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March 2009

Bull City's urban core to be featured in "Main Street"

The Durham Convention and Visitor's Bureau yesterday released a tentative shooting schedule for the filming of "Main Street," starring Orlando Bloom, Andrew McCarthy, Ellen Burstyn, Patricia Clarkson, and Colin Firth.

The movie is currently set to film from April 6 through early May in the Bull City, including interior and exterior shooting at almost a dozen different sites in Durham, culminating with a multi-night shoot at the intersection of the Durham Freeway and Roxboro Rd.

Much of the filming will be centered around 206 N. Dillard St., just east of the downtown library and WTVD ABC 11's studios. If that address sounds familiar, it's because it's the listed address of the offices of the Durham Rape Crisis Center. Though from the work going on there Monday after 5pm, it looks like the building is finding at least a temporary new purpose as a movie set:


Crews were there working on the building Monday, cordoning off part of the porch, with a large trailer in the building's parking lot filled with what looked to be lighting and set equipment:


Continue reading "Bull City's urban core to be featured in "Main Street"" »

BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for March 31, 2009

  • The Indy is reporting that a Charlottesville, Va.-based environmental advocacy group has released its own opinion on the Jordan Lake boundary fracas, citing NASA/NOAA-created LiDAR studies commissioned for flood-plain purposes. The Southern Environmental Law Center's reading of the studies, though noting that they cannot substitute for a ground-based survey such as the controversially developer-funded one currently in play, finds Jordan Lake's edges could actually be larger, not smaller, than 1970s USGS maps claim. (Indy Triangulator)
  • According to the H-S, Duke exec VP Tallman Trask has confirmed the university would plan to install parking gates akin to those in place in other parking lots at the new lots to emerge under the university's plan to close Sumter St. and Maxwell Ave., citing security and vehicle thefts according to City Councilfolk Diane Catotti and Eugene Brown. It represents a change from the position that "a Duke-hired architect" took in a December meeting. Meantime, Catotti has asked city attorney for a ruling as to whether her husband's interim leadership of Duke's parking and transportation division creates a conflict of interest. (H-S #1, #2)
  • The 2011 bond date we talked about for the downtown main library branch renovations is still on, which now gives the renovation a projected completion date of early 2013. The renovations will still add a few thousand sq. ft. of space and add more natural light, a fix-up of the wacky central stairs, an enlarged North Carolina Collection, twice the number of computers, more seating and a modern layout. Meanwhile, although construction and renovation of the South and Southwest branch libraries, respectively, continues, "severe budget cuts" or delays in the building work could delay spring '10 opening dates. Staff will likely be re-assigned from existing North and East Durham branch libraries to help staff the new branches. (H-S)
  • The future of the Lyon Park community center is up for a fresh look after a church-affiliated non-profit that got the structure from the County for $24 fifteen years ago is now asking the City for $35 per sq. ft. as rent for Parks & Rec's 5,100 sq. ft. facility there. (By comparison, office space in American Tobacco leases for less than $30/sq. ft.) The move comes on the heels of the City having stepped in to spend $7 million to renovate the facility. The City and the non-profit are jointly managing the space until 2011, at which time the building is supposed to revert to Calvary Ministries. (H-S)
  • Duke's Human Rights Center, part of the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute, is launching an initiative to take a closer look at Durham's racially-infused past, with a focus on the work of pioneering African-American Pauli Murray, who lived a good portion of her childhood in Durham. The partially grant-funded center will also make recommendations that could shape plans for a future county history museum in Durham. (H-S)
  • The site of now-closed Pizza Palace on Guess Rd. now has signs heralding the arrival of the "Backyard BBQ Pit," which Carpe Durham notes is also the name of an eatery on NC 55 -- no word whether they're related, though. (Carpe Durham)

Burt's Bees could move downtown to American Tobacco, pending incentives

Looks like the rumors were true: Personal care products maker and longtime Triangle corporate citizen Burt's Bees is on the verge of moving downtown, to American Tobacco, from their current perch on the Durham-Wake border at Keystone in the midst of RTP.

The H-S' Monica Chen has a very good and detailed look at the news, which first popped up in the public record late Monday, via the April 6 City Council agenda.

