Chapel Hill Police Department, Downtown Partnership Prepare for Halloween

The Chapel Hill Police Department is planning the yearly shut-down of Franklin Street for Homegrown Halloween, Chapel Hill’s Halloween celebration. CHPD starts planning for Halloween a year in advance.

“We really start planning each year for the next Halloween November first,” said Police Chief Chris Blue. “It’s a year round event as we consider what we learned the previous year and what we can apply.”

He says this year, Halloween is going to look a little bit different, especially since October 31 falls on a Monday. Because it’s an early weekday, Blue says the event will be earlier this year: 8:00 – 10:30 P.M.

“We found the last few years that announcing the closure and opening time helps people to plan their visit and it helps us when we begin trying to clear the street,” he said. “Folks know what to expect when we make some announcements in advance of that street clearing and it just works great.”

Also unlike previous years, police are keeping Columbia Street open, and are shifting the event from Spanky’s to the Morehead Planetarium. This is so vendors on Columbia and West Franklin Streets don’t have to lose business because of the pedestrian traffic.

Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership Executive Director Meg McGurk said the town had a meeting with vendors to ensure the new plan would work for everyone.

“Before any of us went public with it was first, ‘How do you feel about it? Is this going to work for you? What is your feedback?’” she said. “And we still had the ability to kind of adjust those plans if we heard overwhelmingly that this wasn’t going to work for them.”

McGurk also said many of these vendors will be selling Halloween costumes and props leading up to the event, but Blue said there will be a ban on costume pieces that look as if they could be used as a weapon. Other bans include flammables, pets and alcohol.

But overall, he said most of the attendees have been respectful of these bans, and of the event in the past.

“People have gotten really good about policing themselves with respect to what they bring to the event,” Blue said. “So we’re really pleased our messaging has worked so well along with the merchants, along with the university, the neighborhoods, we think it’s going just about as well as it can go for an event of that scale.”

Police are requesting that pedestrians enter the event via Rosemary Street or Cameron Avenue. For more information on Homegrown Halloween visit the town’s website here.

Pokemon Go App Brings Nostalgia and Business Opportunities to Chapel Hill

Nostalgia from the 1990s is taking over the world. Pokémon, the popular game, television and card series, is making a comeback with a new app for your Smartphone. Now that familiar little black and yellow creature is back, and roaming through Chapel Hill.

“I played it all throughout my childhood so the nostalgia’s really kicking in now,” said Matthew Long, a Charlotte native who remembers training mystical creatures on the Nintendo Pokémon games.

But for kids today, Pokémon no longer means hours spent on a Game Boy. Now it means hours spent outside, physically chasing those famous little characters.

The new Pokémon Go app was released last week, quickly adding $7.5 billion to Nintendo’s market value. The “augmented reality” game uses your phone’s GPS to detect where you are and then layers the Pokémon characters onto the physical world. Gamers can walk down the street with their Smartphone and see favorite creatures like Pikachu, Squirtle and Charmander outside famous Chapel Hill murals, restaurants and stores.

Some local business are seeing more than just the creatures – they’re seeing opportunity.

“It seemed like a good opportunity to get some people in here,” said Carly Shell, a waitress at Four Corners on Franklin Street who came up with the idea to offer a 20 percent discount to Pokemon gamers.

“It just seemed like a good idea to give a discount to people playing the game. This culture erupted all of a sudden and it’s surreal how much people have gotten into this game so fast.”

People like Meg McGurk, the executive director of the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership.

“I am only 24 hours into my own Pokémon training but am totally obsessed.”

After walking through downtown looking for Pokémon herself, McGurk urges local businesses to capitalize on the app’s popularity.

“It’s a great opportunity for businesses to capitalize on it, to play it up on their social media and put up a sign that says, ‘Come in and cool off while you’re playing Pokémon Go.’ So there’s a tremendous amount of economic activity that can come from this.”

