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August 2009

Hotel Indigo brings its shade of boutique hotel to RTP area

It's hard to tell if indigo is closer to blue or violet... though in the Triangle market, InterContinental Hotels Group may just find out that only two shades of blue really matter.

Yes, Durham's Hotel Indigo, the new boutique hotel concept from IHG -- the corporate entity behind hospitality properties ranging from Holiday Inn to Crowne Plaza to InterContinental brand legends like the Willard Hotel in DC -- has opened its first North Carolina hotel.

The property is just east of Miami Blvd. south of I-40.

The first Hotel Indigo arrived in Atlanta just five years ago, and has spread to a couple of dozen cities in the US and internationally since its launch. The concept features a boutique-style room experience, from hardwood floors with area rugs to art and design/furnishing elements that change frequently to keep the space fresh.

Described by USA Today as appealing to "the mid-market traveler willing to pay a bit more for higher style than that typically found in cookie-cutter hotel rooms," Hotel Indigo is a relatively affordable alternative to mid-priced hotels and boutiques alike.

(No word whether this Hotel Indigo -- built from the ground up for the brand, versus the historic building conversions seen in some of their Atlanta and Chicago early efforts -- has larger guestrooms and bathrooms than the pilot properties.)

Asheville is next up, though the WNC version of the Hotel Indigo will feature million-dollar residential units on the top floor. Charlotte, Winston-Salem and Wilmington are also in line for the brand.

Here's hoping there's no blue (or violet) feelings on the part of the brand licensee, since the current recessionary period is a tough time to launch a new hotel -- though with a location near the airport, I-40 and RTP, it's hard to imagine a better launching pad.

Keith Chadwell to be named Durham's new deputy city manager

Kchadwell Looks like the three-legged tripod that is Durham's new deputy city manager structure will be a bit less wobbly.

BCR learned this afternoon that Keith Chadwell has been hired as Durham's new deputy city manager for community building, overseeing a range of departments that -- as of the FY10 budget package -- includes the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, planning and inspections, Neighborhood Improvement Services, Community Development, and the Human Relations Commission function.

The new hire, who'll report directly to city manager Tom Bonfield, is reportedly set to start in mid-September.

Chadwell is a nearly thirty-year veteran of public-sector service, his most recent post being a two-year stint (out of a five year contract) as the city manager in Pompano Beach, Florida.

Before the south Florida gig, Chadwell worked for almost seven years as deputy county manager in Fulton County, Ga.; in the core metro Atlanta county, he oversaw a range of functions including social services, housing and the library system.

Before that, he briefly served as COO for Washington, DC's department of human services, after another seven-year stint as regional director for Virginia's social services department.

Chadwell's most recent stint running Pompano Beach was reportedly rocky, with the career public servant resigning under fire -- though managing in cash-starved Florida municipalities can be tricky (something ex-Pensacola city manager Tom Bonfield may have found in comparison to his current stint running Durham's city government.)

Continue reading "Keith Chadwell to be named Durham's new deputy city manager" »

From BCR's WTF department: "Keep Durham Out of Carrboro?"

Update: The owner of Open Eye Café writes in the comments that this sticker was never authorized by his business and is an unauthorized use of his business' logo. More in the comments.

Look, we're used to a relatively friendly détente with our friends down in Carrboro and Chapel Hill.

Sure, there've been some uneasy moments in our relationship, like when it was rumored that one of our downtown developers tried to steal part or all of the Cat's Cradle from the funky town nestled against Chapel Hill. Or when Carrboro mayor Mark Chilton fought new water draws from Jordan Lake unless Durham passed growth restrictions mirroring those in his town and Chapel Hill.

On the Durham side, folks sometimes grouse about both of our Orange County neighbors' failure to provide sufficient affordable housing or even market rate housing -- something that has, frankly, driven residential growth in the Bull City. (Given how much tax revenue Durham gets because Southpoint had to get built on our side of the county divide, though, we shouldn't complain too loudly, perhaps.)

We complain too over our supposed comrades-in-progressiveness blaming all their crime issues on the Bull City -- from the snipes on Durham gangs' presence leading Chapel Hillians to cancel the Apple Chill festival, to the rather appalling rumor last year that law enforcement officers to our south reportedly described the target of their investigation into the death of UNC president Eve Carson as TOD -- a code word for "Thug Out of Durham," we heard at the time.

