Compared to many downtowns, commercial space is cheap in Carrboro, and right now, space is hard to come by. Town leaders are considering raising the rooftops -- allowing mostly two- to three-story buildings to expand to five or six stories.
"What we need now is to go up, but we need to be careful how we go up, and how we do this. We want to take in the surrounding neighborhoods in mind when we make these type of changes," says town manager Robert Morgan.
Part of the reason Carrboro wants to double its commercial space is to better diversify the town's tax base. Right now, homeowners shoulder most of the tax burden while commercial property only accounts for 15 percent.
With downtown retail expansion comes the need for more parking. Demir Williford, president of the Downtown Business Association, says he is concerned about losing Carrboro's historic character.
"A lot of people think it may be an eyesore. In my opinion, an eyesore is having to drive out of the city limits and seeing all the farmlands gone, seeing all the trees being cut down and building a new suburbia."
Williford not only wants more retail downtown, but he wants to see more housing like the Robeson Place development.
"It makes a town look more lively. It makes it more like a downtown," he says.
Carrboro will host a citizens workshop this Spring to come up with a new vision for downtown.
"We want to continue to make it a place that's good to live in and not just work in," Morgan says.
In most communities, commercial property accounts for about 30 percent of the tax base. In Carrboro, it is only half of that, which is why town leaders say Carrboro has one of the highest tax rates in the state.
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