Already, groups of gamers are joining together to explore different locations and meet new people, like UNC student Robert Mabe.

“We spent about four or five hours straight just walking around looking for Pokémon. Then a bunch of people just met up and it was a battle royal type of thing.”

The game has different features, including what’s called a “lure.” It signals where more Pokémon can be found and lures gamers to that location. But Lisa Edwards at the Chapel Hill Fire Department warns gamers to stay aware of their surroundings and be cautious when following a lure.

“You never know who you can run into while playing this game, so from a community perspective, we just want people to be aware that there’s a new phase going around and we wanted to get the word out.”

Edwards urges gamers not to use the app when crossing the street and to bring a buddy when traveling to new areas. A Facebook page for the Chapel Hill Pokémon league is helping gamers connect and form groups to travel with – something UNC student Jack Williams says is unusual in the gamming community.

“I think people try to stereotype gamers as people who stay inside and play their games in the basement. But with this game, gamers can show that we’re running around and having fun. We may look funny while doing it, but maybe you should try it.”

Those who do try it, can keep track of their distance on the app and use their mileage to earn rewards.

“A lot of people got incentivized to move when the Fit Bit came out,” Williams said. “But I think this is just a Fit Bit that makes people want to do it. It’s like an incentive.”

For others, it’s simply chance to enjoy that nostalgia. Chapel Hill local Christian Earnsman is now teaching his little brother, Sterling, how to play one of his favorite childhood games.

“He’s played a little bit before, but I feel like this is the first time he’s been really excited about it. So it’s cool for me to help teach him and show him around.”

The game is still working through glitches with millions of people using the app within the first week. But that hasn’t stopped kids, teens and adults from exploring Chapel Hill, trying to “catch ‘em all.”

Meg McGurk: Hometown Hero

Meg McGurk is Wednesday’s Hometown Hero.

Meg is the Executive Director of the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership.  The Downtown Partnership recently presented a great event called Shimmer.

Shimmer is a free outdoor event bringing together the Chapel Hill/Carrboro community with artists who use light as a form of expression.

Wednesday is the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership’s annual meeting.  They talk about what they accomplished in the previous year and what is to come.

The Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership works to bring the resources of the Town, University and downtown community together to maintain, enhance and promote downtown as the social, cultural, and spiritual center of Chapel Hill through economic development.

You can nominate your own Hometown Hero.  WCHL has honored local members of our community everyday since 2002.

“Downtown Imagined” Wants You!

Chapel Hill’s “Rosemary Imagined” project has expanded and become “Downtown Imagined” – and once again, the town is asking for your input.

Head to University Baptist Church on Monday, August 11, for a pair of drop-in meetings – one from 11:30 to 1:00, the other from 4:30-6:30. (The two meetings will be identical – come to whichever’s most convenient.) Town staff will deliver an overview presentation, but the primary purpose is to solicit community feedback on the project’s current status and gather ideas about future planning for downtown.

Town planner Megan Wooley and Meg McGurk of the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership have been spearheading the project. They joined WCHL’s Aaron Keck on the air this week to discuss it.

For more information about the Rosemary Downtown Imagined project, visit

University Baptist Church is located at the corner of Franklin and Columbia Streets in downtown Chapel Hill. The meetings will take place in the church’s Great Room.

This Monday, Imagine Rosemary

Meg McGurk is spearheading the “Rosemary Imagined” project, alongside Megan Wooley.

You’re invited to weigh in on the future of Rosemary Street this Monday, June 9.

The Town of Chapel Hill and the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership are co-hosting a pair of “community review meetings” that day at Greenbridge, to discuss the latest developments in the “Rosemary Imagined” project and solicit more public input.

Launched last year, “Rosemary Imagined” is the ongoing project to create a vision for the long-term redevelopment of Rosemary Street. Currently there are three draft designs – incorporating ideas for parks, rerouted streets, tech centers, food markets, and more – but staffers (using feedback they’ve already received) are in the process of combining those three designs into one, which will be unveiled on Monday.

