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December 2009

Project 20/10: Brier Creek turns development eyes to eastern Durham County (#12)

Given all the fretting about the run-off impact of Durham development and growth on water quality in Falls Lake -- the key source of drinking water for Raleigh -- it's ironic that the impetus of much of that recent growth may have come from Raleigh's boom in Brier Creek, itself just a few miles from the lake's edge.

Time was that Raleigh was Raleigh, Durham was Durham, and never the twain did meet. But the late 1990s saw the envisioning of massive development near the Wake/Durham border, clustered at the intersection of I-540 and US 70 near the RDU airport.

As the N&O noted earlier this decade, areas like North Raleigh, South Durham and Cary boomed first, thanks to the presence of existing infrastructure, from roads to utility services.

But as those areas began to be built-out, low land costs in the US 70 corridor drew attention as the new outer beltway for Raleigh came to fruition.

Certainly Brier Creek's endless supply of stores and shopping have drawn many Durhamites, with griping over leaked retail sales across the border becoming a common bogeyman in development and zoning matters.

But it's also spurred new development in once-sleepy eastern Durham County, from the Brightleaf at the Park development near US 70 and Miami Blvd., to proposed developments further south.

It's not a story that's played out to full fruition in this decade. But all signs for development point towards eastern Durham County -- a story that promises to shape development directions in the Bull City in the two decades to come.

Continue reading "Project 20/10: Brier Creek turns development eyes to eastern Durham County (#12)" »

Project 20/10: Ice storm shuts down the Bull City (#13)

Ice_storm  When I asked for feedback on the top stories of the decade, one item came up in a surprising number of submissions:

The 2002 ice storm. And while we're largely focusing on thematic trends in this roundup of news, some stories merit exception, this one among them.

For many Durhamites, December 2002 was a time when the lights went out -- victims of an inch of ice that downed power lines throughout North and South Carolina -- and never seemed to want to come back on.

Even as neighboring communities saw power restored within days, Durham and Chapel Hill lagged the rest of the region, leading to angry cycles of blame and recrimination from the western half of the Triangle, and couldn't-help-it responses from Duke Power, which said the two cities just happened to be among both the last-hit and heaviest-hit cities.

Continue reading "Project 20/10: Ice storm shuts down the Bull City (#13)" »

Project 20/10: City, county surge ahead with bond-funded and major capital projects (#14)

One of the biggest Durham stories of this past decade is one that's just starting to impact local residents lies in the community investments made by city and county government -- and, ultimately, voters themselves -- through a series of major bond referenda this decade.

The amounts, on the face of it, sound impressive: $110 million in City general obligation bonds in 2005 for parks, transportation, public facilities, streets, sidewalks and more. 2007's County issue of $195 million in school construction funds, including dollars for the new middle school near Treyburn and an elementary school off Hamlin Road -- on top of almost $156 million in school construction funding in 2001 and 2003.

Add to that smaller bond issues for streets and sidewalks, library expansions and renovations, growth at Durham Tech and the Museum of Life and Science. And there's more: non-GO bond funded capital projects at the starting blocks, from the under-construction Human Services Complex on East Main Street, to the massive new courthouse complex planned to abut the jail downtown.

And that's not to leave out the Durham Performing Arts Center, itself funded through the non-voter mechanism of certificates of participation, backed with revenue from the tourism tax, downtown fund and general revenues if needed.

This construction spree comes on the heels of major population growth in the Bull City throughout the 1990s and 2000s -- and in the case of the City projects, after a decade when capital projects largely didn't happen, and the City found itself falling further and further behind on deferred maintenance.

The decisions by City and County leaders to make these investments, and the voter support for them, marks what we're calling the fourteenth most important Durham story of the past decade.

Continue reading "Project 20/10: City, county surge ahead with bond-funded and major capital projects (#14)" »

Project 20/10: Foodie movement gives Durham a new regional positioning (#15)

It's not Durham's only brand imagery. It's not Durham's dominant brand imagery. And it's not anything that other communities aren't positioning themselves towards as well.

But it's hard to look back on the 2000s and not see the rise of Durham's "foodie" movement as one of at least the twenty biggest stories of the decade.

As with other trends on BCR's Project 20/10 list, this is one which reflects in part a national movement, the rise of gourmet-eating as a trend throughout the decade, paired with rising interest in concepts like Slow Food and locavore dining that were nowhere to be seen a decade ago.

