By Margot C. Lester, Columnist
Carrboroâ€™s where itâ€™s at for all kinds of artists, but did you know itâ€™s home to almost a dozen architecture and design firms? Thatâ€™s a lot for a community of around 16,000.
Some architects have been here a while, like Jack Haggerty (205 W. Main St., jackhaggertyarchitect.com), whoâ€™s called Carrboro home for more than 20 years. His most recent local project was the â€œgreenâ€ renovation of Chapel Hill Tire at West Main Street and Jones Ferry Road. He also does residential work.
Haggerty says our little burg attracts folks like him because of its â€œnice scale, educated clients, engaged town board and helpful town staff.â€ Considering the time it takes to get approvals, permits and other green lights before design concepts can become architectural realities, those last two points are especially alluring.
Not surprisingly, at least two firms have relocated from Chapel Hill in the last couple of years.
Two years ago, Dail Dixon, FAIA (103 W. Weaver St., daildixonfaia.squarespace.com) returned to Carrboro, where he began his practice in 1974. Dixon does mostly residential work in Orange and Chatham counties and at the Penland School of Crafts in Mitchell County.
â€œThe architectural community, like the town, is diverse and interesting,â€ he says. â€œ[Carrboro] is a great place to come to work every day.â€
Weinstein Friedlein Architects (601-A W. Main St., wfarchitecture.com) also came across the tracks in 2008.
â€œWe conducted a broad and open-ended search for almost a year before our lease ended in Chapel Hill,â€ says co-owner Ken Friedlein, AIA. He and co-owner Ellen Weinstein both live in Durham. â€œAgain and again, we found ourselves returning to Carrboro possibilities. We sensed a down-to-earth commitment to community and to building a sustainable place here. We wanted to be in the middle of that, and to be part of making it happen.â€
In other news, two recent reports present a somewhat conflicting view of North Carolina from an economic standpoint. Forbes magazine just rated North Carolina the third-best state in the nation for business and careers, advancing the Tar Heel State two spots from last yearâ€™s ranking. The state garnered accolades for its low business costs, easy regulatory climate, job creation and high growth prospects, all of which were in the top 10 nationally. Our labor supply and overall economic climate were placed in the top 20. Quality of life, however, was surprisingly low, ranking 32 out of 50. Yikes! Utah received top billing, followed by Virginia in the second spot. South Carolina ranked 34th.
But another ranking â€“one of the best- and worst-run states in the nation — put the Old North State in 23rd spot based on a number of key factors, such as debt per capita: $5,458 (9th); home price change from 2006-09: 13.3% (9th); unemployment rate: 9.7% (36th); and median household income: $43,674 (39th). The report, authored by 24/7 Wall St., ranked Virginia 7th, Georgia 33rd, Tennessee 35th and South Carolina 44th. For more details, check out 247wallst.com
Of course, there are lies, damn lies and statistics, so itâ€™s hard to know what we should glean from these conflicting rankings. But itâ€™s interesting that what appears to be good for business may not be so good for citizens.