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July 2009

June 2009

Old Starlu digs becomes site for new restaurant Eden

Eden_logo_dm Durham Magazine's DM Blog broke the news last week that there's a new eatery set to open in the Shannon Rd. office building that housed the Restaurant Starlu before it shut down in late 2007.

On tap: Eden, described by DM's Matt Dees as offering "simple, fresh American cuisine using plenty of local ingredients." Renovations are reportedly well underway with a late-July opening planned.

Owner and executive chef Adam Smith was formerly a chef at George's Garage and spent the past five years as executive chef at Southpoint's Firebirds Rocky Mountain Grill before taking on this entrepreneurial opportunity.

Continue reading "Old Starlu digs becomes site for new restaurant Eden" »

BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for June 30, 2009

  • Just days after attorneys for the developers proposing a dense development off 751 near Fayetteville Rd. and developments like Chancellor's Ridge and Fairfield filed suit against Durham County over its decision to bring what they had thought was a settled matter of the critical watershed boundary impacting the project, the Haw River Assembly yesterday released their independent survey of the lake's boundaries. Their data finds the bottom level of a stream feeding Jordan Lake only dips below 200' above mean sea level about 6,200 ft upstream of where the developer's privately funded survey predicted -- data that could play out at August's planning commission discussion of the project. (H-S, Indy)
  • The N&O has a nice feature on Eric Stein, the longtime Self-Help COO and consumer advocate at the Center for Responsible Lending, who was tapped by the Obama administration to be a deputy assistant treasury secretary for consumer protection -- he'll play a key role in establishing the Federal government's new consumer protection agency. (N&O)
  • State House Rep. Paul Stam (R-Wake) has grumbled about a part of Durham's city charter that allows the City Council to set participation targets for minority- and women-owned businesses in city contracting. This year's Durham legislative agenda includes provisions to allow the city manager's office to be delegated greater contracting authority by Council, including over affirmative-action policies and over what dollar-amount threshold of contract would need to be reviewed by Council. Although Stam claimed the charter provision violated NC's state constitution, the H-S' analysis suggests any challenges over this matter are unlikely. (H-S)
  • Durham's M&F Bancorp became the third Triangle-based institution to apply for TARP funding, receiving an $11.7m capital infusion from the Federal government, with the historically black-owned bank noting it would be able to increase its lending with the help of the funds. (N&O)
  • The H-S profiles a new exhibit at the Nasher Museum at Duke: "Beyond Beauty" features photographs from Duke's special collections library. The exhibit of 80 original photographs opens Thursday. (H-S)

Win a sneak-peek of Durham's Cuban Revolution tomorrow night (first 20 readers)

The folks at Cuban Revolution, American Tobacco's newest restaurant, are opening their doors for the first time this Wednesday, July 1.

Well, sorta. A by-invitation-only sneak preview is set for Tuesday night. And BCR readers have a chance to get in on the action.

The team behind Cuban Revolution wants to give Bull City Rising readers a first chance to see the new establishment, which is opening its first eatery outside its home base of Providence, R.I.

The first twenty readers to RSVP via email to will be invited to a private "soft launch" of the restaurant tomorrow night. Join me and dozens of other folks from around Durham and the Triangle to take a sneak peek of Cuban Revolution. (Winners can bring one guest with them to the dinner.)

If you're one of the first twenty to respond, you'll get an email from the organizers letting you know. All slots taken -- thanks!

Good luck -- and good eating.

Rev. Whitley passes on Ward 2 race against Clement

For years, it's been easy to reach Harvard Ave. neighborhood activist and political mover the Rev. Mel Whitley -- with an email address of "," he's been one person East Durham residents and activists have turned to to tell their complaints.

Now it's Rev. Whitley doing the telling, this time about his decision not to seek the City Council this year in Ward 2, which covers much of east and southern Durham.

Candidate filing in the races for mayor and City Council begins on Monday, July 6 and runs through July 17. An announcement either way from Whitley has been expected.

Continue reading "Rev. Whitley passes on Ward 2 race against Clement" »

Durham's Amtrak station dedication set for July 10

Durhamstation_ext We at BCR have gotten early word on the opening date for the new Amtrak station, whose slippage from a June opening to July has been the buzz around town for some weeks now.

The current date: a July 10 dedication ceremony for the new station. The ceremony will be held at 2pm, according to the report from a faithful (and well-connected) BCR reader.

Besides being a far more attractive embarking and disembarking point than the double-wide modular unit "Amshack" across the tracks from rail service's new West Village home, the new station's interior also provides a nice recollection of Durham's history -- including a look at Durham's role as a home of the Piedmont blues (including a portrait of Blind Boy Fuller) and its rail-dependent past.

Fitting, since Durham's proximity to the N.C.R.R. corridor is one of the things that allowed the sleepy hamlet to become a booming late 19th/early 20th century metropolis, and since the American Tobacco Company's spur line running south from downtown is now the spine of one of the Triangle's most popular gateways.


Old Bull/Noell escape foreclosure proceedings, while N&O tells tale of Blue Devils Partners woes

The weekend brought a fair amount of news on the downtown development front; neither of the key stories in the Herald-Sun or the N&O brought the matter of next steps for American Tobacco's Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse outpost or the future of West Village to a conclusion, but each offered interesting nuggets of news on what's happening downtown.

