Orange County

'It should feel like Carrboro,' residents tell 203 South Greensboro project designers

Residents shared their ideas Wednesday with building designers for the new Carrboro building at 203 S. Greensboro St.
Residents shared their ideas Wednesday with building designers for the new Carrboro building at 203 S. Greensboro St.

Suggestions came in rapid-fire succession.

"Keep it Carrboro," said one person.

"Use the rooftop," another person said.

"Plan for the future," said another.

Those were just a few of the comments offered by people at Town Hall Wednesday night as they discussed Carrboro's building project slated for 203 South Greensboro St.

For about two hours, more than 80 people sat shoulder-to-shoulder around numerous tables coming up with ideas for the new building. Most were from Carrboro. A few came in from outside of town. They chatted. They scribbled. They scratched out, and they scribbled some more. Then they shared their ideas from group to group.

Team members from the architectural firm Perkins+Will Global scurried between the groups collecting the ideas after each brainstorming exercise. The discussion was led by Chris Garris, who has used these public input sessions for about a decade. He said they give the participants a sense of ownership and civic pride when a new building is being planned.

It's going to house the Orange County Southern Branch Library, the town's Recreation and Parks offices, and the relocated ArtsCenter.

"The way these three partners are able to cross-pollinate one another, it resonates with so many people in this community," Garris said. "It touches so many different parts of the community and I think that's why they're interested."

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Tiffany Sikes, who lives on Poplar Street, said it was important for the new building to complement the surroundings.

"Knowing that this space is going to be a community space, it should blend in," Sikes said. "It should feel like Carrboro."

She is looking forward to the library being nearby.

"Carrboro really needs a library that's not in a school," she said. "It's really awkward, and you feel like you shouldn't be there. I like the idea of the building having multiple uses and being very inclusive."

It was also suggested the building have ample green space for quiet, reflective uses or even an urban garden.

The proposed site now is a town parking lot with about 85 spaces across from Open Eye Cafe. Many nearby businesses rely on the lot for customer parking. Those spaces will not be available for more than a year while the new building is constructed.

The loss of those parking spaces was on the mind of many people, including Dabney Beahm.

"I really don't use the parking lot, but we will feel the effects in the neighborhood while it is closed," said Beahm, another Poplar Street resident.

Carrboro Planning Director Trish McGuire said the town will soon be launching a website so residents can offer additional input and track the progress of the project.

The building is going to be three stories tall and be about 45,000 square feet. Garris said the design deadline was May 2019. Construction is about a year away.

"It's the beginning of the process, and we don't have a lot of preconceived notions," Garris said. "We certainly are not at a point where we have a design. But getting the community to come in, to voice concerns, to give ideas and think about aspirations is important."

Additional input meetings are scheduled for July 23, Aug. 4 and Sept. 20.

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