Chen reports that the Hill Building -- currently the home of mobile content provider Motricity, which is in the midst of moving to Washington state -- would be Burt's Bees new site. BCR understands that Burt's Bees could potentially lease the entirety of the building, only half of which was occupied by Motricity; the firm would start in the existing footprint and expand over time.

The Hill Building has been rumored to be under scrutiny for other relocating firms before; last fall, a deal to relocate from offices in Cary to downtown Durham -- in what was rumored to be a Hill Building play, though unconfirmed by the company -- fell through.

DDI's Bill Kalkhof tells the Herald-Sun that Burt's Bees, now a division of Clorox, has weighed expanding at its current site, or relocating to Wake County's Perimeter Park, which we believe is in Morrisville, if American Tobacco isn't an option.

Interim director of Durham's Office of Economic and Workforce Development Kevin Dick notes in his memo that the firm has applied to Durham for $183,750 in economic development incentives. (We presume that this has been the subject of the two recent City Council closed sessions on economic development.)

Continue reading "Burt's Bees could move downtown to American Tobacco, pending incentives" »

In Durham, sidewalks are required – except when they aren’t

Project_sw-21 The Watts-Hillandale neighborhood listserv has recently been chattering over the appearance of corner curb cuts, those downward-sloping transitions from street to sidewalk that allow easier access for the mobility-challenged to use the walkways.

Not that folks aren’t supportive of the idea of more accessibility, we suspect; instead, they were curious why these presumably-pricy features were being added in particular areas where, say, a sidewalk disappears mid-block – or where there’s barely any sidewalk at all on that block.

City Councilman Mike Woodard addressed the matter, which comes down to a predictably simple motivator: the settlement between the U.S. Department of Justice and Durham over Americans with Disabilities Act compliance:

[The] curb ramps we've seen at Woodrow and Carolina, as well as other places near WHH, are a requirement of a judicial order for ADA compliance that was issued to the City. Every intersection that has curb and a sidewalk must have a ramp, no exceptions, even if the sidewalk appears to go nowhere or end mid-block.

It doesn't make sense to me, but the order is very clear on this point and has been reaffirmed by the feds. Seth [Vidal] is correct that this order was the result of a law suit against the City for non-compliance. But Durham has not been alone in this, as many other cities in the region and across the country are working under similar orders.

Of course, legal orders aside, the City has been generally encouraging of sidewalks being added in new development; retrofitting areas with sidewalks is challenging, with the DurhamWALKS! plan from a few years back specifying high-priority corridors throughout the Bull City, but with dollars scarce to make progress on the plan.

Quint_nosidewalk Thus, the importance of mandating that developers build sidewalks along public rights-of-way when a new site is developed; even when they’re not developing anything except sidewalks to nowhere.

(When BCR's editor volunteered with Habitat for Humanity a couple of years back, the non-profit was required to develop a slice of sidewalk along Junction Rd., an expense in the tens of thousands of dollars; theirs is the only slab of concrete sidewalk anywhere between Cheek Rd. and NC 98.)

All of which makes it ironic that one of the Bull City’s celebrated new developments, the massive Quintiles headquarters on Page Rd. off I-40 in the Imperial Center, didn’t have to build useful sidewalks connecting to the rest of the fast-growing development. And what pedestrian connections they were required to build didn’t have to accommodate wheelchairs.

Continue reading "In Durham, sidewalks are required – except when they aren’t" »

BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for March 30, 2009

One of the more interesting matters in the H-S over the past few days has been its welcome look at Southern High, a secondary school that's ranked at the bad end of the state's list of troubled high schools. As the H-S' Laura Collins has noted in her series, the picture is complex, and challenging -- and kudos to the H-S for devoting a three-day series to delve into the matter. Many of the issues of socio-economics raised in the series are among the same ones we've been beating the drums about at BCR for some time; more on this in the days to come here at BCR.