Meg McGurk of the Downtown Partnership and Megan Wooley of the Town of Chapel Hill joined Aaron Keck on the Afternoon News this week to discuss the project.

The first meeting on Monday will be from 11:30-1:00; the second will be from 4:30-6:00. Both meetings will take place in Greenbridge’s Sky Lounge – and the two meetings will be identical, so there’s no need to attend both.

Visit to see the latest drafts and to learn more.

Honors, Tours, And Curiosities!

Congratulations to Desaray Rockett, Judith Blau, and Vimala’s Curryblossom Cafe–winners of this year’s Pauli Murray Awards.

The Orange County Human Relations Commission gives out the Pauli Murray Awards each year to a youth, an adult, and a business in Orange County “who serve the community with distinction in the pursuit of equality, justice, and human rights for all residents.”

This year’s winners were honored at a ceremony on Sunday, February 23, at 3:00 in the Central Orange Senior Center. Also honored were Judah Kalb and Nathan Bell – both students at Smith Middle School, and both winners of the Orange County Human Relations Commission’s 2013 Student Essay Contest.

As part of a class on African American Studies, Kalb and Bell wrote about the lasting impact of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Kalb won first place in the essay contest; Bell took second.


UNC has honored Roberto G. Quercia, chair of the City and Regional Planning department, with the university’s 2013 C. Felix Harvey Award.

Awarded by the Provost’s office, the honor recognizes “exemplary faculty scholarship that reflects one of UNC’s top priorities and addresses a real-world challenge.” It includes a $75,000 prize, which Quercia will use to develop the Bridges2Success Scholar Athlete Support Program, an academy that trains middle and high school coaches to promote academic success among male athletes of color.

To learn more about the program, visit


You’re invited to the annual meeting of the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership, Wednesday, March 5 at 5:30 p.m. at the Carolina Inn.

Speakers will include Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue and Al Bowers, the owner of Al’s Burger Shack.


Before there were art museums and science museums, there were “Cabinets of Curiosities”: densely packed rooms where scholars and nobles displayed rare and fascinating items from shells to gems to old relics and bizarre devices.

Now, UNC’s Wilson Library is celebrating those old exhibits with an exhibit of its own, “Rooms of Wonder,” on display through April 20. The exhibit features rare books and catalogs from the old rooms–as well as items from the UNC Rare Book Collection’s own “cabinet of curiosities,” including ancient Babylonian tablets, an Egyptian papyrus roll, and an “Incan record-keeping device consisting of intricately knotted threads.”

The exhibit is free and open to the public.


Wednesday, March 5, you’re invited to campus for a free screening of the documentary “Breaking Through,” chronicling the stories of LGBT elected officials across the country–including Tammy Baldwin, the first openly gay U.S. Senator.

The film begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Nelson Mandela Auditorium in UNC’s FedEx Global Education Center. Director/producer Cindy Abel and editor Michael Bruno will be on hand, and the film will be followed by a panel discussion featuring North Carolina’s LGBT elected officials–including Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle, Town Council member Lee Storrow, Alderman Damon Seils, and State Representative Marcus Brandon.

You can watch the trailer online at


Chapel Hill Tire Car Care Center just completed a successful canned food drive, collecting nearly 1,000 cans of food for the IFC by offering customers a $10 discount on oil changes if they brought in four cans of food.

IFC officials say those cans will be used to help about 450 different families in the area.

To learn how you can donate, visit


Chatham Habitat for Humanity is teaming up with the MassMutual Life Insurance Company to give away free $50,000 term life insurance policies to benefit children of working families in Pittsboro.

You are eligible to apply if you’re a permanent legal U.S. resident of good health between the ages of 19 and 42, with a total family income between $10,000 and $40,000, and a parent or legal guardian of a child under 18.

