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December 2009

November 2009

Magpie lands at West Village this Wednesday

Magpie_boutique Downtown's new boutique Magpie -- featured in this October BCR story, and over at Durham Magazine's joint as well -- is arriving in West Village this Wednesday, co-owner Tad Schwendler informed us in an email this afternoon.

We're curious to see what the interior looks like; the owners have had the construction area well-obscured, and hinted it would be a fun looking space inside.

That's assuming you can get there -- coz thanks to the never-ending construction efforts on W. Main St., some days it seems like you practically have to be a magpie to fly in to the Walker Warehouse. Fear not; Schwendler shares these handy tips for navigating your auto to their parking lot:

Unfortunately we understand that our block of Main St will be completely closed down from Tues 12/1 through at least Thurs 12/3 for road grinding / paving work.  Hopefully the street will reopen by the weekend.  In the meantime, people can still park in the lot bordered by Morgan / Main / the old bus terminal and walk across Main St.  Or people can also access the rear entrance to our parking lot via Duke St (directly across Duke St from Peabody).

Report: Healthy Start to proceed with demolition of Jackson St. homes

Jackson_st_hsa We don't have this confirmed from any official sources, but a Morehead Hill resident has informed BCR that talks to save two houses behind the Healthy Start Academy charter school in Durham's West End have failed to reach an outcome that would save the properties.

Our source says that local non-profit Builders of Hope (featured earlier this year at BCR for their proposed work in the Cleveland-Holloway neighborhood) worked with the HSA charter school on proposals to either move the two Jackson St. houses or rehab them on site, but an agreement was not reached.

No word yet on what factors played into that decision, or how soon the houses would come down, though there's a report that a Wednesday demolition is possible.

Glimmers of hope for Duke Park progress on bathhouse, parking

The sloping hills at Duke Park near the site of the one-time pool makes the popular city park a perfect mini-amphitheater for performances, like the beloved annual Beaver Queen Pageant.

At times, the residents of the neighborhood might tell you, the ongoing scrimmage over the future of the pool's bathhouse and park parking issues have felt more like a performance of a Kafka play.

DukeParkLot1 For some time, the Duke Park Neighborhood Association and a related 501(c)3 non-profit have been working to gain control of the bathhouse and renovate it into a community center -- sometimes asking for City dollars, sometimes planning to rehab it themselves. (For more history, see last month's post on the discovery that the bathhouse was used to store molding old parking tickets and utility bills.)

At the same time, while the park draws kids and parents from around Durham and beyond its borders who cram nearby streets with vehicle, a park parking lot has been closed for years, fenced off and used to store City vehicles.

But it's the holiday season, a time for hope. And this year, there's hope that city manager Tom Bonfield is shuffling staff closer to an answer on this one.

Continue reading "Glimmers of hope for Duke Park progress on bathhouse, parking" »

BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for November 30, 2009

You think it's hard to digest day after day of turkey leftover? Try several days of local papers, ingested and crafted into a single wrap-up of the Durham news you may have missed over the holiday:

Beer Fest Gone from Newly-Renovated DAP?: The City will have to absorb $63k in unexpected costs on the World Beer Festival and almost $28k on the Bull Durham Blues Festival to cover damages to the historic Durham Athletic Park's just-finished field. Seems the expensive tile floor purchased to be used in such events isn't working as expected -- and isn't designed to stay in place as long as the WBF needed. The City has canceled the WBF's next two years of contractual use for the facility, but is pledging to find a new home downtown for the event. (Herald-Sun)

Public Works Gets "F" on Pothole Goals: Public Works' three-day promised repair time for pothole repair gets met only 44% of the time, the City Council learned in November from a routine audit report that drew criticism. Among the groanworthy findings: when asked, a number of Public Works staff had different ideas about what the repair target was, something department head Katie Kalb chalked up to persistent turnover. (Herald-Sun)

Parkwood No Closer to Rec Center: A steep decline in development and the associated Parks & Rec impact fees has kiboshed the City's hope of funding a purchase of the Parkwood neighborhood's decaying shopping center to become a rec center. The owner, ex-mayor Jim Hawkins, is rumored by the H-S to be close to a third-party sale of the center, which will lose its last tenant (the Parkwood branch library) when the South regional library opens in 2010. (Herald-Sun)

Continue reading "BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for November 30, 2009" »

Royal Ice Cream marker unveiling brings history, recognition, closure to Roxboro St.

IMG_0702 Over fifty years ago, seven members of Durham's black community dared to defy a City ordinance and attempt to get service on the "white" end of the popular Royal Ice Cream shop.

On Sunday, surviving witnesses to that history unveiled a marker to that long-underappreciated moment in the civil rights battle.

At one point during the afternoon's ceremony a descendant of the then-owner of Royal Ice Cream came forward at Sunday's marker dedication to stand together with longtime Durham and NC Mutual historian R. Kelly Bryant and marker recognition lobbyist Eddie Davis to celebrate the occasion.

It was an important reminder of how far we've come since the dark days of Jim Crow laws and segregation -- and how much difference moments like this one sit-in and the ones that followed made in the life of so many.


It was a day of notables, including (from left in the above photo) shop-owner descendant Ugo Coletta, protest organizer the Rev. Douglas Moore, attorney Billy Marsh (who bailed out the protesters on the day of their arrest), and sit-in participant Virginia Williams.

They were joined by 75 or so Durhamites turned out for the event, ranging from Mayor Bill Bell, City Council members Farad Ali and Mike Woodard, and one-time Councilman Thomas Stith to the overwhelming majority of Durham's legislative contingent, including state Sen. Floyd McKissick, Jr., who helped lobby the state to grant the marker.

