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March 2010

Third Amtrak run on its way come June offering mid-day service

It's been promised since last fall, and it's finally on the way.

State transportation officials announced yesterday that two more trains would start running between Raleigh and Charlotte each day come June, including Durham stops in each case.

Previously, morning and late-day departures left both Raleigh and Charlotte, leaving passengers seeking mid-day travel stuck in their destination for longer than they might have liked.

The new mid-day train will provide an additional 12:22pm Durham departure for Charlotte and will bring a northbound train through the station at 3:04pm as well.

The three-hour trip has become popular for business trips and weekend jaunts alike -- though the lack of a mid-day option has been a challenge for full adoption. The three-hour trip time is eventually expected to drop in duration as federal stimulus dollars improve the NCRR corridor for freight and passenger traffic alike.

Rumor mill: Harris Teeter on ice for Croasdaile?

We're not always keen on passing along the sotto voce around here -- but hey, happy to do so when the information looks solid. And we've now heard this one in a couple of different places with reasons to believe the info is solid.

For some time the word on the street has been that Harris Teeter was considering opening a store at what's today the Loehmann's Plaza at Hillandale and Front just north of I-85, as the centerpiece of a transformation planned for the aging strip center whose strong demographics and great highway access are at odds with its tired fa├žade and empty storefronts.

The plans for a few years now have called for building new, possibly multi-story buildings on the strip's Hillandale frontage near the SunTrust, then relocating existing businesses there and tearing down the existing plaza, making way for a supermarket in the parcel's rear in what would be rechristened Croasdaile Plaza.

Last spring all signs looked positive for the effort, with a Herald-Sun article noting the optimism on the part of the developer that they'd be able to get the project underway in fairly short order -- with both Harris Teeter and the developer refusing to confirm any firm plans for the strip, but with the H-S saying last year that an anchor tenant should be announced by early summer 2009.

It's almost a year later, though, and nothing's ever been announced. And BCR's heard that the idea of an H-Teet in the strip may just not come to fruition.

Continue reading "Rumor mill: Harris Teeter on ice for Croasdaile?" »

BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for March 31, 2010

In the papers today:

The Know Closes: The Know bookstore on Fayetteville St., slated to close in Dec. but extended until March 2010, is closing at last this week. The McLaughlin family that owns the building promises a renovation (though smaller than initially planned), but longtime bookstore/cultural center owner Bruce Bridges is promising to find a new location, putting much of the store in storage until he does. The Durham News has a nice farewell (for now) portrait. (The Durham News)

Schools Funding Push: Parents and students showed up in force again last night, pressing for County officials not to cut $3m from the DPS budget -- or to use fund balances to shore up from state cuts, with at least one school principal telling commissioners that she didn't care if the County's AAA bond rating were lost in the process. Meanwhile, frequent BCR commenter Michael Oehler is featured in The Durham News for his call for an additional $0.33 per $100 valuation tax just for schools, in addition to current city and county levies. (Herald-Sun, The Durham News)

Parking Scrutinized: A City audit of outsourced parking enforcement and deck operator Lanier Parking Systems finds that far more people are parking in the Corcoran and Chapel Hill St. decks than pay for it in evenings (perhaps due to parkers entering after attendants go off duty), with officials also not happy with the level of detailed received on nearly $716,000 in unpaid parking tickets. City staff say the move of parking oversight to Transportation on Jan. 1 will allow closer scrutiny than that seen in its days buried within General Services. (Herald-Sun)

Continue reading "BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for March 31, 2010" »

Duke-Durham relations to take a tumble if WVa. bests Duke in Final Four showdown?

OK, tongue's planted firmly in cheek in that headline. But one can't help but be amused by this particular intersection in town-gown relations.

To wit: Duke has made it back to the Final Four for the first time in a few years, with Coach K and a band of seniors on their way to what the Cameron Crazies hope will be a big victory to set even more bonfires blazing.

In their way this Saturday stands No. 2 seed West Virginia, which could well be the most dangerous opponent remaining for the Blue Devils in the tournament. (Two #5 seeds, Michigan State and Butler, face off for the other National Championship game berth.)

The Mountaineers have done well in the tournament to date despite lacking their star point guard Truck Bryant, who broke a foot in practice last week and was counted out as done for the season.

Well, perhaps not so fast. Bryant needed some special medical T.L.C. -- and where are you going to turn for that?

