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January 22, 2006
Carolina North planning process emphasizes collaboration
By Chancellor James Moeser The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for The Chapel Hill Herald


The university and the local community have begun the new year with an important new phase of planning efforts for Carolina North, which we envision as a vibrant setting for research and innovation that will enhance the university’s academic mission. 

Carolina North is crucial to the university’s future.  We urgently need space for new academic buildings, business partnerships, and public outreach.  For example, one of the initial projects envisioned for Carolina North is First School, an innovative school and laboratory for early childhood education.  First School is being developed in partnership with the Chapel Hill-Carrboro public schools and our own Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute. 

Carolina North also presents a unique opportunity to provide housing for people of all income levels working at the university.  As various advisory groups have conceived it so far, housing at Carolina could coexist with academic and commercial buildings, parks and green space in compact, high-density neighborhoods that would not contribute to suburban sprawl. 

Until recently, these visions for Carolina North were just that – visions.  Today, we are ready to begin the transition from vision to reality.  The first and most important step in that transition is to engage the people of our community and the citizens of our state in a dialogue about the guiding principles for Carolina North.

Some months ago, Tony Waldop, vice chancellor for research and economic development, and Nancy Suttenfield, vice chancellor for finance and administration, began discussing a collaborative process in which the university and local communities could engage productively to advance our vision for Carolina North and, at the same time, appropriately respect the goals and values of the local communities.  As they sketched out a potential process, it immediately became clear that the leader of this effort would have to be – first and foremost – a member of this community. We were looking for someone respected, someone who could get all the parties around the table talking constructively, and someone who could build consensus among stakeholder groups.

It soon became clear that Ken Broun was that person.  Ken is a long-time member of the community, a former Chapel Hill mayor, and a distinguished faculty member and former dean of the law school at Carolina. At my request, he has agreed to serve as chair of a leadership advisory committee that will seek broad community input for the planning of Carolina North.

This committee will include representation from the university, the local communities and the state and will address issues including fiscal equity, housing, transportation and zoning.  The committee also may form subcommittees to tackle issues with more specificity.

This process is intended to produce a set of principles that will guide the university in its preparation of plans that will be submitted to the local governing bodies in their regulatory functions. Tony Waldrop remains the leader of our efforts on campus to advance Carolina North, and he and others in the university will be responsible for applying the principles developed by the leadership advisory committee.

We share with Ken a commitment to an open dialogue about Carolina North.  All meetings of the committee will be open to the public.  We also value the work of the committees of citizens who have carefully considered many of the issues we face in our planning, and we would ask the leadership advisory committee to consider their recommendations.  Meanwhile, we will respond very soon to the Horace Williams Citizens Committee report, which we regard as a valuable contribution to the thinking about Carolina North.

One of the topics covered in that report is sustainability, a goal we take very seriously at UNC. We are committed to making Carolina North a model of sustainability, building on our successes and improvements on the main campus.  For starters, we have pledged to work with the State to protect environmentally sensitive areas of Carolina North.  As part of its responsibilities, the leadership advisory committee will integrate sustainability principles and goals into each of its activities.  These principles would include not only environmental considerations but also factors related to long-term social and economic sustainability.

Certainly, Carolina North represents an unprecedented opportunity for the university to fulfill its promise as a major research university with a commitment of service to the citizens of our state.  But the opportunities are great for our local communities, as well.  Working together, we can find ways to share the benefits of Carolina North and enhance the quality of life for generations to come.

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

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