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Downtown 2020 Strategy

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NOTE: This page has been replaced by the new Downtown Investments site.


Downtown 2020 is a summary of the big ideas and priorities for Downtown Chapel Hill that have emerged through on-going planning initiatives.

*About Downtown 2020*

Council and the Planning Commission approved a work plan for FY16 and FY17 that commits staff time and resources towards transforming ideas into action through specific land use planning and infrastructure improvements. Learn more about the Downtown 2020 Strategy and Work Plan

*Active Projects*

Alleyway Improvement Project

West Rosemary Development Guide


As town staff continue to implement elements of the approved work plan, project updates and developments will be shared here.

December 5, 2016

Alleyway Improvement Project Public Workshop

Please join us as we reimagine two important downtown Chapel Hill alleyways- Varsity AlAlleywayley and Post Office Alley. Share your thoughts and creativity in a public workshop setting on January 10, 2017.

When: January 10, 2017 Two sessions will be offered, one at noon and one at 5:30 p.m. This is the same meeting, but will be offered in two sessions to accommodate busy schedules.

Where: Mediterranean Deli, 410 Franklin Street. Parking is available on street or in nearby parking lots. Visit

Who: All are invited to share their ideas and feedback.

View the Alleyway Workshop Invitation January 17 for more event details.


November 18, 2016

Stakeholder Group Meeting- Alleyway Improvement Project

stakeholder 1

Thank you to all community members who participated in the Stakeholder Group Meeting on November 18th and for the assistance in taking important first steps towards improving our Downtown gateways.  We received helpful feedback and we would like to invite you to continue to share your thoughts using this Alley Visions and Rating Chart (Google doc). 

Dropbox:  We have a dropbox set up that will have precedents and copies of the files we’re using and developing during this process. Participants also have the option of saving favorite pictures and ideas in the dropbox.

January 10, 2017 at Noon and 5pm:  Our next meeting will focus our attention on options for the alleys to review and discuss preferences.  This meeting is for the Stakeholder Group and will be open to the wider public as well. Location for the meeting will be announce soon.


November 8, 2016

Alleyway Improvement Project

A key project in the Downtown 2020 Work Plan is to improve Access and Variety in the Downtown. Our project goal is to design improvements for downtown pedestrian alleyways that will address safety concerns, provide opportunities for placemaking and expand wayfinding accommodations.  The project will result in a schematic design and cost estimates for improvements to two alleyways “Post Office Alley” and “Varsity Alley.” Learn More...


October 3, 2016

140 West Plaza User Experience Project

On 9/30 and 10/1, the Town and the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership conducted an experiment to activate the 140 West Plaza using the Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper (LQC) methodology that uses simple, short-term, and low-cost solutions to improve public spaces.  In an effort to address the perception that the space does not have elements that attract them to stay, the test added colorful benches, shaded table seating, wifi, signage and greenery to send the message that the plaza is welcoming to public use.  Data collected during the experiment reflected a slight increase in usage but did not provide strong evidence that all the space needs is some additional seating elements, greenery and vibrant color.  So the next question is what purpose do people have to be in the space?  Other than events, the space does not currently have an active and engaging retail presence.  In addition, there continues to be a concern that the sculpture is a deterrent to using the space because it looks dangerous and sharp.  The Town and the Downtown Partnership will continue the dialogue about the 140 West Plaza and other places downtown that could be better utilized as public gathering spaces.

This experiment was based on graduate student report, ‘Just Passing Through: Activating 140 West Franklin through Environmental Design’ – which found that the space functions primarily as a thoroughfare, with very few elements attracting people to the space and encouraging them to stay. Learn More...



June 20, 2016

 Downtown 2020 Work Plan Adoption

 Adopted by Council on June 20, 2016, the Downtown 2020 Work Plan focuses on the following areas:

  • Development Patterns- Create additional guidelines and regulations for Rosemary Street regardiwork plan publicng commercial development and land use that are consistent with the vision statement of the Northside Neighborhood Conservation District.
  • Access- Conduct a holistic study of downtown parking and circulation that informs decision making about street infrastructure. Identify alternative models for parking management and metering. Increase lighting on alleyways.
  • Variety- Increase exploration on formal and informal pathways with creative pedestrian level wayfinding signage. Recruit artistic programming and small events to increase vibrancy and year round activity.
  • Public Realm- Research, test and evaluate ideas for activating public realm and green space (ITS Plaza, 140 West, and others). Reduce regulatory barriers to sidewalk dining and support façade improvements that activate and beautify the street.
  • Economic Development- Identify co-working and Stage II space for companies. Increase the economics of downtown through strategic drivers.  

View the complete Work Plan

Downtown 2020 draws its big ideas and priorities from the following plans and planning initiatives:

Relationship to Rosemary Imagined and Downtown Imagined:

Since the summer of 2013, the community has been sharing ideas and visions about what downtown Chapel Hill should be like in the future - this process was called "Rosemary Imagined" and then expanded to "Downtown Imagined" to include all of downtown.

Have questions or ideas? Contact us!



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