Carr Mill Mall Security – Protection or Harassment?


I recently had a frustrating experience with security personnel at Carr Mill Mall on February 16th and I curious whether I may not be the only one. I had parked outside Fleet Feet to purchase a pair of shoes. I was in the store no longer than 10 minutes to make a purchase of approximately $150. I left the store and placed the shoes in my car and since it was a pleasant afternoon proceeded to walk over to Carrboro Brewing Company to purchase some beverages.I was promptly stopped by a security guard who told me that once I left the lot my car would be towed. Upon questioning this I was informed it was Carr Mill Mall property policy. I tried to reason that having just spent $150 at Carr Mill Mall and that perhaps it was reasonable for me to leave my car in the parking lot a further 10 minutes to make a purchase across the street. This proposal was emphatically rejected. I was not asked to provide any receipts nor asked how long I would be. I was given the number of the property manager’s office –who I called immediately - only to be able to leave a message as it was after hours. Fortunately the good people at Fleet Feet offered to ensure my car would not be towed in the ten minutes I was gone. This did not stop the security guard from calling the manager anyway to ask if I should be towed. I found this out the next day from the property manager Nathan Milian (of N.R Milian and Associates who manages Carr Mill Mall) who declined to apologize in any way for the guard’s behavior. Mr Milian did inform the guard not to have my car towed in this case, but informed me that in future it most certainly would be towed.

Now, I understand that Carr Mill Mall is private property and they have the right to remove vehicles from the property when someone is not actively doing business there. Parking can be difficult at Carr Mill Mall and certainly this policy alleviates that problem. However, I would expect 10 minutes of latitude having just spent $150. All this would really take would be a more reasonable policy enforcement. Perhaps ask for my receipt to prove my purchase? If I am not back within the hour, THEN tow the car? There are a number of viable options.

This is not the first time we have had difficulties with Carr Mill Mall security. Last year my wife and 2 week old son were sitting on the grass at Weaver Street beside my bicycle while I had gone to get my haircut at Friendlies. When I returned she informed me a security guard had forced her (without any assistance) to move baby, stroller and bicycle off the grass and onto the sidewalk 20 yards away (citing the bike was illegally parked on the grass). Rules and regulations are there for a reason, however enforcement can be subjective. From my experience Carr Mill Mall security and their employer Nathan Milian appear to lean more towards customer harassment than customer protection or for that matter protection of Carr Mill businesses interests. Carr Mill Mall management may argue that purging illegally parked cars from Car Mill Mall parking lot is achieving that goal, and in blatant cases of people using Carr Mill Mall as a public parking space he might be correct. On the other hand, aggressive, unnecessary and unreasonable harassment of legitimate Carr Mill Mall customers does the mall and mall business owners plus the community at large a great disservice. In my opinion these actions fly in the face of what Carrboro should stand for. In this case I had a very clear choice. I could have purchased my shoes online cheaper than I could get them at Fleet Feet, but I prefer to patronize local businesses. Thanks to Carr Mill Mall and his security guard’s overly strict enforcement of their policies I might well think again next time, and that is most certainly bad for business. If Carrboro is trying to shift towards a business driven tax base, this is not the way to do it.

Stewart Collis




Sounds like Nathan MIlian's management style hasn't changed a bit.

That was some interesting reading! I realize now my post and email to Mr
Milian will be like water off a duck's back, still, one pebble at a
time....Here's an idea, turn Carrboro Mall Weaver Street car park into a park! That would allow for more than enough dancing space for all :)

It's a shame that Carrboro's namesake destination is managed by a notoriously hostile corporate citizen. 

I've had dealings with Nathan Milian while renovating an office in Carr Mill Mall and he was very friendly and cooperative during the process. This indicates to me that he is approachable. There has definitely been some heavy-handed stuff going on around Car Mill ( I called for a Milian Man March when those ridiculous 10 commandment signs went up at Weaver St. Market), but Nathan is a guy that is open to engagement.

That was not my experience. The one message he left on my voicemail informed me that "next time I will be towed". Repeated follow up calls to his office were ignored.

Stewart, you passed not one, but TWO public parking lots between Carr Mill Mall and Tyler's. 

"Anonymous", I was shopping at Carr Mill Mall

I know this is irrelevant but I've been puzzling over - what two public parking lots are between Carr Mill and Tyler's?  Is the lot behind the Century Center a public parking lot?  I didn't think it was.  If you walk I don't think you pass any. 

