I thought I had experienced the village in the 70’s as a student at Carolina. Then, the old-timers corrected me, saying, “That wasn’t the village! It was back in the 50’s. Or the 60’s. When we were in school!” and so it goes. We do agree on this: the village experience of Chapel Hill has passed. We’ve grown from a small town to a large town and now a small city. Our school district reflects this. Once, we had a high school, Chapel Hill High. We were undeniably a small town then. When East Chapel Hill High came, we had become a large town. with a 3rd high school in the district, Carrboro High, we have grown into a small city.
People came from other parts of the state to shop, eat, and to spend a day in Chapel Hill, as a culturally enhancing experience once. Now they bypass us, going to Durham’s Southpoint Mall, and beyond, for good reasons. We no longer have a monopoly on culture. Our community is at a turning point. Our response to growth determines whether we can compete successfully in the region versus being surrounded by municipalities who better adapt to social, political, and economic changes. Otherwise, Chapel Hill may be relegated to a has-been city, living off its past glories.
Reminiscing has its place, but not at the expense of Chapel Hill’s necessary economic growth. Durham has learned that painful lesson and has matured as a community. Can we?