End of week roundup
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Kalkhof: Develop the TTA site now

Bill Kalkhof, director of the Downtown Durham, Inc. organization, has a letter to the editor in today's Herald-Sun calling for the Triangle Transit Authority to develop the triangle of land they own at Duke and W. Chapel Hill Streets.  His argument is a common but important one: that this parcel, whose current active uses are the relocated  Trailways/Greyhound station and the wood bookcases/TROSA shop, provides a dead spot between a triangle of revitalization that includes Brightleaf/West Village, American Tobacco, and downtown. (More thoughts on the "dead spot," from last month's BCR.)

Developing this property is a "win-win" for everyone. Also, it provides the opportunity for the N.C. Department of Transportation to either reconsider its decision on the West Village location, or enter into an agreement with TTA to include the type of train station Durham deserves on the TTA property.

No matter when this property is developed, the ideal development would be a high-density, mixed-use project that is compatible with the "transit-oriented development" that TTA desires. Why wait?

Also, the property that TTA has under control is bordered by the following significant downtown development projects all within one block: the regional retail and restaurant destination district of Brightleaf Square; the major residential and mixed-use development of West Village; North Carolina Mutual Insurance Company office building recently purchased by Greenfire Development; the future home of the Durham Transportation Center that will begin construction this year; and, finally, the award-winning American Tobacco Historic Campus mixed-use project. The TTA property sits in the middle of some pretty impressive development projects.

I agree with Kalkhof here, but with an important caveat: I'd like to see TTA work with its now-signed development partner, Cherokee Investment Partners, to add dense, mixed-use development to the site, rather than just disposing of the site out of hand. A few opponents of the now-stalled TTA rail plan have called for the transit authority to divest itself of the property it acquired for rail corridors and station locations, though most pols are refreshingly proving more sensible on the subject.

Given the rapid population growth in the Triangle, which will make transit options not just more intensively used but much more badly needed, it doesn't make sense to do anything other than land bank the existing corridors for a future rail corridor -- assuming the TTA can't pull things together soon to resurrect its plans.

Not that Kalkhof is saying they should divest, by the way. In fact, the intensive mixed use development he calls for is precisely the sort of development that is very compatible with transit -- which is exactly why the TTA is working with Cherokee in the first place.  Build housing along a future rail corridor, and the math for ridership and system usage goes up.  But in light of the short-sightedness politicians, it's a point you can't say enough times.

Update: here's a map of the location in question:



I agree with the assesment that developing this parcel sooner rather than later is better. Any development here must incorporate the train station as its centerpiece (both Amtrak AND TTA). But something large and mixed-use would seems absolutely appropriate.

Kalkhof mentions that the transportation center is supposed to begin construction this year. Is that really the case? Is it in the city's budget for the year? Do they still plan on using the eye-poppingly modern and cool design drawn up by Freelon Group?

Kevin Davis

Good question on the transportation center. My eyebrows went up a bit at that, too, only because I haven't heard anything about that project in some time. Funds were approved out of the 1996 bonds and very little has been spent on the project. I'll keep my ears out for anything new on that front, or if other gentle readers have more info, please share!

Whether or not the design is used -- could there be a Durham family cooler than the Freelons? Nneena's a Grammy-nominated jazz singer, with a husband who's done awesome work and built a large architectural practice?

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