BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for April 16, 2009
Southpoint's corporate owner GGP files for bankruptcy

Preliminary Walltown Aquatics Center design concepts unveiled

Wac_exterior_proposed Residents of the Walltown neighborhood got their first look at the preliminary designs of a proposed aquatics center on Tuesday night.

While the residents were outnumbered by the consultants, those that did attend the workshop walked away with a new vision of just what a swimming pool could be.

The workshop was the second held in Walltown; the first took input from the community to help consultants develop three preliminary design options.

Not that there's any commitment or funding to build this add-on to the facility at this point, mind you. City Council approved $1 million some time ago to perform design services on the structure, but as we noted in coverage of last month's Walltown Recreation Center groundbreaking, there's no capital funding source identified to pay for this facility.

Skanska reps gave a brief presentation on the design of the Walltown Recreation Center.  But the majority of the night was given over to presentations by Louis Cherry of Cherry Huffman Architects, the main consultant for the project, and Carl Nylander of Counsilman Hunsaker, an aquatic specialist subcontractor.

All three designs use the same proposed building footprint close to W. Club Blvd., and all three are connected to the Recreation Center with a connection between the buildings and a separate entrance from the outside. 


The building itself would incorporate a lot of natural lighting and looks strikingly similar to both the DPAC and Durham Station, although Cherry did note that this design was extremely preliminary.

More interesting than the outside of the building are the preliminary designs of the pool area itself.  I have to admit that my vision walking into the workshop was the type of pool that I grew up with: a traditional rectangular pool with lap lanes, some water sports equipment, and a few new features like noodles -- and maybe, if you're lucky, a locker room that doesn’t automatically give you athlete’s foot.

The lap lanes are there, along with the water sports areas (and hopefully the athlete’s foot-proof locker rooms). 

But alongside the more traditional features are things like tot areas with playground-like equipment, a current channel, water cannons, open water area, water slide, vortex (which resembles a big toilet bowl), and even a rock climbing wall. Topping it all off, the entire facility is designed to be "themed out."

While each design was slightly different and had a different mix features, the overall themes were very similar: An asymmetrical pool design, an observation deck on the 2nd floor, and -- perhaps most importantly to residents -- features that fit all ages and types of programs.  Each design incorporates areas for young children, teenagers, adults, and seniors; there are also plenty of opportunities for various uses such as exercise, rehabilitation and just plain fun.




The general consensus of the attendees was that the first design presented was preferred, mostly because it had the largest overall square footage, a generous open pool area, clear delineation of uses, and a large rock climbing wall.    

Most of the questions from residents revolved around building materials, what green building practices might be included, and what type of theme might be incorporated.  The aquatics specialist mentioned themes like pirates and beaches, while the architect for the rec center came up with a Durham Bulls theme. (This correspondent's concept of a tobacco warehouse theme was also discussed.)

The next steps in the process include incorporating feedback from the workshop to finalize the initial designs, put cost estimates on each alternative, and -- most significantly, and in the short run, perhaps fruitlessly -- taking the designs to City Council who will have to decide how to proceed.



Here's a simpler theme, and much more needed in Durham, for the pool. Outdoors.

This is NC, you can be outside swimming (*if we had outdoor pools*) a solid 5-6 months of the year.

Natural light filtered through a building is a poor and much less enjoyable substitute for being outside (and a more expensive one, I bet you could build two outdoor pools for the cost of one aquatic center, and a heckuva lot more people would use the pool if outdoors.)


From being near the indoor pool at the YMCA I'd have to agree. They reak of pool chemicals, are steamy in a weird and creepy way, and you'd have to air condition that space in the summer or perhaps they intend to sell child, parent, and senior roasts to fund the building.


Seems a little weird to only have 2 lap lanes. You'd never be able to use a pool like this for a youth swim team, which seems like a good use of a local pool. If they let adult groups rent the pool for early mornings and late nights, like many pools do, they could also have another revenue stream.

moe Rivera

If you design it... they will build!
Stop giving Skanska these no bid contracts.. CRONYISM at it's best!
Can we please build using local contractors?
1 million dollars to design a pool? I can give my nephews some crayons and an apple juice, and I'm sure they can draw one up.
If the funds aren't there for the building, do we get a refund?

Todd Patton

Well if you spend a million dollars on design, it has to come with a lot of bells and whistles. When I think of a city aquatics center, I think of an upgraded Edison Johnson, not the Great Wolf Lodge. This is so over the top, it is absurd.

Durham needs 4 more aquatics centers to serve the growing suburban areas of the city, but will never be able to afford them at this rate. Instead of buying a Bently, Parks & Rec needs a fleet of Chevys (or Camrys, if you prefer) to serve the whole City.

With both Edison Johnson and the Trinity Ave centers within a mile or less of Walltown, an outdoor pool should be more than sufficient in Walltown. The rest of the city needs to be served as well.

Tar Heelz

Can you say "boondoggle"?

Michael Phelps' Nemesis

Boondoggle is putting it mildly. Most boondoggles at least result in something tangible. The new convention center in Raleigh might qualify, for instance. It sounds like the Walltown Wallyworld pool is more than a boondoggle--there's a bunch of money headed down the swimming pool drain just for the design work on an over-the-top pool that should not and likely never will be built. Does anyone outside of a few in Walltown (and the design firms) think this is a good idea? If so, I'd love to be enlightened.


I'm unfamiliar with this area but know it is near me and I could get much use out of the tots area. Just curious - why is this a bad idea? Did they talk about entry costs?


Yolanda, part of the issue is that there are already 2 other public indoor door pools supported by parks & rec within 1 mile of the proposed location. Yet, many growing (grown) neighborhoods outside the urban core do not have any public rec centers, not to mention state of the art swim facilities. Our previous city had a public pool very similar to design 3. It was fab. But the the population and medium home value was about 3 - 4xs that of the City of Durham. This sort of public funded pool just doesn't fit the economy of scale here in Durham.


Our child likes swimming year round. For summer outdoors we go to the river, but in December that's a bit chilly... We're not near the Y's pool then, we're IN it. The weird steaminess looks just fine from the water.

I don't think there are two pools within a mile. Edison Johnson, yes, but the city passed on buying the Diet Center down on Trinity Ave. No money, doncha know?

That was something like $3 mil, so if they miraculously find money for this $17 mil center the screaming should be intense. This is about placating some very vocal community advocates (who are just taking care of their neighborhood). Council should be ashamed they lacked the political will to just say no.


Thanks Tina. That clarifies things...


The City needs more lap/exercise lanes - not a kid's water park and 17 million dollar entertainment center.

Seems like a waste of whole lot of tax payer money for essentially a limited fun park design.



1. Is the $1 million spent on this design IN ADDITION to hundreds of thousands previously given to architect George Williams (councilman Howard Clements' brother-in-law) for "advanced planning"?

2. Is the design $$ still funneling through George Williams, so that he gets a healthy slice of the pie for very little (no?) design work?

3. When will the local media (& voters!!!) finally pay better attention to this outrageous abuse of power?!!!!!

The comments to this entry are closed.