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September 2006
Leaders embark on learning journey
By Chancellor James Moeser The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for The Chapel Hill Herald


I leave today with a delegation of 100 community leaders from Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Hillsborough and Orange County to visit Madison, Wis. We will spend three days there meeting with our Madison counterparts, exchanging ideas and learning from their community's experiences with many themes and issues we have in common.

Why Madison?

Like Chapel Hill, Madison is home to a great public research university, and both are among America's most livable communities. We share a progressive spirit and know that we can learn much from one another. In many respects, studying the successes and challenges of Madison is like looking in a mirror. We are peers, sharing the same hopes for our communities, citizens and universities.

Madison has a medical center, a flourishing downtown, a robust arts community and strong environmental programs. Demand for downtown housing is increasing in Madison, and officials there are working on effective workforce housing initiatives. It enjoys a national reputation as a forward-thinking community.

Sound familiar?

This is an excellent opportunity for our leaders to collect information and better inform our own practices with regard to important community issues, including campus development, cooperation with neighborhoods surrounding campus, housing, sustainability and nurturing the arts.

With these goals in mind, the Community Leadership Council and the Foundation for a Sustainable Community, under the auspices of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, have carefully planned this Inter-City Visit and Leadership Conference in Madison. I am grateful for their work bringing together such a diverse and representative cross-section of our community. I am gratified by the enthusiastic response from our area's business leaders, government officials, community organizations and engaged citizens. This indicates to me how well we can work together to move our community forward.

Madison's experience developing an off-campus research park, established in 1985, can be extraordinarily helpful to our community as we work together to examine the potential for Carolina North, our proposed living-and-learning campus. I've appointed a leadership advisory committee to advise my office and the university's Board of Trustees on the principles to guide development at Carolina North. We are excited to have Jack Evans now on board as executive director of Carolina North.

Madison's research park was state-of-the-art when it opened and has been recognized nationally for its excellence. Our objectives for Carolina North might be different, but we can learn valuable lessons from their experience, including the park's economic impact on Madison and Wisconsin.

A study last year found that Carolina North could generate 7,500 local jobs and about $48 million in annual tax revenues by 2020. Madison is in the planning stages for another research park, and the city is likely grappling with similar issues to those we in Chapel Hill and Carrboro are facing.

We will look closely at how Madison has managed the enhancement of its downtown area. We will cover the gamut including transportation and parking, large downtown gatherings, homelessness, art and culture, historic preservation, new construction, environmentally responsible development, and the relationships between local government, advocacy groups and the university. Zoning and land-use policies will be discussed with an eye toward providing affordable housing, sustainability, open spaces, and maintaining air and water quality.

The Madison Inter-City Visit and Leadership Conference is the first such trip that I have had the opportunity to join, but it is by no means unprecedented for our community. Since 1985, leaders from Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Carolina have visited communities across America to collaborate, share expertise and generate new ideas.

Chancellor Michael Hooker took part in the Ann Arbor trip in 1997 and came away deeply impressed by the range of arts facilities there. This was one of the many factors that set into motion a renewed commitment to arts at Carolina, which now bears the fruit of a magnificently transformed Memorial Hall and ambitious plans for an arts common extending from Franklin Street to Playmakers Theatre, where the campus and community can come together.Another trip laid the groundwork for the present day Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership.

Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Carolina are deeply intertwined. Our confluence creates a very special place, beloved by long-time residents, recent arrivals, students, faculty and visitors alike. Each entity brings something unique to the table, and we all rely on each other to help continue the distinctive and exceptional quality of life in our community. We have done so well here because we have worked together toward the common goal of a great place to live, work and prosper. The vibrant, cultured community we've created here is buoyed, I believe, by an enduring spirit of learning and discovery.

I am eager for the time and shared learning experience the Madison trip gives me with the people who help make our area worthy of being called the Southern part of heaven. I look forward to building new relationships that will help us take best advantage of the unique opportunities we have in Orange County.

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

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