I have given up parking in the Carr Mill lot to the southeast of the building and only rarely park in the lot to the west and north of the building.  I have not had an experience like you describe but have heard stories like yours.  I was harassed by Carr Mill security for driving the wrong way in the parking lot.  It is not worth the hassle, particularly since the municipal parking lot is so convenient.  It is interesting that I had exactly the opposite experience with Southern States.  I had parked in the municipal lot because I was planning to visit a number of locations in downtown Carrboro.  I mentioned it to the cashier at SS and was told that if I was shopping there I should park there and it was OK to leave my car in their parking lot while I did my other errands.  I have pretty good feelings about shopping at Southern States.  Are they a "local" business?  Does Carr Mill get a cut of the tower's fee?  Did the guard suggest that you drive across the street, that would have been environmentally sensitive? 

Stewart, I would have been just as irritated as you. Many, including me, have had this same experience at University Square.I try to keep in mind, however, that the security guard is doing what he is told. At their pay, how much creative latitude should we expect? But you went on to management, not only doing the right thing, but encountering the real source of friendly customer care: Nathan Milian.Do they teach this at Kenan-Flagler?

I entered the lot between Weaver St Mkt and The Station from the back (coming from behind Harris Teeter)--yesterday, 8/24/11.  Are there any signs posted from that direction about the parking lot rules?  I parked in one of the two spaces that are over there parallel to the train car.  I was towed within 15 minutes.  The guard had watched me leave my car and enter the station.  I went to talk to him (one month old baby carrier in hand), and asked him about the situation.  I explained to him that I was heading to Weaver St to have dinner.  He would barely talk to me--walked away reciting the number for the towing company.  I used to live in Carrboro for years, and honestly had no idea things had changed in this way.  I was going to eat at Weaver Street after meeting someone at the Station, but I never made it.  Ironically, I made a purchase in weaver Street to get the $100 cash back in order to pay the tow truck guy.  Is ther any use in bringing this issue to the management co.?  I have already leaft a message and emailed. **Anyone know about signage from that direction?**  I'd go look, but I don't live there anymore.I really felt that he could have told me instead of watching me get out and making the call.  I would have GLADLY moved to any other lot to avoid the trouble--as I said, I was lugging around a baby carrier all this time, and to avoid losing $100!!!

sent the link to your post to the mall manager. I believe that, at a minimum, better signage should alert customers to the risk in departing Carr Mill property for even a few minutes.

A few months back, my wife and I had tickets to a show at Cat's Cradle.  We drove downtown and parked in the public lot on West Weaver Street and walked over to Weaver St Market and had dinner on the lawn.  We then proceeded to walk east under the awning towards the lot between WSM and Southern Rail.  We then walked into the parking lot, through the middle row of cars, and turned towards the intersection with the traffic signal by Armadillo Grill.  About 5 seconds after turning towards the street, the guard in the parking lot ran after us blowing his whistle loudly and yelling at my wife that she could not leave her car there.  I turned around and told the guard that we had parked down the street and walked and that he should stop yelling at us.  I would have preferred to just walk away but was concerned that he would have had some another paying customer's car towed, compounding his error and ruining someone else's evening.He relented and we kept on walking. 

Don't blame the security guards. Let's put the responsibility for this kind of thing where it belongs. Unless the poor man is himself following coercive orders from the actual owner of Carr Mill Mall (who does not even live around here) the responsible party is Nathan Millian, the property manager.I remember that I first met him when we worked together on a community focus group. The discussion led to some particular reason for me to remark that property rights are not absolute, and that business owners and property managers may not do anything they want with their property.He appeared to be stunned by this idea. A fundamental problem is that he does not understand that owning something means merely that one may do with it any of the things allowed by a space of possibilities determined by other obligations and rights. Like so many in the country today, he is infected with the libertarian view of property rights that fuels the rhetoric of the Republican Party.But it is also important that he just does not seem to "get" Carrboro.In 2007 Nathan attempted to throw anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan off Carr Mill property when she was meeting with Mark Chilton and others at Panzanella. (I can't find it online anymore, but there's video of this.)Sheehan was carrying a cross with the name of her son Casey, a soldier killed in Iraq. Nathan demanded that she stop, as the cross was a political placard. Nathan has banned such political expression at Carr Mill Mall. He has no business running a business in the Carrboro community.James Coley

...don't mix. But since the owner of Carr Mill seems even more anathema to Carrboro, I don't see the situation changing anytime soon. See

I'll simply relate my experience: 

I was playing a show at the Station (and parked in the lot for the station by the tracks). A friend with a week old baby came out to see us. She parked in the spots by the station in the Carr Mill lot -illegally. She planned to eat at WSM but when she saw us on the Station Patio, she came by. Next thing- towtruck. 