First, and most importantly: this morning's scheduled auctioning-off of the Old Bull and Noell buildings at American Tobacco is off, the sheriff's office told the H-S' Monica Chen on Friday. The buildings had been slated for auction after contractor Code Electric, which was reportedly owed a six-figure debt for their work on the building, perfected a lien on the structures several weeks back.

All of which has been maddening we suspect to Capitol Broadcasting, which sunk tens of millions into American Tobacco with little real estate experience and delivered a high-quality, successful project, only to see the much more "experienced" national Struever Bros. stumble so badly at the part of ATC sold to them by the Goodmons several years back.

According to Chen's reporting, Downtown Durham Inc. has been working with others to try to find a better outcome than foreclosure for the Noell and Old Bull buildings, with DDI's Bill Kalkhof telling the H-S that "two local companies were interested in taking the two buildings off Struever's hands." One was Durham-based, one was not -- but Capitol Broadcasting apparently wasn't among the two developers.

Continue reading "Old Bull/Noell escape foreclosure proceedings, while N&O tells tale of Blue Devils Partners woes" »

BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for June 29, 2009

It's good to be back in the fish-wrap-up business, after a hectic Thursday/Friday at work and a weekend spent wrapping up some major work around the homestead. Some of the best of this weekend's papers:

  • A big problem for the new county courthouse site: Scarborough & Hargett, the historically-black funeral home whose new home off of Martin Luther King, Jr. Pkwy. in south Durham has seen construction at a halt since October. Owner "Skeepie" Scarborough blames bad soils and an old dump site on the property for making construction harder; county manager Mike Ruffin and his team fret that delays on getting the site prepped could hurt the county's chances at getting excellent recession pricing on a construction deal, and are offering the funeral home short-term, progress-linked lease renewals. Scarborough & Hargett is also looking at other commercial buildings as short-term homes while the construction struggles to resume. (H-S)
  • $2.2 million in Federal stimulus dollars for energy conservation will go to Durham, with the city using half for city facilities upgrades including LED lighting in parking decks and parks and add some solar water heaters to two fire stations; the remaining half of the funds go to residential energy efficiency improvements. Meanwhile, General Services is focusing on tightening energy use guidelines in advance of an expected big rate increase from Duke Energy. (H-S)
  • While facilities upgrades may be greener, though, they're sometimes not historically-appropriate -- something Durham Public Schools found out when it tried to replace the windows in its downtown Fuller St. complex, which (unbeknownst to DPS) falls within an historic district. City-County Planning stopped the contractor on the project in March after work started without a building permit; worse still, the windows selected didn't match those required in a March 2008 certificate of appropriateness obtained by the district, and the historic preservation commission blocked further work. The district now says it'll retool the windows to fit DPS's new application to be reviewed by the commission, though the project is already over-budget. (H-S)
  • Duke's recruitment of J. Lorand Matory to the university from Harvard to chair Duke's African and African-American Studies department sees Matory vowing to make the department the finest such in the world, with the help of additional new interdisciplinary faculty lines. (H-S)
  • A wild bear's been in the news all weekend, after the cub made outside-the-exhibits showings at the Museum of Life and Science; outside Durham Regional Hospital; and near Croasdaile. (N&O, WRAL)
  • A Federal stimulus program aimed at education could bring hundreds of millions of dollars for schools, but the US Dept. of Education -- whose chief Arne Duncan joins the Obama administration in its strong support for charter schools -- is signalling that the 50% of states like N.C. that cap the number of charter schools allowed risk being at a "strategic disadvantage" when applying for funding. (N&O)

No BCR updates today

Sorry, day job craziness yesterday and last night means no updates today. In the fishwraps, be sure to check out Ray Gronberg's account of the lawsuit filed against Durham County over the 751 assemblage.  (H-S)

We'll be back here Monday.

Because You Asked: When does the South Durham Lowe's open?

Bcr_mailbag First, a thank-you to the readers who wrote in with suggestions for our new "Because You Asked" feature. We've got folks working on tracking down the answer to a few of them.

The answer to one of them bounced in our lap, and so, hey, let's get it out there.

BCR reader Dottie wrote in to ask:

When will the new Lowe's on Martin Luther King, Jr. Parkway and [Fayetteville Rd.] open?

Well, we didn't end up doing too much sleuthing to find this one out; the answer actually turned up in a news story printed over at Triangle Business Journal:

Lowe’s will open one of its home improvement stores in south Durham by early August, adding 175 jobs to the area.

Construction of the 117,000-square-foot facility at the intersection of Fayetteville Road and Martin Luther King Parkway is largely complete. All that remains is for it to be stocked and employees hired.

So -- there you have it. Early August it is.

Have a Bull City question you've been itching to know the answer to? Write us at  --Ed.

The Beast, Nnenna Freelon release free EP "Catalyst" to benefit Durham Arts Council

A few weeks back, Durham-based, jazz-inspired hip hop group The Beast teamed up with Grammy-nominated jazz singer and Durham favorite daughter Nnenna Freelon for a live performance at Pure Sound Studios downtown to benefit the Durham Arts Council.

The Beast -- which includes emcee Pierce Freelon, daughter of Nnenna and renowned architect Phil Freelon -- has completed mixing the performance and have released it as an EP available for digital download.

It's their second EP, and it's free -- though an online donation to the Durham Arts Council is strongly encouraged. Get the album and make a donation from their web site.

The Beast is currently working on their feature-length first album release. More information on the group follows below the jump.

Continue reading "The Beast, Nnenna Freelon release free EP "Catalyst" to benefit Durham Arts Council" »