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July 2009

Durham Magazine, NRDC stories coincidentally highlight two sides of new high school debate

Dm_augsep_2009cover Amidst the usual ebb and flow of stories and articles in traditional publications and new media, two in particular struck me on Thursday as being ironically well-timed given the continuing debate over the proposed new high school in western Durham County.

The organizers of the opposition to the project are holding two tours of the proposed site next week for County leaders and members of the media. And here it just so happens that two different perspectives -- one national and one local, one eco-oriented and the other enmeshed in Durham's dark history of racial prejudice -- seem well-timed to inform the discussion.

The first piece: a blog post from the Natural Resources Defense Council's Kaid Benfield, the director of the NRDC's DC-based smart growth program, who got tipped off by a Durhamite to the proposed 50-acre Duke Forest site for a new high school in the Bull City.

Benfield's conclusion, after a back-and-forth with his correspondent? Nothing more than what many have been saying in the public discourse and the comments, since this whole discussion began: why, precisely, does it take a space one-half the size of the Magic Kingdom to build a high school for less than 2,000 students?

[A]ny example I brought up, old or new, wasn't applicable, in her opinion, to Durham.  What it came down to was that the authorities there really wanted a greenfield property, of around 50 acres or more so they could build, among other things, nine athletic fields on-site.  And R wanted an example of that in a nonsprawling location.  Basically, a sprawl site but somewhere other than in sprawl.

Are you kidding me?  If those are your criteria, you're going to build a large campus of parking lots and one-story buildings in an outlying location.  Those of us who care can't simply accept the authorities' current criteria: we have to muster the facts, examples, advocacy and, ultimately, public will to do things differently, and maybe even to conceive education differently, with being placed inside a community valued for the kids as well as for traffic and the environment.

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BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for July 31, 2009

  • The NC Division of Water Quality came out Monday favoring the surveying technique used by a private landowner in his survey of the 751 assemblage in South Durham that led to a request to change Jordan Lake's critical watershed boundary in a way favorable to the developer. According to DWQ, when the state surveyed Falls Lake, it chose the same method used by the developer's surveyor and "discouraged use" of the method picked by the Haw River Assembly. The HRA's Elaine Chiosso says in today's H-S that she doesn't disagree with the private survey's accuracy (a point that's been in contention by some project opponents), but that she still believes Jordan Lake water quality deterioration merits the most exacting, conservative standards. (H-S)
  • Students in NC Central's jazz studies program are gearing up for their performance next Saturday at the legendary Newport Jazz Festival, which one student noted is an "opportunity of a lifetime" that many musicians never get to experience. NCCU's Jazz Ensemble and Jazz Combo is going through its final tune-up before heading to Rhode Island. (H-S)
  • Mayors of the largest NC cities are meeting next week to think through how they might collaborate with businesses and other interests to oppose a bill in Congress that would essentially overturn the prohibition that North Carolina municipalities have on bargaining with labor unions. While the bill before Congress targets public-safety unions for fire and police staff, there's some fear on the part of elected officials and city managers that this could open the door to broader collective bargaining with local government employees. (H-S)
  • Most of Durham's private schools are seeing enrollments remaining fairly level for next year, save for a 15% decline in enrollment at Triangle Day School. (H-S)

Paul Pope retires today, ending long service at CBC, American Tobacco

Pope To hear those who know him tell tale of it, Paul Pope is probably just about the last person in the Triangle who'd want any fuss made over his retirement.

Which makes it all the more important for us here at BCR to tip our hat to this long-time player on the Durham and regional stage -- as one-time general manager of WRAZ Fox 50, and later serving as VP of community relations at Capitol Broadcasting and as GM over the American Tobacco Campus.

Pope, a corporate officer and member of the board of directors at CBC, has spent forty-two years with the broadcasting company that's still maintained its Raleigh family roots. He'll retire from his role at American Tobacco effective at the end of business today.

Not that Pope is likely to fall too far off the radar screen. Word has it that his near-term plans include assuming a trustee's seat for NC Central and helping to lead fund-raising efforts for the Eagles' athletics program -- while continuing along in a special-projects role for CBC.

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Bryan Gilmer brings novel "Felonious Jazz," real jazz to Regulator tonight

Felonious_jazz I'll be the first to admit I do a bad job covering all the great events happening at the Regulator on Ninth Street, but I couldn't let pass a chance to mention the new novel by my neighbor (and one-time Trinity Park traffic calming co-conspirator) Bryan Gilmer, whose newly released book "Felonious Jazz" has a regional theme of sorts to accompany the musical one so obvious from the title.