At this point, I can understand its "the security guard doing his job." After all, my friend was parked illegally (sort of, she was going to go to WSM but I'll grant it). I took a break from playing music and walked over to the security guard to calmly discuss the matter. I work in customer service and have worked in hostile environments- I pride myself on my ability to keep cool in tense situations. He was visibly shaken, avoiding eye contact. I introduced myself, shook his hand, told him I understood that his job was stressful. I explained to him that the parking situation can be confusing- the station lot and Carr Mill lot are connected and the other circumstances surrounding the situation (temporarily stopping by outside of CMM, baby)- I tried to ask him if there were ever situations when he could *explain* the parking policy to folks, instead of just calling the tow truck, especially when people are taking babies and strollers out of cars, which takes a lot of time. He flew into a rage, started screaming at me, and I actually felt sorry for him. He was having a bad night. After he said he didn't want to discuss it, I asked for his supervisor's # and called them right there. He didn't like that and, with the answering machine recording everything, started screaming at me again. Amazingly, he then called the cops, who came out and matter of factly reviewed the situation (and interestingly, it came out, we discovered he lied about his name, giving me the name of the morning security guard (!)). The cops told me he was going to ban me and then invited him over so he could tell me himself. With much drama, he said "You are banned! .... For a year!" Again, I just felt really sorry for the guy- he's in the wrong job. CMM should give him some training on how to deal with tense situations. He deserves better.

According to the law (as the police explained), if a person parks at CMM and takes one step off their property, they can be towed. However, that's not how people in downtowns work. It makes no sense to park at CMM to go to WSM and then get back in the car, with a family, and park somewhere else just to go across the street to say hello to a friend. Sure if you want to stick to the literalness of the law, then I guess they are in the right- but imagine a helpful security guard, who could point out parking alternatives (the station lot by the tracks had plenty of spaces) and help people- it could be a win/win for everyone. Most people are generally confused about what it means to be a customer of CMM- if you buy $100 worth of groceries but go across the street to buy an ice cream, are you a customer of CMM or a lawbreaking freeloader? If you buy $200 worth of scarves, yarn, and beads, but walk to the bank first to get cash, are you part of the problem? 

CMM Mgmt has not returned my calls. 

Phil Blank

I know Phil, and you have to be trying pretty hard not to like him. He and his wife are both tremendous assets to the community. Banning him from Carr Mill Mall is an outrageous response to an attempt at rational dialogue.It's time for the Town of Carrboro to do something about the heavy-handed application of these misguided policies. They are serving no-one, and they are hurting many - including downtown businesses. Carr MIll has plenty of real problems, but this kind of bullying doesn't solve any of them. I'm especially alarmed to hear that the police are cooperating and assisting in the poor treatment of residents and visitors of downtown Carrboro. Once again I am left wishing that Weaver Street Market's leaders or owners could have some kind of meaningful leverage over their  landlord's apparent hostility to the community that has made them both so successful.

Can the town of Carrboro do something about this?  I am not suggesting they make the practice completely illegal.  Make it an energy saving anti-pollution ordinance.  If you've shopped in one place in Carrboro you should not be required to move a vehicle to shop anywhere else in Carrboro.I've had other local businesses tell me it is Ok to remain in their lot after I've shopped there in order to shop somewhere else locally.  One even had a guard.Does anyone know if Carrmill or the Carrmill management or other employees makes any money when a car is towed?  Is the contract with the towing company available?I think the guards are responsible for their actions. 

I’m taken back by the hostility of some the comments about Nathan Millian. I don’t think that kind of hostility and invective “mix” with Carrboro.

Mr. Coley excoriates Mr. Millian for exercising a legal right. I have seen cars w/ bikes on the racks park at a Carr Mill lot, the drivers remove the bikes and ride off the property toward campus, backpacks on their backs. These people didn’t enter an establishment at the mall that I saw. I noted hours later these vehicles were still in the parking spaces. I have seen what I guess were commuters rendezvous at the lot, with the occupants of three cars leaving in one, leaving the other vehicles in the lot. Not one of these people entered a business at the mall– they walked from the vehicles that they were leaving and got in the one that left. Car-pooling is great, perhaps the town should provide a lot for this. I checked- the town’s lot on West Weaver St. has restrictions. I walked further and checked the town lot across from the Station. It, too, has restrictions, with fines. Parking signs stating that parking is only for patrons and others will be towed are, in my experience, fairly common across the country.

