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June 2008

Shooting the Bull: Podcast for June 29, 2008

In this week's edition of "Shooting the Bull," Barry Ragin and I chat with Durham City Councilman Mike Woodard on capital projects, the Council's agenda for the next six months -- and even Woodard's time as an FM-band pioneer at Duke's radio station. Thanks as always to the folks at WXDU for the opportunity to host this weekly show.

If you missed the Sunday night broadcast, you can download or listen to the show from the Internet Archive, or listen to it via this embedded player. You can also now subscribe to the podcast in iTunes, via WXDU's hosted podcast.

New owners close on Kings Daughters Inn, start construction this week

It's official: as we hinted at here last week, Colin and Deanna Crossman did officially close on the sale of the Kings Daughters Inn late last week.

The Buchanan Ave. old age home -- which is under covenants requiring the preservation of its historic appearance and prohibit its use for undergraduate housing -- is on its way to becoming a bed and breakfast at the edge of Duke's East Campus.

The list price for the home was a cool $2.5 million. Factor in another $1 million plus for renovations to the aging but grand structure and you're looking at a substantial investment on the west end of Trinity Park.

KeySource Bank here in Durham handled the financing for the project, providing capital funding at a crucial time amidst a national credit crunch.

The Crossmans held a kick-off party for friends and project supporters this weekend, but that'll be the last time the KDI is open to the public until the renovations complete next spring. Expect the so-called "moon suits" to enter in the next few days to begin asbestos abatement and the like as the first phase of renovation.

Eno Restaurant & Market to open at Greenfire's Rogers Alley

Eno Foodies used to celebrating the opening of so many new dining options in and around the heart of the Bull City have another reason to rejoice: there's one more to add to the stable.

Eno Restaurant & Market is slated to open this winter at Greenfire's Rogers Alley development near City Hall, joining Dos Perros to bring a second dining option to the project. The Eno is the brainchild of software entrepreneur and Coon Rock Farm owner Richard Holcomb, Chef Sarig Agasi of Holcomb's popular Raleigh restaurant Zely & Ritz, and Jamie DeMent, a "foodie farmer" enthusiast.

As with Zely & Ritz -- named one of the top 20 organic restaurants in America by Organic Style magazine -- Eno Restaurant & Market will focus on local, sustainable food, particularly those grown at Coon Rock Farm but also including a number of others (including Chapel Hill Creamery, Harris Acres, Cane Creek Farm, and Celebrity Dairy.)

Continue reading "Eno Restaurant & Market to open at Greenfire's Rogers Alley" »

Get DATA output for no input: Free rides on Durham buses today

Data With gas prices peaked over $4 per precious gallon, it's been a good idea to try Durham's DATA bus service or the interregional Triangle Transit service for some time now.

Today, though, riding DATA is an idea that $1 better per trip. Cell phone company Cricket is sponsoring free rides on the DATA system (and Raleigh's CAT bus) throughout the day to celebrate the company's one-year anniversary offering service in the region.

Just hop aboard any fixed-route DATA bus today and the ride is free.

If you're stopping at the downtown bus transfer station, you can sign up to win one of a number of prizes, including free DATA bus fare for a year.

Mad Hatter's changes hands, enters Saladelia sphere of influence

Madhatter_2 Mad Hatter's has been a Durham institution for years over at the corner of W. Main & Broad St.; the one-time corner gas station was converted to a bakery-cafe and cake shop when the Hatter moved from Erwin Square into the old Owens Broad St. Diner space in 2001.

And its owners have had a big impact on the local community -- most notably when co-owner Grace Nordhoff decided last year to donate $200,000 as an endowment for the Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership, the university's outreach program targeting community engagement and support.

They've been active in less-obvious ways, too, as a meet-up point during bike-to-work events, a participant in countless fundraisers and non-profit events, and so much more.

All good things come to an end, though, including Nordhoff and Jason Balius' ownership of the eatery. They've announced the sale of Mad Hatter's to none other than the owner of Saladelia here in the Bull City.

Balius noted on Thursday that there was interest from national chains and franchisees, due doubtlessly to the presence of nearby Duke and the prime location between downtown and Ninth Street. (It's not hard to imagine the spectre of a PaneraCosiAtlantaBreadBakeryShoppe taking over the stately old building.)

True to their community roots, though, Balius and Nordhoff decided to keep it a local affair. "We wanted to keep it as kind of a community space," Balius said in a brief interview on Thursday, noting he wanted the business to continue to "support local artists, local growers."

Continue reading "Mad Hatter's changes hands, enters Saladelia sphere of influence" »

Golden Belt: Pre-leasing going well, artist studios almost all reserved

Gblogo Some good news from the folks over at Golden Belt, who report that pre-leasing of the nicely designed live/work loft apartments is going well ahead of schedule. As of this writing, a little less than half of these units are pre-leased, according to a representative of Scientific Properties.

Which is a very decent clip indeed, especially when you consider that the entire complex has yet to open, and represents a first foothold in an historically disinvested part of the Bull City.