In other news:

  • UNC's School of Government has weighed in as an outside commenter on the matter of a developer's requested Jordan Lake boundary changes in South Durham. County attorney Chuck Kitchen has interpreted the memo as having supported his position that public hearings and action by elected officials is necessary; attorneys for the developer, on the other hand, note that the parcel in question has always been more than one mile from Jordan Lake, and that the County's maps were erroneous. Despite the Easter holiday, April 13 remains the date for a public hearing by the BOCC on the matter. (Interested readers will want to review the memo for themselves: Download Memo-UNC-LakeBoundaries) (H-S)
  • Tom Bonfield is holding off on filling the third leg of his direct reports, a deputy city manager over community-oriented departments to be a peer to Wanda Page and Ted Voorhees, due to budgetary constraints. However, he's moving forward with a replacement for Alan DeLisle at the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, with interviews starting in April. (H-S)
  • As expected by some pols, billboard supporters are framing the lack of a unanimous vote at INC last week against changes in Durham's billboard ordinances as a positive sign -- although, according to our tally last week, Old North Durham was the only neighborhood to abstain for any reason except (presumably) conflict of interest. Meantime, the matter will next go before Durham Businesses Against Crime on Tuesday morning. (H-S)
  • How many Durhamites want to be extras in the movie "Main Street?" According to the H-S, 400 souls showed up at a South Durham hotel on Saturday to get their chance at a glimpse on the silver screen. A casting director for the movie noted that filming should wrap by May. (H-S)
  • Not a fan of plastic grocery bags? Wake Co. state Rep. Josh Stein isn't, having seen them litter the sides of roads. He's introduced a bill to ban their use at major retailers except for limited uses for meats, fish and produce. (N&O)

Main St. to be detoured from Duke to Ramseur for 45 days due to streetscape work

Durhamite friends, did you miss that feeling of road construction we had downtown a couple of years back? That feeling that everything could be new and revitalized again, if only we dug up the asphalt and shunted everybody around onto different streets for a while?

Then take heart: it's back!

We haven't seen a press release on it -- so it's possible the schedule has slipped -- but according to the City's project page for the West Village streetscape effort:

Main Street between Ramseur and Duke streets will be detoured to through traffic starting Monday, March 30 for 45 days. Local traffic only will be maintained. The closing is needed to allow the contractor to install the underground vaults for the new power infrastructure....

The contractor will maintain traffic throughout construction when it can be safely maintained; however at times traffic will have to be detoured. When the contractor is installing the underground power vaults, the traffic will have to be switched to local traffic only or detoured for a period of time, due to the size and location of the vaults.

Lousy timing for West End Wine Bar, which is set to open sometime in early April at last report -- though local traffic will always be allowed through, here's hoping this new addition to downtown avoids the headaches that plagued some of the businesses in the City Center district while street rehab work was underway there in '06-'07.

Parker & Otis celebrates namesake pet's 12th birthday with celebration today

Otis_bw We at BCR are fans of the good folks over at Parker & Otis, who let us know that today is the 12th birthday of Otis -- the pooch whose name graces half of the downtown foodies stop's name. It's "PandO-monium" as a result, with discounts from 12%-50% across their departments (wine, chocolate, candy, coffee, tea, gourmet foods, and beer.)

A number of P&O's suppliers, including Centerba Selections, Fat Tire Beer, Stonewall Kitchen, and The Haw River Wine Man will be around during the day to help with the celebration. Free wine tastings and gourmet food demos will be happening throughout the day to boot.

P&O is located in Peabody Place at 112 S. Duke St., and is open 7:30 am - 7:00 pm on Saturdays.

Reitzer joins Durham's General Services as new department director

The long-vacant director position over General Services has now been filled -- with an architect who's got plenty of years' experience in municipal construction management filling the slot.

Durham's General Services department is allocated 136 FTEs this budget year; the department's responsibilities range from facilities and landscape maintenance, to urban forestry, to project management and real estate, to cemetery maintenance. The group carries a $13 million budget line item in this year's allocation.

Former director Mark Greenspan left the position in '07, taking a job with construction firm Skanska shortly after the City moved forward with a construction manager at risk strategy for the DPAC and other major construction projects in recent years -- an issue that became a point of heat but little light in Thomas Stith's candidacy for mayor that year, as the N&O pointed out two years back. Chris Boyer has been runnign the department on an interim basis since then.