The City of Medicine, natch. Though it sounds like that special T.L.C. happened away from the Gothic Hospitaland that is Duke Medicine.

Continue reading "Duke-Durham relations to take a tumble if WVa. bests Duke in Final Four showdown?" »

Kueber takes helm at Scientific Properties, Bartlett back to Self-Help

Scientific Properties, owner of the Venable and Golden Belt complexes plus the Foster St. facility housing the restaurant Piedmont and other tenants, announced a change in leadership on Monday, with its COO heading back to Self-Help and with a familiar face to Durham's blogosphere taking the operational reins.

Tucker Bartlett has held the chief operating officer role since company president and founder Andy Rothschild decamped for New York in 2008. 

But Bartlett, who previously guided commercial lending activities for Durham-based CDC/lender Self-Help -- and who was a key man in the initial funding of American Tobacco, after Self-Help stepped up when local and national banks wouldn't -- is on his way back, recruited (per the H-S) by Martin Eakes to become Self-Help's new executive VP over the non-profit's commercial lending and real estate investment portfolios.

Kueber is no stranger to central Durhamites, and was first-known for his terrific work at Endangered Durham, the blog that chronicles Durham's architectural history, from its embarrassing teardowns to the properties that have managed to be saved and preserved over the years. 

Like Rothschild a physician by training, Kueber's professional interests followed his personal passion, as he left general medicine in the mid-2000s to a masters degrees in both public health and urban planning. Kueber has worked for Scientific Properties since soon after completing his graduate studies at UNC, most recently as the development manager overseeing the operations of Scientific's key redevelopments.

The change comes at a crucial time for Scientific, which has completed the redevelopment of its initial phase of properties but faces a big-gulp of new development activity ahead.

Continue reading "Kueber takes helm at Scientific Properties, Bartlett back to Self-Help" »

BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for March 30, 2010

Surgeon General Praises Health Initiative: It's one thing for communities to toot their own horn on efforts like the collaboration between Duke, Durham governments and community groups to do neighborhood-by-neighborhood canvasses of health problems and issues and then formulate local plans to increase awareness and prevention, something that could increase quality/quantity of life while reducing medical costs. It's another thing for the Surgeon General of the United States to come to town to praise your efforts, calling them a level of innovation not seen anywhere else in the country. What d'you think Tea Partiers would say about "community organizing" as a way to real health care reform. I know, don't answer that. Instead, check out the H-S and N&O coverage, which explains how technology, community activism, medical services and outreach will be combining to improve health outcomes. (Herald-Sun #1, #2; N&O)

Off-Duty Police Pay to Rise?: The DPD is reviewing the rates charged for off-duty police work on security details and the like, with today's $25/hr. rate set to rise to $28/hr. based on peer cities' rates. (Raleigh? $35/hr. as of 1/1/11.) The end to grandfathered pricing will be a big "ouch" for the already-strapped Durham Public Schools, which spends north of $600k on security services each year, and who would see a 40% increase in their hourly price for services, though the Sheriff's office -- which is also planning its own rate increases -- will stick with a $22/hr. special DPS rate. (Herald-Sun)

More 147 Detours: There's still more scheduled overnight closings of the Durham Freeway to finish off the R. Kelly Bryant, Jr. Pedestrian Bridge. The freeway will close between Briggs and Alston 11p-5:30am tonight, Wednesday, and this coming Monday. (N&O)

Continue reading "BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for March 30, 2010" »

Downtown gets yet another music venue as Bradley fam prepares to rock the "Casbah"

Casbah_w_main We're not sure what it is, but the pattern of the number "three" seems to be repeating itself in the downtown Durham area of late.

First we had 1000 W. Main St. filling up with three tenants in close succession, each of whom had revolved in the others' world on West Franklin St. in Chapel Hill in the 1990s.

Now, we've got a music venue under construction nearly right across the street from there -- marking the third such dedicated music performance space in the works in downtown right now (and that's to say nothing of sideline performances at other new spaces, from the jazz options at Beyu Caffe to live shows at the Pinhook to The Republic's dance parties and the like.)

This time, it's the old Wells-Lloyd Florist, a Main St. mainstay that closed a few years back and which is about to start construction to become Casbah, a music venue and event space in the Brightleaf Square area.

The club is the work of Jana Bradley, wife to serial Main St. restaurant owner Fergus Bradley, who's excited to be adding to a burgeoning live music scene in the Bull City.