It would be too easy to think of this as a catch-all theme capturing the number of new restaurants that have opened in Durham over this decade. That's part of the theme here -- but it seems to be part of a bigger story.

And given Durham's support for home-grown chef talent, and for turning chefs into entrepreneurs helming their own kitchens, it's one that will likely have an impact on Durham in the coming decade.

Continue reading "Project 20/10: Foodie movement gives Durham a new regional positioning (#15)" »

DTV8 on Time Warner Cable to show traffic cams at rush hour

Come_with_me_if_you_want_to_liiiive  It's not often you see programming announcements for DTV8, the city and county government channel run out of City Hall. (Well, you can see them on the DTV8 web site -- though not on Time Warner Cable's program guide, which is perpetually calling it "Government Access.")

But this one's a bit noteworthy. 

Those traffic cameras hanging off the traffic light masts, beaming all of your activities back to Skynet the DOT? 

Yeah, you can view them online. But now, you'll be able to fifteen of them on DTV8, in rotating fashion, from 6:30-8:30am or 4:30-6:30pm:

  • U.S. Hwy. 15-501 & Martin Luther King Jr. Pkwy.
  • N.C. Hwy. 147 & Mangum St.
  • U.S. Hwy. 70 & Miami Blvd./Mineral Springs Rd.
  • N.C. Hwy. 54 & N.C. Hwy. 751/Garrett Rd.
  • I-85 & Roxboro St.
  • I-85 & Guess Rd.
  • Roxboro Rd. & Latta Rd./Infinity Rd.
  • U.S. Hwy. 15-501 & Hillsborough Rd.
  • I-40 & U.S. Hwy. 15-501
  • I-40 & N.C. Hwy. 54
  • I-40 & Fayetteville Rd.
  • I-40 & N.C. Hwy. 55
  • I-40 & Miami Blvd.
  • I-40 & I-540
  • N.C. Hwy. 147 & Ellis Rd.

The service starts next Monday, Jan. 4. (Don't have TWC or watching from work? Watch via streaming video on the City's web site.)

Project 20/10: Local media strains under economic pressures (#16)

Old_newspaper_racks There's an old gallows-humor joke about the apocryphal high-stress university where a dean tells assembled students to look to their left and right, and to realize that one of them won't be sitting there in a year.

This decade has seen much the same thing happen in local newspapers throughout the country.

And Durham, sadly, has been no exception. Only in the case of the Bull City, that mathematics works out to two out of three reporters gone. And circulation hasn't been much better. 

As the Independent Weekly's Fiona Morgan noted earlier this year (emphasis added):

The Durham daily has seen a 45 percent decline in print circulation since the sale. Today, The Herald-Sun's average daily circulation is 26,000 and its Sunday circulation is 29,600, according to Audit Bureau of Circulation reports for the period ending March 31, 2009, down from 48,000 daily and 52,000 Sunday for the same period in 2005. The News & Observer's print circulation declined 7 percent during that time.

Job losses have also been more severe in The Herald-Sun's newsroom. At the time of the takeover in January 2005, there were 87 newsroom employees. As of Monday, there were 29.

Which brings us to our sixteenth-ranked story of the past decade: the challenges facing local news -- most particularly the Herald-Sun, but reaching through the whole industry in a tough economic time. 

Continue reading "Project 20/10: Local media strains under economic pressures (#16)" »

Project 20/10: TTA rail derailed (#17)

It wasn't a bad morning to head to Raleigh to do some research at the state archives. A quick DATA bus ride downtown to the Durham Station transit center, then a walk across the sweet pedestrian bridge over Chapel Hill Street to catch the TTA rail line. Then it was on the light rail system for a quiet ride past downtown and East Durham, before the ride along the rail corridor through RTP, Cary, the NC State area and finally downtown Raleigh.

Tta_rail  And an enjoyable trip it was, having time to catch up on the morning newspaper while typing away on the laptop. The train was clean and well-traveled, with a mix of daily commuters and families making their way along the region. 

Most impressive: the Triangle Metro Center, where office and retail space is really filling up in what's now being called the modern heart of RTP as light rail has created a new dense center between the cities.

...wait, I'm totally kidding. We don't have a stinkin' rail system here.

Yes, the scenario above is what many dreamed of in the Triangle, worked for for years. And at the end of the 1990s, it was widely thought that Durhamites and Raleighites would be shuttling along a rail system well-established by the time 2010 rolled around.