It seems to me that the mall owners would gladly forgo the expense of the security guards. I believe their presence is due to the complaints of mall tenants about how difficult it can be at times for their customers to find spaces. The writers who complain about the mall policies seem to believe the mall owners have an obligation to those who take advantage of a central location to leave their vehicle but have no intention of supporting the businesses whose lot it is. I suspect if people didn’t take advantage of the lot, there wouldn’t be guards, there wouldn’t be towing and the patron of the mall who wanted to run across the street to visit another business could do so without fear of being towed.

I have worked for the owners of Carr Mill Mall. In many meetings, talks before and after the meetings and over lunches, I never heard Nathan Millian say some person shouldn’t be allowed to do business in Carrboro. I never heard Nathan Millian say someone doesn’t “mix” with Carrboro. Insult, calumny and ad hominem attacks seem to me part of regressive politics, not progressive politics.

Jack is right that it is never helpful to use ad hominems. I like to think that civility is as strong a Carrboro value as is sharing parking. (However, when typically civil people turn to ad hominens, something may be gleaned.) Jack is also right that parking lots are abused, not just Carr Mill's but around downtown. Such abuses often lead to more restrictive rules.Ruby is correct that there is a long history of Carr Mill management taking action that is out of step with the very community that the mall wishes to engage as customers. I had not previously heard that Phil Blank was trespassed which I find outrageous. Is there a nicer guy in Carrboro than Phil?But the tussle about Nathan and the mall should not obscure the important points raised above, important points for Carr Mill merchants not just its managers:-if I go to shop at the mall and discover I need cash, should I risk towing to walk over to the RBC ATM?-if I arrive to do business at the mall and see a friend across the street who I want to say hello to, should that really entail the risk of towing?-if someone drives from Durham to dine at Panzanella  and arrives 10 minutes before their friends and decides to take a stroll, should that lead to towing?Nathan tells me it is his policy that the guards should speak to people whenever possible before calling the tow truck. Reports above indicate that this might not always be happening. I'm sure Nathan would agree that mall employees should have a high standard for personal behavior when interacting with the public. After all, even if those parking are not mall customers at the moment, they almost certainly will be soon. I hope Nathan takes reports like Phil's seriously and reviews them with his staff. I have asked the town Economic Development Director to look into these concerns (she has already read this thread) and determine if there is a productive role the town can play. I will let you know what I hear from her. 

It is just not accurate to describe my 8/26 post as excoriation, hostile or even ad hominem. Ruby was not out of line, either. And just because something is a legal right does not make it right. Property owners and managers are not above criticism, and we owe them no fealty. The real issue is that someone who has a great deal of power in downtown Carrboro is not an elected official and has demonstrated a lack of sensitivity to the abuse of that power. This relates to a misunderstanding of property, which was a main point of my post. Like Ruby, I am fed up with that. It is this concern, not personal animosity, that is the real motivation.Dan has done brilliant work in analyzing the connections between capitalism and environmental damage. Here I think we see the way capitalism leads some to think that property rights are absolute, and that they may legitimately be used in ways that are, as Ruby points out, hurtful.Jack, you wrote that "[t]he writers who complain about the mall policies seem to believe the mall owners have an obligation to those who take advantage of a central location to leave their vehicle but have no intention of supporting the businesses whose lot it is." They do have that obligation. It derives from what is required to be a good member of the community.Downtown Carrboro is walkable and should be a "park-once" environment to minimize automobile use. Since the Board of Alderman can not "nationalize" (or "townalize") the Carr Mill Mall parking lots, I hope we will write about other means to address the problems caused by harassing people who park downtown, and forcing them to move their cars from place to place merely because they are going to different businesses. Think about this. People who park in the Carr Mill lot but do not intend to do business there are (at times, fiercely) run off. But people who park in the lots owned by the town sometimes do business nowhere else but Carr Mill. To that extent, the mall is getting a free ride from the town. It is not at all untenable to expect Carr Mill management to ease up for this reason alone.James Coley

Today after enjoying a nice breakfast at Elmo's my three-year old daughter and I were playing a harmless game of hide-and-seek in Carr Mill Mall. It was hardly a game of hide and seek - more like peek-a-boo. The security guard, doing his very best to live up to the caricature, promptly put an end to our fun - out of concern for my daughter's "safety". Oh dear! A sad little man, to be sure, but in keeping with what I've read here and heard from others. Mind you, this was at 8:30 am on a Saturday. All business were closed (and it's not like Carr Mill Mall is ever a high traffic retail area). Needless to say, as someone who dropped over $1500 at Elmos, Alley Cat, and Panzenella's last year, and probably another $4000 at Weaver Street, being told I couldn't hide behind a corner to make my three-year-old laugh by a silly security guard with a Napoleon complex was more than a little annoying.


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