Gilmer will read from his book tonight at 7pm at the Regulator, accompanied by local jazz group Sawyer-Goldberg.

The jazz theme speaks to the villain in the story, a man looking to commit a record album's worth of felonies -- each crime linked back to a jazz composition, with the antagonist's targets turning into what Gilmer describes as "a twisted critique of life in the suburbs."

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Another real estate badmouthing of Durham -- it's time to call our Wake Co. friends on it

It's no secret that there've been mutterings for years about the perceptions of Durham that get painted by our friends and neighbors to the east in Wake County.

After all, studies of regional and national perceptions of Durham performed by the Durham Convention and Visitors' Bureau find that Durhamites quite like it here, and that nationally, Durham has a great reputation... except to the immediate east, where Wake residents have the lowest perception of the Bull City, an image painted by fears of crime and schools.

Those fears can become great cannon fodder in the home-pushing business, as folks relocating to the Triangle hear -- sometimes a whisper, sometimes a roar -- why they shouldn't live in Durham.

It's a notion many of us in Durham would take exception to. But it's a notion that drags on in the minds of many, including some of those in the Wake County real estate business who profit from attracting relocators to their neck of the Triangle.

The Indy looked at this a couple of years back, calling around to real estate agents under the guise of wanting to relocate to the Triangle, and recorded comments that were often hostile to the Bull City.

A local notable passed along the following correspondence to me the other day. At their request I'm keeping all the names involved mum, but it tells an all-too-common tale on what gets said about this city at times.

I had the privilege of sitting next to one of your new [staff at a local event.]  We had a delightful conversation until it turned to her purchase of her home. I am not sure who her real estate broker was, but she bought in Cary which is fine. There is, however, one problem. I asked her if she considered Durham and her response was that her Cary broker told her Durham was not the town for her since it was unsafe, infested with crime and had poor public schools....

I have been battling this stigmatizing of Durham for over 30 years. I thought that with the public acknowledgment of Durham's amazing overall progress, school improvement and reduction of crime that this would be put to rest. But alas, the distortions and mendacities about Durham continue.

Continue reading "Another real estate badmouthing of Durham -- it's time to call our Wake Co. friends on it" »

South Durham Lowe's opens Friday

Turns out the "by early August" date for Lowe's to open up in South Durham at Fayetteville and MLK Jr. Parkway was a literal term.

The H-S reported Wednesday that the home improvement superstore will open at 6 am on Friday, in advance of a grand opening ceremony on August 6.

Gift card purchases made at the store tomorrow (up to $5,000) will be matched by Mooresville, N.C.-based Lowe's towards a donation towards Durham Habitat for Humanity.

BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for July 30, 2009

  • As we noted in a Fishwrap a few days ago -- and as broken by the Triangle Tribune a couple of weeks ago -- Shaw University will in fact not be returning to Durham County Stadium this fall for its home football games, opting for Raleigh's Millbrook High instead. The news comes only a week or so after County officials said they still expected Shaw to return to Durham for this year's season. Shaw's interim AD tells the N&O: ""If we really try to engage the Raleigh community, it would be harder to engage them from in Durham... Raleigh is our home." (N&O)
  • The NC Turnpike Authority signed a contract yesterday with S.T. Wooten and Archer Western for the toll road highway; the Triangle Parkway will extend today's NC 147 Durham Freeway south through RTP (on land reserved for a half-century for the road) from I-40 to NC 540, then extend NC 540 all the way to Apex/Holly Springs near US 1. Surveyors will be on-site today and construction begins mid-August on the RTP section, the so-called Triangle Parkway; the road will be America's first all-electronic toll road, cash-free, with cameras grabbing your license plate and billing you that way if you lack a transponder. (N&O)
  • Hotel stays are down 14.4% in Durham year to date; business travel has been hardest hit by economic conditions, with the DCVB's Reyn Bowman attributing that to structural changes that have caused declines in business travel for some time. Durham's drop was greater than the 8% decline in room sales that's the national average. Leisure travel hasn't been impacted to the same extent. (H-S)
  • Durham wasn't selected for a share of $40 million in stimulus-funded police positions going to NC from the Federal government -- though since the positions they would have funded sat unfilled all last budget year, the hopes weren't high among City officials that Durham would qualify anyway. Durham has received some other law enforcement funding from stimulus dollars. (H-S)
  • A Teach For America veteran who became a "regional and national officer" in the organization is taking the helm at Maureen Joy Charter School in Durham as its new principal. (H-S)
  • South Durham's 11-12 y/o Little Leaguers fell in their championship play-in game against Charlotte's Coulwood-Oakdale team, ending their bid for the state title -- but the South Durham 15-16 year olds won the state title yesterday over Roxboro and will head to Florida for a chance at a berth at the senior Little League series in Bangor, Maine. (H-S)
  • Local Republican political activist Charlotte Woods saw charges against her dropped by her son, who had earlier accused the public meeting and op-ed page regular of stealing $2,000 in coins from him. (H-S)