You can apply at a one-day public event on Saturday, March 8, from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Chatham Habitat for Humanity office at 467 West Street in Pittsboro.


You’re invited to explore the history of Hillsborough on Saturday, March 8, with a one-hour guided walking tour hosted by the Alliance of Historic Hillsborough.

The tour begins at 11:00 a.m. at the Hillsborough Visitors Center and winds through the center of the Piedmont’s oldest town, visiting schoolhouses, old homes and cemeteries along the way.

Tickets are $5 per person; children under 12 are free.

Holiday Events To Check Out In Chapel Hill

CHAPEL HILL – The holiday season is in full swing, and there are plenty of ways to celebrate in Downtown Chapel Hill.

Meg McGurk, Executive Director of the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership, recommends that people check out the Carolina Inn’s month-long series of holiday events.

“There’s everything from holiday afternoon tea to brunch with Santa Claus. Horse-drawn carriages start this weekend,” McGurk says. “Also, the whole Inn is decorated very festively with a theme of the ‘Twelve Days of Christmas,’ so it is really exciting to go in there.”

The Carolina Inn also offers self-guided tours of the decorations, cookie decorating sessions, and a display of gingerbread houses.

After Christmas, McGurk says there will still be events to look forward to. Morehead Planetarium is hosting a free New Year’s Eve event for the whole family.

“No one was doing really a kid-friendly [event]. This is early in the afternoon from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., so come out, enjoy,” she says. “There’s going to be performances, lots of activities for kids,  as well as their own version of a countdown. There could not be a more perfect place to countdown than in Morehead Planetarium under the stars.”

And good news for everyone—parking in metered spots and off-street lots is free on Saturdays and Sundays in downtown Chapel Hill  through the end of December.

For a full list of all the events going on this holiday season, you can click here.

Bicycle Apartments To Bring Hundreds Of Students Closer To Downtown Chapel Hill

CHAPEL HILL – The Bicycle Apartments—a $20-million student-housing project less than a mile from Downtown Chapel Hill—broke ground Wednesday morning. Town leaders say it will re-invigorate the Downtown economy in more ways than one.

Meg McGurk is the executive director for the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership.

“Students are such a vital part of our local economy. Having them in a well-maintained, well-managed living community right Downtown is really tremendous. It’s going to be a great impact for all of us,” McGurk said.

Trinitas Ventures LLC, a national developer of student housing communities, is backing the project. The plan is to knock-down the existing three, 2-story apartment buildings at the Central Park Apartments location at 602 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

194 apartments — or 608 units— will be built in its place. The complex was designed in compliance with the LEED accreditation system.

“This is what we call student housing by design. This is a unique property for Chapel Hill. There isn’t a complex like this yet so this is groundbreaking. This is something that is needed in our community.” McGurk said.


Hard Hats

Bicycle Apartments Groundbreaking Ceremony


The property management staff will live on-site in the complex.

“We thought this would be a perfect opportunity to bring a product where we can re-develop a space and build a by-design complex that is close to the students, close to the center of campus, and close to the center of town,” said Travis Vencel, the vice president of development for Trinitas Ventures.

Aaron Nelson, the president and CEO of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, says he’s excited to bring more students closer to Downtown.

“600 students will be with-in walking distance to the center of Downtown,” Nelson said. “The businesses there are very excited about it because there will be more shoppers, more eyes on the street, and more people coming to and from campus. We’re bringing students in from other communities where they are living right now.”

Nelson says it’s a good time for Downtown Chapel Hill. 140 West, the eight-story $55 million development on Franklin Street, opened last month. The building contains 140 residences and 26,000 sq. ft. of retail.

“Downtown is in a renaissance right now,” Nelson said. “We’re getting additional housing, additional retail, and more restaurants—so it is really an exciting time for Downtown.”

The Bicycle Apartments are slated to open in 2014, just before the beginning of the school year.