Downtown Durham, Inc. has announced it is launching a process to review the Downtown Durham Master Plan, which was adopted by city/county government in 2000. DDI has re-hired Development Concepts, Inc. of Indianapolis to coordinate the process.
So the City of Durham has a program called STAR -- "Show and Tell Award Recipients." This program allows employees of the city to nominate other employees for what appears to be an employee-of-the-month program.
Let's hear it for the five STAR award winners for December 2006: Kristen Randall, Sgt. Dale Gunter, Lorie Schiess, Marion Hickock, and Patrick Baker.
...Patrick Baker??!? As in City Manager, self-proclaimed "CEO of Durham" Patrick Baker? Lemme get this straight. No one would ever expect for, say, Erskine Bowles to get selected for an "Employee of the Week" award at UNC. When a McDonald's restaurant picks "Crew Member of the Month," the store manager isn't on the list. I mean, this sounds like something Mr. Burns would do at the power plant in The Simpsons.
On second thought... there is a resemblance...
A reminder: NCDOT is holding a drop-in information session on the East End Connector tonight from 4-7pm at the Living Waters Assembly Church at the corner of US 70 and Lynn Road in Durham. (More project information is available at the NCDOT web site.) This project promises to have a major impact on downtown communities and this is a useful session to learn more about it.
Mike Woodard just posted some terrific news to some Durham listservs concerning the push for traffic calming on Duke and Gregson Streets. Looks like the City has persuaded NCDOT to act on implementing many of the final traffic calming efforts recommended by a professional study several years ago -- those impacting Duke/Gregson, which at times resemble freeways during the daily commute. Tragically, it's taken the recent fatality of Deborah Culmer on Duke Street to get the state moving on this. Yet, moving they are.
See below the cut for the details, but in a nutshell: "neckdowns," or protrusions from the curb that will serve to narrow the perceived width of the roadways at intersections and promote slower speeds, have been approved and jointly funded by NCDOT and the City. The City's working on improved lighting, improved parking stripes, and more advisory signs in limited sight distance areas. A reduction in speed limit to 30 miles/hour is also possible.
Real praise is due Mark Ahrendsen from Durham's transportation office and Eugene Brown and Mike Woodard of the City Council for making this happen. The wheels of government have turned quickly over the last few weeks, if sadly -- at the state level -- a few years too late.
So I found myself in another part of the series of tubes that comprise "the Internets" tonight, trying to explain just how I ended up living in and passionate about Durham, anyway. Realized when I was done this was a pretty good place to cross-post it, so here goes. Warning: quasi-autobiographical, painfully o'erwrought writing ahead.
Thanks to eagle-eyed DanRNC over at UrbanPlanet's Triangle forum, here's just a bit more info on the University Marketplace project over at Cline Design's web site. Just a bit, though, since somebody over there seems to think tiny JPEG graphic files are perfectly sufficient!
Today's Durham News carries the disappointing news that NCDOT may be backing off its plans to move the Amtrak station from its current tiny home (puts the 'ramshackle' in 'shack,' literally -- it looks like the doublewide trailer of train stations) to the West Village project right across the tracks. I'd heard rumblings of this in other places but this was the first I'd seen of it in print.
Too bad if true. NC's got only a moderate intra-state rail program (operated by Amtrak with state funding) but it's a useful link to Charlotte in particular. Whether TTA comes through or not, Durham needs a better home for its train station. It's a crime that the Bull City's beautiful old Union Station got demolished in the name of the downtown loop's misbegotten "promise" (more on that in a few days).
On a happier note, driving by the West Village site yesterday, it's impressive to see how much progress has been made throughout the southern side of the Main Street corridor. Cutouts for windows are there and you can really see the incredible transformation underway.
I missed this back when it was on the Fine Living channel, but someone helpfully posted excerpts from the special on Forbes' 2006 "best places to live" list, in which Durham came in #8. The actual video of Durham starts about halfway through the clip, which features shots of RTP, Brightleaf, Ninth Street and Trinity Park. It's a little schlocky but there's some good visuals. Check it out on YouTube.
Even as Phase II of the American Tobacco project remains underway at the corner of Blackwell and Pettigrew, the block just to its east has been heating up with the groundbreaking and start of construction of Durham's new downtown performing arts center. Sandwiched between the arts center and the Durham Bulls Athletic Park has been the planned Diamond View II office building to be anchored by Smith Breeden.
Interestingly, plans posted on architect Cline Design's web site now call for two buildings -- Diamond View II and Diamond View III. (Diamond View I, which predates the American Tobacco project, houses Capital Broadcasting's Fox 50 and now SunTrust's regional operations.) Looks like the plan change may still be in flux; the Durham Bulls' season ticket magazine, mailed just this week, only mentions Diamond View II's construction.
If you compare the Cline Design web site with the latest-and-greatest tenant map at the American Tobacco web site, it looks like a this is mostly just a change in the massing of Phase III of the AT district, with Diamond View III having a large massing that will back up to future residential planned between the ballpark and Pettigrew. Perhaps this explains why Durham mayor Bill Bell talked in a recent newsletter about Phase III of AT being underway...hmm?
Tuesday's Board of Adjustment hearing didn't end up considering the requested variances for "The Chancellory at Trinity Park" condo development. The Trinity Park Neighborhood Association and the developer, Park City (along with its big-money-backer, Baltimore's Landex) jointly asked for a continuance to the BOA's end-of-Feb. meeting, which was granted.
The neighborhood association is trying to reach agreement on binding terms and conditions with the developer, including financial penalties for not meeting same, to ensure certain aesthetic and design criteria are met, following Old West Durham's model with the developers of Station Nine a few years ago.