved the allocation of ARPA funds for multiple Downtown projects such as Peace & Justice Plaza planning, a maintenance program, and Downtown Together initiatives. In addition, the Council approved funding for a two-part Streetscape Enhancement Mobility Plan, being managed by the Economic Development department.
The first part of the plan is a Multimodal Mobility Study that will assess the current design of Downtown streets, specifically the high-traffic areas of Franklin St., Columbia St., and Rosemary St. A public Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to compare and assess the expertise of potential firms was created in December. In January, a selection committee comprised of Town and Downtown Partnership staff reviewed proposals, interviewed potential firms, and ultimately awarded Toole Design the contract for the first phase of the project. Toole Design presented a plan that included the most opportunity for public engagement and participation and had previous experience working on mobility projects in comparable communities. Their team includes project managers, landscape architects, urban designers, and engineers.
The conclusion of this project will be a detailed graphic-rich plan for the future of Downtown Chapel Hill and a list of recommended actions presented to the Town Council. This plan will focus on smoothing traffic flow during peak times while ensuring the safety of everyone who moves through Downtown Chapel Hill: pedestrians, cyclists, cars, and buses. The plan will help to decide the ideal location for mobility infrastructure like bike lanes and loading zones. Further, the plan will help the Town answer questions regarding street ownership. As of now, streets like Franklin and Rosemary are owned by NCDOT, which limits the Town’s ability to control streetscapes and street design.
This work will utilize a charrette feedback model, which incorporates community opinion in different forms including group interviews, virtual feedback sessions, and one-on-one conversations. The public input sessions will feature live feedback loops including live drawings of potential street designs. There will be an opportunity for public input for this project on April 19th from 5:30-7:00 pm, when Town and Toole Design staff will facilitate a community open house. There will be more public engagement sessions at the end of May, during which a larger Toole Design team will be present. More detailed meeting times will be announced and advertised to the public in the coming weeks.
Town staff is excited about this project and the opportunity to engage with residents, visitors, and business owners to hear their thoughts about Downtown mobility. The study is just one of the ongoing projects that the Town and our community partners are working on to improve the efficiency and appearance of Downtown. The continued goal of this work is to balance tradition with progress in Downtown Chapel Hill while creating a vibrant place to work, live, play, and shop.