All posts filed under: picks

What are Chapel Hill’s plans for downtown?

On a recent afternoon, Antoni Sustaita, owner of Bandido’s Mexican Café on Franklin Street, opens the makeshift takeout window. The awning and lights over Amber Alley have been removed, and the ground is still wet from rain. At the alley’s back entrance sits heavy machinery for the construction of a nightclub, called StillLife Nightclub, on the roof of Sutton’s Drug Store. Sustaita says through his mask that he’s looking forward to the boost to his restaurant the renewed traffic would bring. “There used to be Players upstairs,” Sustaita said. “Hopefully, they know what they’re doing.” But when asked about the plans to turn Wallace Parking Deck into an office building with wet lab space, Sustaita draws in his breath. “Now that, that is bad,” he said. “There’s not enough parking in this town to begin with.” “Between COVID and that, my prediction is we will not survive,” Sustaita said. “We’ve been open for 25 years, but that would be too much.” The plans for the area around Sutton’s is just the start of Chapel Hill …

Save RDU Forest issue: What happened with the “sunset clause”?

In the contentious fight between Umstead Coalition and activists, Wake Stone Corp. and Raleigh-Durham International Airport, one major point of argument has been over the “sunset clause.” That is the clause in the permit for the existing Wake Stone mine that states how long the mine can operate. That mine, located off Harrison Avenue, has been operating since 1981. The gaps in the trees can be seen from Interstate 40, and fly rocks have leaped over the buffers. It was expected to close at the end of its 50 years, at the latest. But in March 2018, Morrisville-based Wake Stone and the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality made an administrative change to the wording on the permit, from 50 years or 10 years after mining stops, whichever comes “sooner,” to 50 years or “later.” This change has raised alarm bells at the Umstead Coalition, the nonprofit that preserves the 5,600-acre William B. Umstead Park, located just north of the mine. The coalition has been embroiled in a fight with Wake Stone and RDU over a …

Parkour club making jumps at N.C. State

By Matt Goad Asked if he’s ever hurt himself, Tegan Kelleher, president of the N.C. State Parkour, Freerunning and Tricking team, and he says, “Oh yeah. Right there.” Kelleher points toward a brick wall with a ledge about a foot height maybe 10 feet away. He tried to jump from the ledge to the top of the wall, but it was too far. “I head butted a brick rail,” he said. But luckily no concussion was involved. At the time, Kelleher, now a sophomore studying philosophy, was not even in college but was a high school student in Raleigh training with the State club, and didn’t have a lot of parkour experience. Kelleher and Alec Hobbs, the club’s secretary gave The Spring Magazine a demonstration of what they can do, bouncing and flipping around the State campus on Monday. The club has about 15 members, both State students and others, but many have gone home for the coronavirus closure. Kelleher and Hobbs, though, are both from Raleigh. That fear of getting hurt is always there, …

Our awful job market, 2015-now

A few years ago, I was at a store and a salesman was helping me. I could see he knew the products well. He was friendly, and intuitive, and knew the products and also how people usually interacted with them. In the end though, I decided not to buy. On my way out the door, I saw the owner smiling. He was glad that man, who was young, probably in his 20s, did not make that sale. That was probably the worst instance I remember of there being managers and owners who are actually glad when their most talented young workers are not making them money. So where are workers with skills and talent supposed to go? The job market and unemployment numbers don’t tell the whole story. The official unemployment rates keep going down. North Carolina’s unemployment rate in February was 3.6 percent. The U.S. unemployment rate was 3.5 percent. For the past year, that figure has stayed below 4 percent. This cannot be true because even in the years before the financial crisis, …

No, the light rail was not a good idea. Part 2: The obvious questions and other objections

One year on, there are still two major questions about the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit project, that was re-proposed in 2012 and then sporadically discussed in the community for years until late 2018, when it exploded into a toxic issue.
The questions: We’ve been going through a chaotic time. Why was GoTriangle so intent on pushing through a huge project instead of simply maintaining existing services?
And where did the $159 million spent on the light rail go?

No, the light rail was not a good idea. Part 1: Going through the route in detail.

It has been nearly a year since Duke University rejected plans for the controversial Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit, leading to GoTriangle ending the project, and questions surrounding it still abound. To sum up, the light rail was planned to be a 17.7-mile train with 19 stops, and estimated to cost $2.5 billion. Construction was supposed to begin this year and last until 2028. The train had been proposed back in the ‘90s, then fallen out of the political conversation for some time, and GoTriangle, the organization in charge of transit in the greater Triangle area, brought this project back to the table again halfway through 2012. In 2014, analysts told GoTriangle there was room for growth in the bus system and the light rail, or DOLRT, was not needed. In 2015, Duke University told GoTriangle it was not on board. But by late 2018, GoTriangle put the light rail at the forefront again and that’s when this light rail became a politically charged, toxic and explosive issue. First of all, even in 2012, this project …

A soapmaker’s journey

The workshop of MoonDance Soaps & More is so fragrant from the soaps made inside, the fragrance wafts out well beyond the shop, out to the driveway. Inside the workshop, which is a converted garage, Rachel DuBois, founder and owner of the business, has finished a morning of mixing solutions and pouring. Now, it’s time to cut soaps and setting them aside to be “cured,” for the saponification process to complete. The natural soap-making process, which takes 4-6 weeks from start to finish, is how DuBois has made her soaps since founding the business in 1998, and it’s one she steadfastly adheres to. Her staff will help with making other products and packaging, but she is the only one who makes the soaps. “It’s a caustic process,” DuBois said, and added. “You have to be really respectful. My kids can’t come in here when I’m doing this.” The soaps are poured into big molds, then set aside to cool. While they’re cooling, the soaps have the color and thickness of what look like beeswax candles. …

At Elmo’s Diner, a story of humility and joy

Cam was a familiar sight at Elmo’s Diner on Ninth Street. Most nights, he would come for dinner wearing a nice shirt, sit at one of his familiar spots at the counter, patiently wait to be served and banter with the staff in his characteristic gentle, easy manner. “Cam,” as he was known to Elmo’s staffers, was John Camden Hundley Jr. He died in 2016 at 83 years old. Cam ate at Elmo’s so often, around seven o’clock most nights, the staff at the busy restaurant out of habit would start looking out for his car at his usual parking spot. “Is Cam here yet?” people would start asking. He was supposed to call Elmo’s if he wasn’t going to come. His birthday was in the date book. Although Hundley died in 2016, his death still weighs on the staff, and memories of him are cherished and protected. People are reluctant to be interviewed, for fear the emotions would come to the surface and there would be tears. Chrissy Yuorick, who waited on him often, …