Ceremonies and plaque aside, one of the most noteworthy things about the event was its ability to draw together so many who'd themselves played a role in the 1957 events, and who were able to share their first-hand recollections of the battles and change sparked in part by one day at an ice cream parlor.

Continue reading "Royal Ice Cream marker unveiling brings history, recognition, closure to Roxboro St." »

Watts Grocery launches new winter menu, cuts late night

Watts_grocery If there's a recession going on in Durham, you'd be hard-pressed to tell by walking in to Watts Grocery on a typical evening.

I've tended to find that even mid-week, there can be a wait for a table during the busiest dinner hours -- a sign of how well locals have taken to Amy Tornquist's restaurant at the edge of Watts-Hillandale.

One of the things that keeps visitors coming back is the refresh of the menu, a quarterly event that brings new ideas and tastes from the kitchen to the tables.

And Watts Grocery has launched its winter menu -- though with it comes the news that the late-night hours and menu have ceased.

Continue reading "Watts Grocery launches new winter menu, cuts late night" »

Rev. Whitley to take on Allison for Durham Committee leadership -- but just who gets to vote?

We noted here earlier in the month that there were signs of a possible rumble in the works this December at the biennial election for leadership of the venerable Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People.

And BCR's learned this week that one of the voices most disgruntled with the decade-long leadership of Dr. Lavonia Allison -- the Rev. Mel Whitley, most recently the campaign manager for Howard Clement's successful Ward 2 re-election bid -- is throwing his hat in the ring for leadership of the decades-old civil rights and political action organization.

Whitley's isn't the only possible candidacy out there; there's also rumors that former DCABP head Ken Spaulding or former political chair and treasurer Keith Corbett (a former NC Mutual CFO, now at Self-Help) could step up for the position.

But Whitley's announcement that he'll be running, confirmed by the N&O, is setting off a firestorm of debate in Committee circles.

None of which helps to answer the question that looms over the entire process, though: the question of just what qualifies one to vote in the DCABP election, and whether the voting rules are strict enough to deny anyone except the incumbent Allison a chance to walk away with the necessary votes.

Continue reading "Rev. Whitley to take on Allison for Durham Committee leadership -- but just who gets to vote?" »

In town, can't cook this Thanksgiving? Here's some Durham restaurants open Thu.

Wild_turkey Turkey Day looms -- a day that inspires thoughts of warmth, family, parades and football among many. Except for those among us for whom it only conjures up a most biological response:

Where the heck am I going to eat?

Fear not; the Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau has you covered with a list of restaurants that will or won't be open this season. The full list is available (PDF format only) for download -- here's some highlights from the list:

Downtown/Central Durham: Cafe Zen, Four Square, James Joyce Irish Pub, Kim-Son Vietnamese, Mt. Fuji, Parizade (with their always-popular vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner), TGI Friday's, Tripps, Tyler's Taproom, Vita.

South Durham: Bombay Grille, Chammps Americana Grill, Maggiano's, Outback Steakhouse, Restaurant Eden, Rockfish Seafood Grill, Spice & Curry, Sunset Grille, Ted's Montana Grill, Tonali, West 94th Street Pub.

Quick Eats & Greasy Spoons: Benetis, Cracker Barrel, Devil's Pizzeria, Honey's, International Delights, IHOP, Pizzeria Roma, Rudino's.

Plus, don't forget that most area hotels with restaurants will see their facilities stay open during the holiday, including the Washington Duke Inn's Fairview Restaurant and Bull Durham Bar.

(Image from Flickr user stevevoght)

BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for November 25, 2009

Judging from the traffic streaming on NC 147 last night -- and the lack of it this morning around town -- looks like many folks have checked out already ahead of the holiday. If you're still around and looking to gobble up some news, you're in the right place. In the headlines:

Ahrendsen to Head New Transportation Dept.: The long-awaited City org chart change to create a Transportation department is complete, with Mark Ahrendsen to lead the department (cobbled together from Public Works and General Services) come Jan. 1. The department will include transit, taxicabs, parking, and transportation planning -- the addition of the latter being the key change from the initially-announced plan, and the reason for the slow-bake of the plan. Street maintenance and paving stays in Public Works, so if you're mad about that nasty pothole, you should still totally call Katie Kalb to kvetch. (Herald-Sun, N&O)

Charter Schools Owed More: A state court decision finding that charter schools have been shorted millions from the Char-Meck system will have reverberations in most districts, but perhaps nowhere more than Durham, in which 10% of students are enrolled in charter schools. A separate lawsuit seeking money for charter school construction is still wending through the system. (N&O)

Continue reading "BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for November 25, 2009" »

Healthy Start moves closer to demolishing Morehead Hill homes

Jackson_st_hsa The City Council's efforts to find a compromise with charter school Healthy Start Academy (HSA) over their proposed demolition of two houses behind their W. Chapel Hill St. school appear to have reached a dead end.

Council members -- notably real estate agent and preservationist Eugene Brown -- have urged the school not to exercise its ability by-right to demolish two houses in the Morehead Hill historic neighborhood. A 365-day waiting period that the City's historic preservation commission placed on the demolition expired this fall.

As requested by Council, representatives of the school met with Planning staff, who identified as many as four other parcels that could be alternative locations for the purported playground. Planning's Steve Medlin described the options as ones that he did not believe "were palatable to the school."

City Councilman Eugene Brown went further, describing from accounts the meeting as "not ... pleasant," and saying that school representatives spent a significant time criticizing the neighborhood for its initial opposition to the school site a decade ago.

To wit: HSA has reportedly pulled demolition permits on the two houses as of yesterday, and can begin demolition beginning on December 2.

But it's still not clear what good, exactly, that'll do for the school.

Continue reading "Healthy Start moves closer to demolishing Morehead Hill homes" »