Editorial: New plaza helps unite two downtowns

Apr. 18, 2013 @ 03:55 PM

“It really tied the room together.”

That’s how The Dude lamented his missing rug in the Coen Brothers’ cult classic movie “The Big Lebowski.”

But it’s also what one could say about the artsy new gathering spot introduced recently on Franklin Street.

The open space at 140 West is called The Plaza. It includes a high-tech stainless steel sculpture with computer-programmed LED lights and roiling fog, called “Exhale,” by artist Mikyoung Kim that curves along the lines of the concrete plaza.

It’s meant to bridge the culture gap between hipster East Franklin and more sophisticated West Franklin.

This architectural detent also does a pretty good job of putting a stop to old arguments about whether people could park on the lot it now occupies.

On the other hand, that doesn’t do any favors for the parking situation downtown, no matter which side of Franklin Street you might prefer. Ponytails or pinstripes, if you can’t find a decent place to park, chances are you get grumpy.

But, in this case, the thought really does count.

The official grand opening celebration for The Plaza is set for Friday at 7 p.m.

The Chapel Hill Herald’s Beth Velliquette reported on a recent community introduction to The Plaza, during which Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt recalled running for Town Council in 2001 and hearing about how tired the community seemed of the gap.

The town partnered with Ram Realty Services and the property developer to come up with the plan for what ultimately would become The Plaza.

“With our development partners, Ram, our community, this, it happened!” Kleinschmidt said. “Now, it’s been a long 13 years, quite a long 13 years, since that election in 2001, but we proved that through the worst economic times our country has faced in generations, we could be true to a vision and how we wanted our community to face the challenges of the future.”

We agree that it really ties the two downtowns together nicely, but sometimes we really do miss those extra parking spaces.