But a funny thing happened on the way to a rail system. The project got shot down after the Federal Transit Administration changed the rules for federal New Starts funding just as the Triangle Transit plan was about to be evaluated.

A few years later, transit supporters have regrouped, creating the STAC plan for a mix of rail and bus service in the Triangle. 

But there's plenty of reasons to believe that the core concept of the 2000s plan for transit -- a direct-connection run built out between North Raleigh and Duke via Cary, RTP and Durham -- will end up being replaced by a set of regional transit systems that might just link up, someday... and leaving RTP last when it comes to the kind of dense, transit-oriented development the Park needs most.

Continue reading "Project 20/10: TTA rail derailed (#17)" »

Fishwrap on hiatus this week

We'll be taking a break from the Daily Fishwrap this week to focus on the Project 20/10 series. Look for the Fishwrap to return after the new year.

That said, there's a couple of notable stories to check out: including the N&O's selection of Durham architect and first-family paterfamilias Phil Freelon as their Tar Heel of the Year, and the Herald-Sun's nice farewell to DCVB chief Reyn Bowman

Project 20/10: Eno Drive killed as Durham shakes up transportation priorities (#18)

As the N&O noted in its 2003 coverage of the event, planners of that summer's Festival on the Eno had a bigger reason than usual to celebrate.

After decades of planning, debating, bickering and fighting over the proposed Eno Drive loop project -- slated to be a freeway/parkway connection from I-85 in northeastern Durham County to I-85 near the Durham/Orange border -- the General Assembly passed a change to the 1989 state Highway Trust Fund enabling legislation that pulled the controversial road off that fund's enabling legislation.

Durham_lrtp The law replaced the Eno Drive plan with a series of proposals negotiated by local government leaders and NCDOT after a firestorm of negotiation and community discussion, with then-first-term Mayor Bill Bell getting much of the credit for brokering the compromise.

The Eno Drive drew a host of complaints from residents and environmentalists, particularly over its proposed segment west of Roxboro Rd., which Eno-lovers argued would have devastated the Eno River waterway and parks as well as neighborhoods in its path.

In the place of Eno Drive came a collection of individual road projects. First up would be the East End Connector, a mini-loop relieving Durham's central neighborhood roads -- and now, with the construction of the NC540/Triangle Parkway toll road, the last link in a freeway connection from the US 1 corridor near Holly Springs to I-85.

Also on the list would be the widening and upgrading of US 70 as a freeway from the East End Connector to the Wake County line, followed by I-85's widening north of US 70 to Red Mill Road. 

Then would come the Northern Durham Parkway -- the remaining eastern vestige of the Eno Drive corridor -- a two-to-four lane road running from near Treyburn down past I-85 along Durham's eastern side to US 70. 

Northern Durham Parkway can be seen in the dotted gray line shown along that corridor in the map from the Durham area's long-range transportation plan, seen above. (Click the image to view full-size.)

Continue reading "Project 20/10: Eno Drive killed as Durham shakes up transportation priorities (#18)" »

Project 20/10: Glimmers of life in East Durham (#19)

East_durham If our twentieth-ranked story of the past decade (the end for good of cigarette manufacturing) was low-ranked on the list only because it was a story twenty years in coming that stumbled into the aughts, our nineteenth-ranked selection made it here largely because it's a story that's in its incipient phases, a tale of public and now private investment whose payoff won't be fully realized for years to come.

And it's a fitting counterpoint to the story of the tobacco industry's end in the Bull City, since it involves a region of town that was once largely working-class housing for factory workers and their families, a section whose own fortunes suffered and faded with those of the employment centers where generations toiled.

East Durham -- a region we'll define as east of downtown, stretching to the US 70/Miami corridor -- is still not even close to what one might call an economically recovered portion of Durham. Yet the 2000s saw early green-shoots growth towards the district's comeback.

Those off-shoots include the new Golden Belt arts complex and the beginning of a transformation in Cleveland-Holloway, just north and east of downtown -- plus the arrival of the John O'Daniel business incubator on Gilbert St. near SEEDS, a new grocery store under construction at the Angier-Driver intersection, and Preservation Durham's work to create the East Durham Historic District, opening the door to renovation tax credits.

And, perhaps most significantly, local government's redevelopment of the onetime hotspot for crime and drugs in Durham, the Barnes Avenue and Few Gardens area, since rechristened Eastway Village.

Continue reading "Project 20/10: Glimmers of life in East Durham (#19)" »