Rumor mill: Bakatsias finds home for George's Garage replacement?

This one is strictly from the fanned flames of the rumor mill, folks -- but we've got good reason to believe this particular nugget to be pretty accurate, so I'm running with it.

G_garage It's been almost a month since George's Garage left its old site at the corner of Hillsborough Rd. and Ninth St., but the question on most Durhamites' mind has been, just where would serial restaurateur George Bakatsias look to find new digs in the Bull City -- something he promised he'd be doing when he announced the closure of the beloved George's, whose lease had run out?

While there's no confirmation, a BCR source suggests that Bakatsias has, in fact, found his new digs.

If the rumors are right, Bakatsias will be moving closer to downtown; an energetic walker could get there in a good 25-30 minutes or so from the old Ninth Street locale.

By all accounts, it should be a posh place for having dinner or a glass of wine once Bakatsias ends up opening the new site, though we'll all have to stew for a bit barring any official announcement.

We'll report back more when we have fuller details to share since this is, of course, mainly rumors for now. (Assuming some enterprising reader doesn't figure this one out.)

Update: OK, since Michael Bacon picked this one off almost as soon as I published it, something I kind of intended with the puns above:

Rumor has it that Bakatsias has been spotted spending a lot of time in the central bay of West Village's Walker Warehouse, looking at the space slotted between the West End Wine Bar and the new Amtrak station -- and that the space in question has just disappeared off the leasing market, purportedly to become the new home for a restaurant that recently closed.

Downtown creatives break out mallets, balls for First Annual Downtown Croquet tourney

Okbracket3 It was kinda surreal, walking around downtown at lunch today on an errand, only to find a group of perhaps twenty out and about on the grassy site that once held the Woolworth drugstore downtown -- playing croquet along the green wall at the east end of the site.

One of those funky Durham moments you see and kinda wonder, huh, I wonder what that's about?

Turns out it's no accident. It is, in fact, the First Annual Downtown Croquet Tournament, a brainchild it seems of downtown's Flywheel Design studio and well-documented on their blog OK Great. Sez the folks at Flywheel:

The tournament, crafted to encourage creative companies within the downtown area to get out of the office and meet other local creatives, began on Monday and will end Friday with playoff games and a trophy ceremony for the winning team.  Teams of four from Flywheel Design, Fullsteam, Baldwin&, the Durham Performing Arts Center, IAVO Research and Scientific, Original Projects and Ignite Social Media are competing in the tournament.

So far, Fullsteam Brewery has moved on to the second round, along with IAVO R&S (by forfeit against Ogilvy Durham) and the (ringers?) at Flywheel Design.

Check out some of the competition to date. And take note, croquet watchers: Friday's grand finale is apparently moving to the lawn outside the DPAC. The winners should totally get to dance on the Plensa flashlight.


Warehouse Blues series underway at West Village

The American Dance Festival has packed up for the season -- its season shortened by one week due to declining philanthropy, WRAL notes, though ticket sales have been up, perhaps due to the presence of the DPAC in the mix? -- but you're not at a loss for downtown summer entertainment just yet.

Downtown's Warehouse Blues series kicked off this past Friday; a partnership between Durham Parks & Rec, the Music Maker Relief Foundation, and West Village, the series brings the blues downtown with summertime Friday concerts from 6-8 pm in a courtyard off Morgan St. at the renovated tobacco factories.

The remaining performances for this summer include:

  • July 31: Drink Small with Profit and Sandridge
  • August 7: John Dee Holeman with Abe Reid and Jake Hollifield
  • August 14: Adolphus Bell and Dr. Burt
  • August 21: Mudcat
  • August 28: Boo Hanks and George Higgs
  • September 4: Cool John Ferguson