And we've gotten our digs in, too -- like when the president of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce's president bemoaned the loss of his towns' perceived "coolness" to the Bull City, saying it "kills [him] every time" he hears a WUNC 91.5 FM call sign coming from the American Tobacco Historic District in downtown Durham.

Still, we're all friends, right? Hey, we like transit. And basketball -- even if we cheer for different teams much of the time. And we're all about food co-ops -- Weaver Street Market was an offshoot of the recently-deceased Durham Food Coop retail store's success, and now the new Durham Central Market is drawing inspiration from Weaver Street.

Plus: what could be wrong with a town that gave us Tyler's Taproom -- a town that, like Durham, sprouted up around the interesting confluence of rail lines and manufacturing in the post-Civil War era?

Which is why we were shocked, shocked, to get this photo in the inbox at BCR:


Continue reading "From BCR's WTF department: "Keep Durham Out of Carrboro?"" »

BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for August 31, 2009

At this writing, it's 7am on the last day of August. The skies are darker than they were a couple of months ago at this time, and a chill's in the air as the rain comes down on the tin roof of our screened back porch. Can there be any doubt that September starts tomorrow?

In the headlines:

  • The H-S' latest reporting on the transit-tax referendum finds Triangle Transit's David King and the executive director of the Regional Transportation Alliance, Joe Milazzo, both skeptical that a transit tax referendum would be held sooner than fall 2011. Complicating matters: the September 1 start of the statewide temporary 1 cent sales tax increase, which doesn't sunset until July 2011 -- and the possibility of high conservative turnout in the fall 2010 election cycle. (H-S)
  • Having problems here and there with your recycling pickup? Durham solid waste director Donald Long tells the H-S that's because 89% of households are taking their recycling roll-cart to the curb on their pickup day, versus 55% under the old system -- and 65-70% projected by city staff when planning the routes. Meanwhile, all four companies at play for a shared-risk, shared-return contract to market the city's recyclables have indicated they're interested in the mayor's proposed two-year deal that would essentially give recycling collections to one vendor for free to process, with the city getting no revenue share but also no risk of losses at a time of recycling market upheaval. (H-S)
  • The H-S also digs deeper into the Hermitage Court sidewalk issues that got some attention here on Saturday. Among the new findings: the City's ramps, which have seemed excessive to local residents and City Councilman Eugene Brown, are actually designed in accordance with a 1973 state statute that's stricter than the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, and which does seem -- by city staff's interpretation -- to lead to what seems, on a quiet oval street, to be an oddly persistent set of curb cuts. (H-S)
  • Howard Clement tells the H-S that he's not dropping out of the race -- "Not by a long shot," he tells the H-S' Ray Gronberg -- despite the suggestion by challenger Darius Little that he withdraw and pass the mantle of endorsement to the 29 year-old challenger. (H-S)
  • Durham's unemployment rate remained steady at 8.4% from June to July; coastal counties Currituck and Hyde saw the lowest unemployment thanks to seasonal summer jobs. A Wells Fargo economist tells the press that major layoffs seem to have slowed and that the recession looks over, but job recovery will be a long time coming. (H-S)

Public Works delivers crapload o' curb cuts to one baffled Forest Hills street

IMG_0477 We're not sure which beleaguered B-leaguer in City Hall is in the line of fire for this call, but it's one that's drawing some ire from Forest Hills residents and at least one elected official alike -- though it's a call city staff are saying, so far at least, they're powerless to change.

Forest Hiils' tony Hermitage Court has received a passel of curb cuts along the circular street just off the old golf course that is now Forest Hills park.

At least nine curb cuts and access ramps have been installed, all providing accessibility to wheelchairs... with some wide enough to make one wonder if wheelchairs are now coming in double-width varieties. (One is reportedly 17 feet wide.)

The curb cuts come despite the regular and repeated presence of driveway curb cuts plenty wide to provide wheelchair accessibility, and available on the circle's interior and exterior edges. But city staff are saying that the law doesn't permit those to be used in place of shiny new curb cuts.

And they're all located within a relatively small section of the neighborhood, one which already has relatively walkable streets -- and where residents say there's not the need for more than a small number of these devices.

