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December 2007

Looking back on a very good year

The end of 2007 is fast approaching, offering a chance to reflect on Carolina's accomplishments, especially the ones we achieved with the help of our friends here in Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Orange County.

One of our biggest steps forward was involving the community in the plans for our new mixed-use academic and research campus at Carolina North. Former Chapel Hill mayor and UNC law professor Ken Broun led the Carolina North Leadership Advisory Committee that I created last year in its important job of getting as broad community input as possible about the plans for the campus. That committee concluded its work in January.

Then in March, longtime Chapel Hill resident and UNC business professor Jack Evans, Carolina North's executive director, led the first of a series of monthly community meetings as the university continued its planning process. About 100 people on average attended each meeting -- asking questions, raising concerns, providing support and offering comments for our planners and consultants to consider. We are grateful for the community feedback that helped shape the plan approved by our Board of Trustees in September and look forward to presenting a more refined plan to the Chapel Hill Town Council in 2008.

Meanwhile, we continue to move ahead in our stewardship of the 900-plus acre Horace Williams tract that is the future site of the Carolina North campus. The Town of Chapel Hill's departure from the municipal yard on the property to its new facilities has been a smooth one. We are also pleased that we have been able to accommodate the need of Orange County's Animal Shelter to remain on the property for the time being.

Community access to and use of the largely undeveloped acreage of the Carolina North property has been enhanced by two important steps taken by the university in 2007. One was our hiring of a forest management team for Carolina North to identify and post property lines, map hiking and biking trails, and install signs for trails, maps and information about how the public can use the property.

The other was an agreement with the Triangle Off Road Cyclists chapter of the Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association that will ensure cooperation on the design, construction and maintenance of recreational trails at Carolina North. In addition, I have asked several local residents to serve on the Carolina North Trails and Forest Advisory Committee, which held its first meeting in November.

Our goal for Carolina North is to make it a model of sustainability, a goal we also strive to achieve daily here on our main campus. This year, our efforts have been recognized with several national honors, including an endorsement from the Sierra Club in its "Building Better" publication. But we are also proud of the local recognition we received from the Preservation Society of Chapel Hill this year for our restorations of the Campus Y, the Love House and Hutchins Forum and from the Town of Chapel Hill to the N.C. Botanical Garden for the restoration of Battle Park.

Updating our historic and beautiful campus to make it more environmentally friendly is always a delicate balance. One successful example of the proper balance is the improvements we were able to make to the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery this year.

As part of the development plan for the Cobb chiller plant and parking deck, the university promised Chapel Hill that we would rebuild crumbling stone walls surrounding the town's nearby cemetery and replace a missing section of the northwest corner. I am happy to report that we fulfilled that agreement by completing the work on the wall earlier this year.

Our unprecedented construction rate on campus is slowing down, but several important projects will continue into the new year. One of the most disruptive but necessary has been the rehabilitation of 2,400 linear feet of steam tunnel across campus and through some adjoining neighborhoods. We are deeply grateful to our neighbors for their patience and understanding as we make these improvements.

We are in the midst of the holiday season, a time of giving and of special attention to those less fortunate than ourselves. This year, I encourage you to give wisely, through the Real Change from Spare Change program (www.realchangefromsparechange.org/) endorsed by the university, the Town of Chapel Hill, businesses and non-profit organizations alike. Funds will help the poor get the medical attention, mental health services and human services they so desperately need.

I am looking forward to the new year, even though it is the last one I will welcome as chancellor of this great university. I am heartened by the fact that Town Council members, university leaders and their respective staff representatives will meet Jan. 13 to share information and discuss the university's plan for Carolina North. This will be a very constructive way to carry the momentum that has been building into what I expect will be an equally productive 2008.

 

 

 

James Moeser is chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He welcomes readers’ messages at jmoeser@unc.edu





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