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July 2008

June 2008

Bordley wins Durham school board race in a landslide

Leigh Bordley won the run-off election for the at-large seat on Durham's school board in landslide fashion on Tuesday. Despite coming in second in the May 6 primary, Bordley cruised to victory with a crushing 84% of the vote over Jonathan Alston, who had squeaked out a win in May that was below the 40% level needed to claim the seat outright.

Anyone still left looking for validation of the role that the Obama factor played in the May 6 results need look no further than this election. Of course Bordley's win was roundly expected, given that third place finisher Nancy Cox endorsed Bordley, and they together claimed over 60% of the votes cast in the initial election.

Still, the lopsided defeat in this round likely points to the difficulty Alston had drawing votes in the absence of the get-out-the-vote push emanating from the Durham Committee that had such an impact on the Durham County Commissioner elections last month.

With this election complete, Durham's local-government races are essentially decided for the fall, since all of the notable contests were decided through the party primaries and this run-off election alone.

BCR Video Vignette: The suburban strip mall reflects on its younger days

What does the strip mall represent when it's been stripped away of all its essence, when every business except one hardy restaurant has left? How is the future of this strip mall, and its surroundings, so very different from what "forward-thinking Durhamites" expected back in those halcyon days in the late 1980s?

And just how can an empty parking lot, a small child, and a shopping cart combine to make the sweetest ad-hoc playplace?

Find out in this BCR video vignette, as we take a look at the tired South Square shopping plaza awaiting its transformation into a new mixed-use development:

NCSSM sheds more light on expansion plans

The North Carolina School of Science and Math in Durham is on the verge of growing, with a $70 million state-funded expansion expected to allow today's enrollment of 600 students to grow by one-third. As we talked about here in November, the school has engaged in a campus master planning process to determine just how and where NCSSM should grow on the site of the former Watts Hospital.

Consultants from the firm Ayers Saint Gross presented thoughts to neighbors earlier this month on the campus planning process and the plans for the 230,000 sq. ft. Discovery Center. Within eight months, work is expected to begin on infrastructure and utilities construction to support the project; meanwhile, NCSSM is selecting an architect for design of the structures.

The architects will inherit a plan calling for the Discovery Center to be massed near the center of campus, infilling next to the Bryan Center and helping to close off a driveway that currently bisects the campus. These images show an earlier version of the plan, a more final version of which is expected to be available in August, but give a sense of the school's preliminary thinking. New building locations/massings are shown in blue:


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The Down Under Pub freshens image, menu -- adds live music

One frequently-lamented missing link in the evolution of downtown Durham has been its lack of smaller spaces for live music and events, in the vein of a Lincoln Theater or, more appropriately, Berkeley Cafe in Raleigh. Broad Street Cafe has stepped into this niche well, as did the short-lived 305 South. Still, while you see Durhamites out dining until late in the evening around Brightleaf Square, for many conversation is the order of business.

Down_under_logo It's one reason to be glad to hear the plans that new owner Chrystal Kelly has for the Down Under Pub, a Brightleaf Square staple that's had the reputation for being -- how to say this -- a fairly "dingy" environment. (Not my word choice -- it comes from the Down Under's press release.)

Kelly hopes to reinvent the Down Under Pub as a locally-owned "neighborhood bar and grill," having added salads and entrees to a menu that's been traditionally beverage-heavy. Also coming: live music and other events in the space, located next to Fishmonger's at Brightleaf Square. So too is a take-out menu and updated building facade.

A new logo (seen at right) is coming, too, replacing the Australian flag that's been the standard-bearer for the Down Under Pub for as long as I can remember. Expect to see a new sign over the front door in late July, and to see the Down Under's new web site updated with events and music as they come online.

Somerhill soft-opening video teases new downtown eats?

Last weekend, the Somerhill Gallery held its soft-opening in its new downtown Durham digs, having relocated from a Chapel Hill shopping center to the Bull City's Venable Center, a redevelopment by Scientific Properties just east of the future County Courthouse site.

The folks at Somerhill have posted a video account of opening day; if you haven't been to the Somerhill yet, it's a great way to see the beautiful, light-filled interior of the converted industrial space.

It also may be home to a new restaurant soon. Somerhill's owner, Joe Rowand, makes the intriguing announcement a couple of minutes into the video that the space next to him in the Receiving Room secton of the Venable will be home to a new restaurant to be announced shortly:

"And I think... soon they're going to announce a restaurant next door soon. I think that's pretty fabulous. It's in my lease that it can only be a restaurant, and I think we're getting close... But there's so many nice new restaurants, every day at lunch it's, where can I go today?"

Look for the Somerhill to hold its grand opening in July, currently targeted for the 12th. And check out the video on YouTube for a preview of the gallery:

Shooting the Bull: Podcast for June 22, 2008

In this week's edition of "Shooting the Bull," Barry Ragin and I chat with Colin Crossman of the Triangle Apartments Association to discuss proposals in both Durham and Raleigh to further regulate landlords in the name of targeting problem properties. 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.

Of fireworks and firearms

I'm no grand prognosticator of public safety, though I find the socioeconomic bases of crime in neighborhoods a fascinating topic here from time to time.