It's an issue that has City Councilman Eugene Brown and deputy city manager Ted Voorhees spinning right round and round.

Continue reading "Public Works delivers crapload o' curb cuts to one baffled Forest Hills street" »

School board's Davis: I'd have voted for Erwin-Cornwallis

The N&O's Sadia Latifi has been a nice addition to the N&O's newsroom, picking up (among other things) the education beat for the western half of the Triangle. (Interestingly, this means that both of the reporters covering the Durham Public Schools beat have connections with Columbia -- Latifi as a 2009 grad of the undergraduate program, and the Herald-Sun's Matt "Snapper" Milliken as a Columbia J-school grad.)

And she had an intriguing pick-up late in last night's school board meeting on the subject of the controversial Erwin-Cornwallis site that had been under consideration for a high school until the administration pulled it off the table.

School board member Frederick Davis -- who's not unwilling to cut against political winds on issues, as his response to Durham CAN on their schools agenda a few months ago demonstrated -- had a verbal rebuke of sorts for the thank-you given the district by Erwin-Cornwallis Organization leader Elizabeth Vigdor for the removal of the Duke Forest site from consideration, and to the board for engaging with residents on the issue:

You heard some representatives from the Erwin Road-Cornwallis group thank us for making a decision with the support of the administration. I want to go on record that I didn’t make a decision to support the administration.

The administration, in their own rights and responsibilities, made that decision and for the record, if it had been brought to my action, I would have voted for that property. Because one of these days, the citizenry of Durham is going to have to bite the bullet and make sure that we have schools in Durham County that’s going to reach the total community.

Read more at Latifi's Bulls Eye blog entry.

BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for August 28, 2009

It a schools-heavy edition of the Fishwrap today, thanks to a busy school board meeting last night:

  • The Herald-Sun and N&O both cover the ongoing dispute over the Reading Street program, which has created anger among some teachers and parents, while DPS and its superintendent Carl Harris say that there's been a "communications breakdown" and that the district would never knowingly limit the amount of instruction or level of proficiency among students. The board also debated a curricular policy calling for "empowering principals and teachers," though board member Leigh Bordley called for a stronger policy for teacher inclusion in DPS decisions -- an inclusion that board member Steve Martin said already happens. (H-S, N&O)
  • A 33-acre site in the Hope Valley Farms neighborhood between MLK Jr. Pkwy. and 751 is slated to become the site of a new DPS elementary school, with the school board voting unanimously to acquire the $1.9 million site. (H-S)
  • The availability of child care options downtown was the subject of a gathering of local leaders at the Durham Chamber yesterday; the nearly two-dozen local leaders discussed the growing need for day care and early childhood education centers to support a growing population of residents and employees downtown. (H-S)
  • Gov. Perdue signed the local-option transit tax into law yesterday. As the H-S' Ray Gronberg points out, it's an issue that has the support of all the incumbents running for City offices this fall -- and the opposition, or desire to delay, among almost all challengers. (H-S)

DPS responds on Reading Street parental complaints

Durham Public Schools has provided a public response to the questions over the Reading Street that emanated from parents and appeared here yesterday at BCR and this morning at the N&O.

A statement from Stacey Wilson-Norman, assistant superintendent of elementary curriculum and instruction, appears below and beyond the jump. As promised in yesterday's story, we're providing their response in full.

A Q&A on the program provided by DPS and forwarded from school board member Kirsten Kainz is also available: Download Questions-Answers-DPS-Reading-Street

In 2008-09 Durham Public Schools brought in three national reading experts to conduct a literacy audit of programs and practices to provide guidance to us in improving student achievement in reading. The audit found issues in vocabulary, fluency and comprehension.  Following the audit, DPS principals formed a task force to review the audit findings and develop priorities for literacy.  These steps were taken because reading data for our elementary schools clearly show that all students must be taught the state’s reading standards.
Principals identified needs for more time on task and improvements in classroom instruction in literacy.
In 2006, DPS adopted the Reading Street comprehensive reading instruction program during the five-year textbook adoption cycle.  (Note: some have confused Reading Street with Reading First--Reading First is the federal program that is in four of our schools.)