Meanwhile, the artist studio spaces adjacent to the residential section are almost completely reserved at this point, with just a small number remaining.

The first artists residential units are slated to get their inaugural occupants on July 1, with nine loft residents able to move in then. Another round comes in mid-July, with the remaining units available August 1. The artist studios will begin to be occupied on July 17.

Scientific notes it's still working on more announcements to come in the next few weeks, including a likely announcement of Golden Belt's first artist-scholar studio in residence. Scientific is also gearing up for the Jacob Lawrence exhibition -- the first of its kind outside of NYC -- in the coming months, as announced on WUNC's The State of Things back in May.

No definitive word yet on restaurant or entertainment/live music tenants for the complex, though the hint of more announcements to come in the coming months holds promise for more news of interest from the east-of-downtown redevelopment.

(For more on Golden Belt, see the earlier BCR posts on their residential and office/work spaces.)

DAP construction on verge of getting underway

Nearly lost amidst the hubbub of last Monday night's City Council budget deliberations: the City's decision to move forward with the renovation of the historic Durham Athletic Park, under an expanded project budget that adds some nice touches back into the project -- including an intriguing water cistern feature that may just make the old DAP one of the greenest fields around.

According to City staff's memo on the project, the City has wrapped up design-phase work with Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse and has recommended Skanska as the construction manager at risk (CMAR) for the effort, while continuing the city's pre-construction relationship with consultants and former subcontractors D'Agostino Izzo Quirk Architects and S&ME.

The project's budget has continued to grow, from an initial $4 million in the 2005 bond issue, to $5 million as of last year. As of now, the "hard costs" for construction stand at $5.18 million -- not including over $300,000 in requested add-back items and enhancements -- while the total "soft costs" for planning, architecture and environmental engineering stand at almost $850,000.

Where's the extra funding coming from? From $965,000 in sales of certificates of participation, a debt issuance method that doesn't require the typical public approval process (and a method used earlier on the DBAP, to boot.)

Continue reading "DAP construction on verge of getting underway" »

Why WRAL frustrates, ex. #1,329

In this latest edition in our series on how the news media contributes to the stereotypes of Triangle communities, we take a look at the WRAL web site, which is highlighting Q&A sessions that the television station's been having with local and state leaders:


"Next up in our series, we'll ask Durham County Commissioner Ellen Reckhow whether she prefers bulletproof vests or armored cars. Then, we'll ask Apex mayor Keith Weatherly: is your town the Peak of Good Living, or just the South's best small town to live in?"

Durham: More tech jobs, and still well ahead of the City of Oaks

This just in: Durham outdraws Raleigh on a per-capita basis for high-tech jobs in the latest report from the American Electronics Association, according to our friends at the Triangle Business Journal:

The combined metropolitan area boasted 70,600 high-tech jobs, with 37,100 in Raleigh and 33,500 in Durham. The AEA report ranks the cities separately, though their combined total of jobs would have been enough to rank the Raleigh-Durham 23rd in high-tech employment in 2006.

The cities also ranked highly in tech job concentration. Durham ranked fourth in the country, employing 16 percent of its private-sector workers in the tech industry, and Raleigh came in at 12th, with 9.5 percent of private-sector laborers in tech jobs.

Average annual salaries for the tech industry came in at $95,600 in Durham and $74,300 in Raleigh, both of which were higher than average private sector wages in the area.

On the flip side, we here at BCR would like to note that Raleigh does outrank Durham in a wide range of other employment factors. By our count, Raleigh outpaces Durham when measuring the number of county employees buying Disney theme park tickets on their corporate card, for instance, not to mention the number of public school teachers bringing so-called "guest speakers" to sprout anti-Islamic viewpoints.

But, hey, I'll see them those losses and take the high tech job count any day.

Hotel projects continue to pop up in central Durham

The market for commercial and residential real estate development is generally lousy nationwide right now. Still, somehow, there's significant continued interest in hotel development around the Bull City's core.

Of course, that shouldn't necessarily be surprising, given that downtown is relatively underserved by hotels. Downtown Durham features just the Marriott, while the I-85 corridor has a Hilton and three chain hotels (Holiday Inn Express, Courtyard by Marriott, and Comfort Inn) along with a number of less pricey options. Add in the Old North Durham, Morehead Manor, and Blooming Garden Inn B&Bs and you've got the most popular overnight options for Durham in a nutshell.

Given the drawing power of Duke and the growing interest in downtown -- not to mention this little performing arts center on the verge of opening -- a concomitant growth in lodging projects shouldn't be much of surprise. Here's updates (of what we know, at least) on four such Bull City projects in the works.

First off, and one we've covered in some depth here before, is the Kings Daughters Inn B&B, set to open at the corner of Gloria and Buchanan in southwest Trinity Park in 2009. Owners Colin and Deanna Crossman are mere inches and days away from closing on the historic old-age home and Durham institution; interior demolition and abatement work are set to begin on July 1, so expect to see work crews getting active there very soon.

Continue reading "Hotel projects continue to pop up in central Durham" »