A world on Franklin Street

Poor, beleaguered Franklin Street. First, people complain that it has too many empty storefronts. And then once the spaces begin to fill up, the whinging starts that the businesses aren’t the right kind. Too many restaurants, bars and Carolina souvenir shops, they say. Some long for an independent bookstore; Chancellor Thorp yearns for a Barnes & Noble, even though UNC has a perfectly good bookstore right on campus.

Come to think of it, the campus has a coffee shop, a place to buy pizza and fast-food sandwiches, and free movies. Yet their competitors on Franklin Street don’t lack for customers.

For years I’ve heard the lament, “No one goes downtown anymore.” I think what they mean is, “No one drives to Franklin Street anymore.” Of course they don’t – there’s no place to park. Yet anytime I’ve walked along Franklin Street, the sidewalks are full of pedestrians.

Maybe Franklin Street has just what it needs to serve a college town.

Over the summer, I toured several college campuses. The admissions officers always ended their spiel by urging us to visit some particular street near campus to see what that town had to offer students. Invariably, the street was a block or two long, lined with coffee shops, cafes, college souvenir shops and a bar or two.

Old-timers, excuse me, longtime residents of Chapel Hill, sigh deeply at the reminder that Franklin Street no longer has a grocery store, and it will need one once all the condos of Greenbridge and 140 West Franklin come online. If this idea of a walkable downtown is to fly, Franklin Street will also need a liquor store.

Everything else is already available on Franklin Street – a drugstore, hardware store, children’s clothing store, women’s clothing stores, a men’s haberdashery, a movie theater, art galleries, bakery shop, chocolate shop, ice cream shop, donut shop, coffee shops, smoke shops, bike shop, copy shop, comic book store, used bookstore, game store, massage parlor, beauty salons, children’s play space, courthouse, bank, post office, churches, a funeral home, and bars and restaurants of all ilk. What else do we need?

One could live and die on Franklin Street, as soon as we get a place to buy groceries and liquor.
– Nancy Oates

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  1. Mark Marcoplos

     /  September 9, 2010

    West Franklin St. residents can walk to Weaver St. & Harris Teeter.

  2. Nancy Oates

     /  September 9, 2010

    True, if you live in Greenbridge. But if you live in 140 West Franklin or 123 West Franklin, your ice cream has melted, your frozen pizza has thawed and the bacteria count in your hamburger has more than doubled by the time you’ve walked home.

  3. Duncan O'Malley

     /  September 9, 2010

    Funny but, despite the proximity, I almost never see Northside residents shopping at Weaver St. Could it be the prices?

  4. Linda Convissor

     /  September 9, 2010

    Walgreen’s usually has ice cream. I have to bypass that aisle when I shop there. I wouldn’t be surprised if they have frozen pizza.

    Walgreen’s is also experimenting with providing fresh produce in communities without grocery stores (food deserts) http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129160851.

  5. Terri Buckner

     /  September 10, 2010

    Norfolk VA underwent a downtown renaissance back in the late 1990s. It was truly amazing to watch/experience. One year, the storefronts were all boarded up, and within 2 years they were funky restaurants, condos, bars, etc. There were also several bodegas to meet the day to day needs of condo dwellers. No big groceries, which would have been out of character with the new development, but between the various bodegas, you could get most of what you needed. I went to the big grocery once a week and then used the bodegas in between.

  6. I would really, really welcome an ABC store on Franklin.

  7. Ice cream melting between the Weave/Harris Teeter and 140 West? An insurmountable problem!

    It’s too bad we don’t have a series of free buses that ran from downtown Carrboro right up Franklin and Rosemary Streets. You could probably get home in 5 minutes or less, for no cost.