Continue reading "DPS responds on Reading Street parental complaints" »

Two non-profits get very different reactions to Cleveland-Holloway proposals

Ch2 Tuesday night's meeting of the still-young Cleveland-Holloway Neighborhood Association was consumed by two very different proposals from two very different non-profits with eyes on projects in the north-of-downtown 'hood.

Non-profit landowners are a sensitive subject in general for many in the rapidly-changing neighborhood, which has argued that it bears a disproportionate volume of social services, group homes and the like. The 'hood successfully fought the City over a proposed transfer of property to become a lockdown facility for young persons with behavioral difficulties -- even as many in the neighborhood have also started to complain, quietly and publicly, over what they say is a push for gentrification driven by what they deem to be real estate interests.

That background helps to explain why the two non-profits got very different reactions on Tuesday. One was well-received; the other was, well, "received."

The former was met with a range of questions, some unanswered, but by a round of at least moderate applause at presentation's end; the latter, with a threat from one prominent community member to turn three properties she controls into homeless shelters if group homes keep sprouting up in C-H.

Did we mention this was a lively meeting?

Tuesday night was a chance for residents to hear the promises of Builders of Hope, a non-profit focused on mixed-income affordable and market rate housing that says it wants to improve the neighborhood and offer workforce-class housing -- and those of Carolina Outreach Foundation, which has bought a house on Queen St. to use as a transitional home for at-risk youth with family or housing risks.

You can figure out which one got which reception.

Continue reading "Two non-profits get very different reactions to Cleveland-Holloway proposals" »

BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for August 27, 2009

Before we start the fishwrap this morning, I noticed when looking at the calendar that yesterday marked the three year anniversary of Bull City Rising. Thanks to all the readers, commenters, and advertisers who've supported the site's growth and direction.

In the news:

  • The H-S and N&O both take a look at the Duke University Hospital's expansion for its new patient care pavilion and cancer care center. The N&O's report in particular is quite interesting, with one health care consultant quoted as calling the $700 million+ expansion "a staggering number" and suggesting that Duke is looking not merely to the local market but the global market for health services in its expansion. Duke health system CEO Dr. Victor Dzau notes that the health system's three hospitals -- DUH, Durham Regional, and Duke Raleigh -- are "saturated" and that the system needs more beds. (H-S, N&O)
  • US Dept. of Housing and Urban Development officials have again put the brakes on the Durham Housing Authority, resuming its federal oversight for the agency's spending on purchases over $25,000 after HUD found issues with DHA's service and consulting procurement in recent years -- though finding files for construction contracts to be in fine shape. Among the concerns: the selection of a consultant with whom DHA exec Harrison Shannon had a past working relationship despite a lower rank on technical merit than two other bidders. (The arrival of Shannon spurred a turnaround effort in recent years that led to HUD's previous DHA restrictions to have been removed.) (H-S)
  • One contract for which DHA will need HUD approval: a proposal to bring in a Massachusetts-based consulting firm to act as a "board adviser" for DHA's problem-plagued Section 8 housing program and to provide help with the procurement complaints, Hope VI close-out, and resolution of long-standing concerns by HUD over how monies were shuttled among public housing and development efforts. (H-S)
  • Parental concerns over the "Reading Street" program discussed yesterday here at BCR made the N&O today, with a DPS assistant superintendent stressing that the program is intended to provide "equity" through "universal access to the standard course of study," and providing reassurance that magnet schools like Club Blvd. -- cited in the N&O as one of the hot-spots of complaints over Reading Street -- would have curricular flexibility. Expect the subject to come up at tonight's school board meeting and at a Fri. 10am Club Blvd. parents meeting at the school. (N&O)
  • Durham's 911 center and the city manager's officer are investigating concerns over how a fire response was routed by the emergency communications center last week in a blaze that caused the death of Durham senior citizen Marvin Jacobs. A neighbor tells the Herald-Sun that fire trucks were going down this street and that in the north Durham neighborhood, "frantically" seeking the location of the fire. A report is expected by the end of the week. (H-S)
  • Six Plates Wine Bar's Ted Domville is moving on to spend more time at the very popular Local Yogurt outfit he's opened up in Rockwood, with former Herons and Elaine's on Franklin chef Phil McLaughlin stepping in at the Erwin Terrace wine and small-plates establishment (Durham Magazine Blog, N&O)