Still, I can confidently predict there will be reports of staccato small arms fire in neighborhoods around downtown Durham sometime between, oh, say, 9:30 and 10:30pm on July 1 through the 4th, and again on July 11 and 25. Probably August 1, 8, 9 and 23, too.

There's no crystal ball involved in such predictions. These are just the next nights when the Durham Bulls are scheduled to have fireworks after games or the occasional Kevin Costner rock show.

It really seems to happen without fail: listservs in places like Trinity Park, Duke Park and the like seem to light up faster than a pyrotechnic starburst -- though perhaps not as fast as the 911 lines -- every time there's a light show over the Bull City.

Last night was no exception, with the Duke Park list debating the perennial question: fireworks shells or shotgun shells? Crane to see the sky or duck for cover? Roman Candle or roamin' Crip?

It's one of those bemusing moments that denotes the occasional tension that flares up every so often for those living in urban Durham -- those of us hardly hardy souls who endure so many questions from our suburban Wake friends, like "Isn't Durham dangerous?" and "I'm going to cover a foreign military conflict, can I borrow your flak jacket? You must have one."

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More summer solstice reminders: early voting and chili in the DAP district

Thanks to a couple of BCR readers for their reminders of two more local happenings taking place this Saturday:

First, today is the last day for early voting in the school board and commissioner of labor runoff election. Mike Ashe reminds us via email that "democracy will be open for business from 9am-1pm" at the Board of Elections offices on Corporation near the Farmer's Market. (If you miss the early voting, the polls will be open this Tuesday, as The Durham News notes this morning.)

Also -- and I don't know how, as a fan of chili, I missed this one -- Durham Parks & Rec is holding the Fifth Annual Bull City Chili and Salsa Challenge at Durham Central Park, in conjunction with the Chili Appreciation Society International's North Carolina affiliate, the Piedmont Pepper Pod. (Did you know there are authoritative sponsoring bodies for chili cook-offs as governed by a national board? Me neither.) Proceeds benefit the Special Olympics.

Weekend update: Books, fresh food and more on tap downtown

With weekend temperatures well below the 90+ mark we suffered through earlier this month, look for this to be a good two days to head to the heart of Durham to do some market browsing -- especially with Saturday lined up as the longest day of the year, and the first official day of summer.

First up: the Friends of the Durham Library's semi-annual book sale, a popular affair that brings large crowds regularly to the main library just off the Downtown Loop for everything from books (vintage and newer alike), audiobooks, CDs and DVDs. The Library accepts donations of these items throughout the year and the regular sale helps generate revenue that supplants the operations of this community linchpin.

Today from 4pm-7pm is a members-only sale for patrons of the Friends of the Library, with memberships sold at the door. On Saturday, the sale is open to the public from 10am-4pm, and again Sunday from 2pm-5pm. Sunday also features the $7 for a whole bag of books event, for items in the Library auditorium only.

Of course, Saturday morning (8am-noon) the Durham Farmer's Market will be in full swing down by the old DAP. Seasonal items new to the Market this week include blueberries, cantaloupes, eggplant, and tomatillos, joining a mix of items that ranges from arugula to zucchini. (Check in below the jump cut below for a full list.) The Yoga in the Park series continues Saturday morning at 9am just west of the market, near the corner of Hunt and Roney.

As a bonus, the Durham County Master Gardener Volunteers will be present at the Market to answer any questions you may have to make your green thumb a bit greener.

The Bulls will enjoy the longer daylight to boot, continuing a homestand with 7:05pm games against Norfolk tonight and Saturday night, followed by a 5:05pm game against the Tides on Sunday. Friday night's game will feature the typical post-game fireworks to boot.

Tonight, it's another edition in the Warehouse Blues series down at West Village, with Adolphus Bell and Dr. G.B. Burt bringing the electric blues to the old tobacco warehouses (6pm), while the Dune Dogs will bring a mix of country and southern rock described as evoking Billy Joe Shaver, Johnny Cash and the Bottle Rockets to Brightleaf Square (7-9pm). Meanwhile, Duke Parks & Rec is sponsoring a free blues concert down in Duke Park on Saturday night, with Bobby Hinton and "Cool" John Ferguson headlining a show at 6pm.

All of which makes it a good weekend to get out and enjoy the Bull City.

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Patheon moves global HQ to RTP, jobs to Durham

Some good news in tough economic times: Toronto-based contract pharmaceutical firm Patheon is moving its global headquarters to Durham and will additionally be setting up a research facility within Research Triangle Park.

The company, with more than 4,700 employees worldwide, will be adding at least 100 jobs from local hires according to a quote in the H-S this morning. Only a few executives are expected to relocate from Toronto, according to the N&O. Up to three sites in the Park are reportedly under consideration for the HQ operations while a site for the laboratory has been selected.

The laboratory is expected to open by the end of summer, and the headquarters by the end of the year.

Amusingly, while the H-S, WRAL, TBJ and even Patheon's own press release expressly note that the company has chosen "RTP and Durham" as the site of the relocation, the reporter for the Raleigh-based N&O, David Ranii, sticks to denoting this as a move to "the Triangle" -- and mentions the D-word only once in the article, when he runs a quote from the VP for economic development from the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce.