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CBA Requests COVID-Related 203 Project Delay

CBA Requests COVID-Related 203 Project Delay

Carrboro Business Alliance

The following letter was submitted by the Carrboro Business Alliance Leadership Council to the Carrboro Town Council on September 15, 2020. View the PDF


September 15, 2020

Dear Carrboro Town Council, 

It is with careful consideration that we share with you our very serious concerns about the much loved and long-anticipated vision of a library for our Carrboro community. The anticipated timing of the approval and construction of the 203 Project will pose serious, unintended consequences for our local business community. We formally ask you to delay its consideration and approvals. 

Construction Concerns: The state of emergency over the last six months has had a substantially negative impact on our local economy and has been heartbreaking for our local business community. The pandemic-related disruptions on business activity have been devastating. In Carrboro, the impact has been compounded by four consecutive years of business disruptions: the 2017 and 2018 S. Greensboro Street closures, the 2019-2020 Estes extension roundabout construction, and now a pandemic that will likely go into 2021. 

The state of many of our local businesses remains fragile. The prospect of more disruption in mid- to late-2021, right when some economists predict businesses will begin to rebound from the pandemic, is of substantial local concern. Margins were razor-thin and are now upside down, debt has accumulated, and more construction makes the possibility of continuing to successfully do business in Carrboro unsustainable for many. Several of our local businesses will not survive a fifth consecutive year of disruption. 

Recommended Next Steps: As you know, some of our local businesses have already permanently closed, and we know of others that will likely do so regardless of what the Council chooses to do, but we ask you not add further hardship for many who are still trying to survive. If you want to preserve the locally-owned character of our community, then we ask you to delay approval and construction of the 203 Project until we are through the pandemic and our local businesses have had a chance to restabilize, at the very least. 

Thoughtfully delaying construction of the 203 Project not only tangibly supports the viability of local businesses, it also presents a new opportunity: for the Town Council to include the vision for the project into the comprehensive planning process. Doing so could yield a more dynamic economic development vision for downtown--one that incorporates the library into an activated Roberson Street, unlocks higher and better uses for key, interconnected, and/or recently vacated parcels, better incorporates parking, and positions Carrboro for a stronger commercial tax base and economic recovery. 

Also, a thoughtful delay could be fortuitous, as COVID is changing the way we work, use space, and interact, and these changes will likely become a new norm. For this reason alone, it would be wise to consider, as the COVID-curtain lifts, what an appropriate design is for a post-COVID world.

Bottom Line: We ask you to carefully consider the serious consequences of proceeding with the 203 Project as planned. We ask you to delay the approval and construction in 2021 and instead embrace the positive opportunity of incorporating the concept into the comprehensive planning process and allowing the pause to inform a more COVID-conscious design and use of space. 

Sincerely,

David Jessee 

Chair, Carrboro Business Alliance Leadership Council 
 

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