Live It Up

September 13, 2010

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More than a decade of brainstorming, planning and construction will come to a close Sept. 25 as NC State helps celebrate the dedication of an improved Hillsborough Street corridor that frames the north border of our campus.

“For 123 years, Hillsborough Street has been the front door for NC State,” NC State chancellor Randy Woodson said. “As a result, we have had a strong partnership with the City of Raleigh and our Hillsborough Street merchants and neighbors, working closely to consider the future of Hillsborough Street and its vitality.

“This project, which has improved the safety and aesthetic appeal of the street, has been a stride toward that end,” Woodson said. “We are grateful for the partnerships that have made this change possible.”

Over the last 16 months, construction efforts have led to increased and more-accessible parking along the historic downtown connector, while making both pedestrian and bicyclist safety a top priority. A pair of roundabouts – one on Hillsborough Street and another nearby on Oberlin Road – has virtually eliminated the traffic jams and travel difficulties that were so prevalent in years past.

The changes, university leaders say, have also made it easier than ever for NC State students, faculty and staff to patronize an increasing number of restaurants, shops and clubs that depend – in part – on members of the university community and its efforts to support local businesses.

“Every dollar of spending by students or staff generates between a dollar and a half and two dollars of impact on the local economy,” said Dr. Michael Walden, William Neal Reynolds professor and Extension economist in NC State’s College of Agriculture & Life Sciences.

But for NC State students, Hillsborough Street has always offered more than an opportunity to spend their – or their parents’ – hard-earned cash.

“Most students know about Hillsborough Street traditions from the moment they arrive on campus, and some even before that,” said Chandler Thompson, a junior economics major from High Point, N.C. “From the Hillsborough Hike to the Krispy Kreme Challenge and big Wolfpack victories, hanging out on Hillsborough Street is something NC State students have done for decades, and the new improvements help ensure it will continue.

“Also, a big part of being an NC State student is being an active member of the larger community surrounding campus, and its great to be able to give back in supporting the local businesses that support our university.”

Jeff Murison, executive director of the Hillsborough Street Community Service Corporation, said the NC State community’s willingness to pour into the lives of local residents and the businesses around it only increases its overall importance to the city of Raleigh and the capital region at large.

“NC State is a fundamental part of the quality of life that we have here in Raleigh –the university is an enormous economic engine: a source of education, ideas, research, culture and entertainment,” he said. “Hillsborough Street is not only a gateway to downtown Raleigh, but it’s also the gateway to NC State University.

“People want to live, work and spend time in areas where there is a dynamic university like NC State, because of all of the positive attributes it interjects into the community,” Murison continued. “So, having Hillsborough Street as a very active and vibrant space really connects the community with NC State and all it has to offer.”

Live It Up! activities will begin at 12 p.m., with a marathon run of entertainment options – on four stages – suitable for visitors of all ages. The schedule highlights performances from a dozen bands, bellydancers and international dance troupes, as well as a fraternity/sorority Pig-N-Pie cookoff, an “Iron Chef” challenge and a beer garden for attendees over 21 years old.

“Not only does Hillsborough Street act as an essential artery to downtown Raleigh, it provides students with great food and entertainment options like Live it Up, all within walking distance,” said Ethan Bartlett, a junior economics major from Tryon, NC. “The improvements that have been made have given students what amounts to effortless access to the businesses and activities on Hillsborough Street as it becomes an even bigger component of campus life.”

Members of the NC State volleyball, women’s soccer, men’s swimming, women’s swimming and men’s golf programs will be on hand for the festivities, and the university’s road football game with Georgia Tech – with a noon kickoff – will be shown on large screens in a special Game Day Zone, allowing pigskin fans to come together and celebrate the ‘Pack with others in attendance. Unless indicated on the festival schedule, there is no cost to participate in any Live It Up events.

The event is a successor to last year’s extremely popular Hillsborough Street Renaissance Festival, which was created by Legacy Event Planners, a non-profit organization founded by three NC State students/alumni: Joseph Heil, William McGuire and Jennifer Halweil. The group partnered its efforts with those desired by Murison and the Hillsborough Street Community Service Corporation to create this year’s Live It Up! event. More than 20 current NC State students and alumni have worked with Legacy to plan the grand-opening festivities.

Any proceeds will help support a number of local organizations, including NC State’s chapter of Engineering Without Borders, the Junior Diabetes Research Foundation and the Latta House Foundation.

Editor’s Note: On Sept. 25, Hillsborough Street will be closed for “Live It Up!” from its intersection with Woodburn/Cox to its intersection with Gardner. Members of the local community are invited to take part in a processional scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. on Pullen Road. A ribbon cutting and dedication ceremony will follow, taking place at NC State’s Belltower at 3 p.m.