Continue reading "Downtown gets yet another music venue as Bradley fam prepares to rock the "Casbah"" »

BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for March 29, 2010

It was a bit of a travel weekend in the BCR household, as we headed up to Baltimore for a weekend couple getaway. Interesting city and a neat urban core to explore; if you get a chance to the American Visionary Art Museum, check it out -- by far the most intriguing and interesting museum I've ever stopped in on.

So what happened this weekend?  Well, here's what the papers say:

$150k for Duke Park: It's been the buzz of the Duke Park listserv, and now Tom Bonfield's comments to Duke Park neighborhood leaders are making their way to The Durham News, which reports the administration's willingness to in a future year find $150,000 towards renovating the old bathhouse at the park -- assuming that the neighborhood can find grants or other sources towards the estimated $200k total. (The Durham News)

Keystone Complains over Planned Road: Residents of the Keystone Crossing neighborhood in RTP are complaining over a plan to shut Church St. and turn a "main drag" through their 'hood into a Hopson Rd. through-connection for nearby Morrisville neighborhoods instead. The change -- which from the Herald-Sun's pictures would make their road more akin to something like ACC Blvd. down in the Brier Creek area, albeit a narrower version -- was part of the approval process for the development in the first place, given the long-planned Church St. closing to facilitate a double-tracking and rail improvement project on the nearby N.C.R.R. rail tracks. (Herald-Sun)

Courthouse Groundbreaking: The groundbreaking ceremony for Durham County's new courthouse -- the fourth such structure to bear that name, sez the N&O's reporter and Durham historian Jim Wise -- is set for this Wednesday. The new structure, a recession-priced bargain financed through short-term debt during construction, will rise just to the south of the jail on the former sites of a U-Haul dealership and the Scarborough & Hargett funeral home. (N&O)

Road Bucks Favor Rural Areas, but Durham Does OK?: The N&O reiterates the long-held point that rural areas in NC tend to get a disproportionate share of total road funding, after a Jim Martin-era policy to bring four-lane roads within ten miles of all of the state's residents. In the last decade Wake Co. ranked 90th on a per-capita basis for road dollars, though it still ended up (with Mecklenburg) as one of the top two destinations for NCDOT funding. Here in Durham, we grouse about getting no loop funding yet -- though it took us more than a decade to get our plans for using 'em set -- yet we ended up 52nd in the state over the decade, just above the average per-capita spending level, something we suspect is more due to the I-85 widening than any focused local benefit per se. To that point, NCDOT officials defend the spending as being based on statewide economic priorities like expanding access to seaports, and that big-spending in some Outer Banks counties largely benefits folks like tourists passing through, not locals. (N&O)

Two Dukes in Tourney Joy: For the first time ever, two men's and women's basketball Elite Eight pairings are the same. Duke's men moved on to the Final Four with a victory over Baylor last night, while the women's team tries to make the same bracket level in their game against Baylor's women tonight. (Herald-Sun)

Continue reading "BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for March 29, 2010" »

Books back at Northgate as Raleigh biz owner opens second shop

The N&O noted this morning the arrival of a new bookstore at Northgate Mall, whose initial presumed (based on architectural renderings) hopes to draw in a megastore of the Borders or B&N variety faded with the outdoor plaza renovation and the recession -- and which lost Waldenbooks a few months ago.

And keeping with the mall's theme of late, it's a locally-owned business to boot.

Falls River Books, a Raleigh business that earns rave reviews in online fora, is opening its second regional store at Northgate. The owner, Steven Elliot, also has a South Florida location.

Per the N&O's Sue Stock:

The store will be larger than the Falls River store, Elliot said, but the idea will remain the same: mostly used books sold for at least half off the cover price, with some books starting at $1. There will be some new books scattered in, and the store will also take trades.

Success in the used books business is really about relationships with people, Elliot said.

Look for a late spring or early summer debut.

Two more Durham Freeway closures ahead (Fri. and Mon. night)

There's two more NC147 (Durham Freeway) closures in the days to come to complete the new pedestrian bridge near Alston Ave. The road will be closed near the bridge with Briggs and Alston used for detours.

One of these closures comes tonight and runs into Saturday; the second happens Monday night into Tuesday morning.  Both closures will run 11pm to 5:30am.

The closures will allow the concrete decking to get poured for the bridge. More info at the project web site.