Joel Reitzer comes to Durham after a number of years spent working in Florida, including Jacksonville and Orlando. Articles from the (Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union show he was embroiled in a difficult and wildly over-budget, over-schedule county courthouse construction project, though as Ray Gronberg notes in the H-S today, it looks like the problems with that project came before he became involved.

Continue reading "Reitzer joins Durham's General Services as new department director" »

ADF comes to DPAC, Golden Belt this year

It's official: the American Dance Festival is moving its largest performances from Duke's outdated, outmoded Page Auditorium to the Durham Performing Arts Center.

While many productions will still be housed at Duke's Reynolds Industries Theater and (according to the H-S) at Baldwin Auditorium on East Campus, the move to DPAC brings the signature dance festival to a downtown facility funded with the help of the university, and intended from its early days to support the Duke-housed annual summer festival.

Also new this year: Golden Belt gets into the act, hosting a single performance. The ADF's release notes that one additional "Triangle" venue will also play home to one dance performance.

This year's inaugural performance, to be housed in the DPAC, will feature Shen Wei's arts company, which contributed memorable works to last summer's Olympic Games in Beijing.

From the ADF web site:

Focusing on the impact each dance form has had in the development of current artistic expression, the eclectic works presented will look at the boundaries that do or do not exist between the two. Many of the modern choreographers represented this season – Paul Taylor, Twyla Tharp, Laura Dean, Ohad Naharin, Mark Morris, and Shen Wei – have choreographed works for some of the world’s top ballet companies. Similarly, ballet choreographers such as William Forsythe have also influenced the modern dance world. Festival audiences will get a taste of this most intriguing intersection of forms at the ADF this summer. The 2009 Festival will also feature commissioned World Premieres from Festival favorites Shen Wei Dance Arts, Pilobolus, and new to the ADF, Faye Driscoll and H. Art Chaos. In addition, a mini-festival of works by Israeli choreographers, reconstructed works by Laura Dean and Twyla Tharp, recent work by Miami-based Rosie Herrera, and two site-specific, community-based projects choreographed by long-time Festival participant Mark Dendy will complement the many dance-related opportunities available at the ADF this summer.

Tickets to ADF go on sale on May 11 through Duke's ticket office and the DPAC.

BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for March 27, 2009

  • An estimated 300 IBMers in RTP lost their jobs Thursday as part of a euphemistic "resource action" by Big Blue, which yesterday laid off as many as 5,000 workers in the US. Most of the jobs are moving to lower-cost countries in Asia and other parts of the globe. IBM retains 10,000 staff in RTP, a drop from 14,000 in the late '90s; a IBM employee organization estimates that less than a tenth of the 40,000-plus IBMers expected to be hired this year will work in the US. (H-S, WRAL)
  • That idea from earlier last week, about getting Orange and Chatham's support for a compromise position on Jordan Lake rules? It received, in the words of the inimitable Ray Gronberg, "the coldest of cold shoulders" at a joint Orange-Durham Co. leaders' meeting. According to the H-S, Durham's push to use the very same Jordan Lake as the key to a future regional water supply, coupled with grumbling over the BOCC's map actions on Jordan Lake, seem to have played part of the factor. Another issue: concern that the General Assembly is already so bent on weakening the rules that they need no help to find a compromise position. (H-S)
  • A celebration of John Hope Franklin's life will be held at Duke on June 11, his wedding anniversary, in place of a funeral, an idea the renowned historian eschewed. President Obama also commented Wednesday on Franklin's place in American academe and society. (H-S)
  • Duke's men's basketball team took what was positively a shellacking last night in Beantown, getting drubbed by Villanova 77-54 -- just days after the Blue Devils' women's team was also unceremoniously booted from the Final Four. (WRAL)
  • Durham is set to receive $2.2m in federal stimulus dollars targeted to energy conservation programs, which the H-S notes could go to fund projects like improved recycling, extra energy-efficiency for buildings, and so forth. (H-S)
  • Joel Reitzer starts soon as the new director of the City's General Services department. More on his hire later today at BCR. (H-S)