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August 2010

BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for August 27, 2010

Aviat Layoffs: Wireless communications company Aviat, which formerly was known as Harris Stratex, moved its HQ from the Morrisville/Durham line to the Bay Area earlier this summer -- and after a management shakeup has changed its mind on keeping 200 or so jobs in the Triangle, announcing yesterday it'd be closing the local office. (N&O)

Riverside Head -- and Criticism: DPS announced the hiring of Jackie Tobias from Lexington High as the new principal at Riverside High School, but not before Riverside journalism and calculus teacher Steven Unruhe sharply criticized the district for the post-graduation timing of former principal James Key's departure while letting the school sit for some time without an interim, a move that Unruhe said cost the school half of its administrative staff to departure over the summer. (Herald-Sun)

AD, Trainer Pay Fixed: Meanwhile, concerns that the withdrawl of supplemental pay for athletic directors and trainers would impact sports programs have ebbed after the board found almost a quarter-million dollars to reinstate those supplements and with them the staff roles. Some school board members questioned why athletics positions got the money back while extracurricular club supplements weren't restored, though board chair Minnie Forte-Brown noted that student health and safety is on the line with trainers. (Herald-Sun)

Motorco, Too: We had a feature here yesterday on new Durham music club Casbah, and the N&O today has a mention both of that West Main establishment and an update on Motorco Music Hall, which with a capacity for nearly 500 will be almost the size of Cat's Cradle -- though acknowledging that venue still has the inside track on gigs in the region. (N&O)

Splash Mob: The H-S has a nice photo slideshow from the downtown splash mob water fight sponsored by Flywheel Design yesterday. (Herald-Sun)

Casbah aims for mid-September bow, adds music vet for bookings

Casbah -- which, along with Motorco Music Hall (the rechristened name for The Geer), is one of two new music clubs on the horizon in Durham -- is getting closer to its big debut.

Casbah_mural Owner Jana Bradley announced recently that the club, which will have a capacity of over 300 and looks to book everything from rock to Americana, is targeting a mid-September opening.

And the club's hired a talent buyer to plan bookings and shows at the space. Steve Gardner, a two-decade veteran of the music scene with experience at Yep Roc Records and the onetime Durham legend Sugar Hill, will take the reins for finding and scheduling performances.

Gardner -- who's also a familiar voice on WXDU, the Duke-affiliated college radio station -- promises to look for unfilled musical niches and to try to bring sounds and performances not available elsewhere in the Triangle.

Meanwhile, construction crews continue to wrap up work at Casbah, whose mural art on the western wall of the onetime Wells-Lloyd Florist building has been a concrete sign of new sounds on the horizon for the Brightleaf Square area.

Casbah (featured here in this March BCR story) is located at 1007 W. Main St., across from The Federal and James Joyce, two popular establishments owned by Jana Bradley's spouse and longtime Durham restauranteur Fergus.

The club's Facebook page notes that final plumbing and electrical inspections were completed yesterday, opening the door to a rise in intensity in booking action, we'd surmise.

Photo courtesy of BCR reader DB.

Bikram Yoga Durham announces Fri. opening date

The previously announced Bikram Yoga Durham will be opening at Golden Belt tomorrow.

Billed as "the original hot yoga," it's a workout in a 40-50% humidity, 105-degree room, with the heat intended to help protect muscles, detoxify the body, and drive demand for Gatorade sales. (We're kidding about that last bit. I think.)

The studio will be accessible via the eastern side of the Golden Belt complex off Belt St., according to the facility's owners and the folks at Downtown Durham Inc. who posted a video tour of the new space to their web site yesterday.

Whether you like your yoga hot or not, the 4,000 sq. ft. space will also feature a retail store with mats, workout outfits and the like.

See more in Wednesday's Herald-Sun, or check out the Bikram Yoga Durham web site for more information.

BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for August 26, 2010

More Road Work Ahead: City manager Tom Bonfield will be heading out on a civic groups tour this fall to garner support for the $20m street paving bond initiative. The Durham Chamber's local government affairs committee seemed worried over the lack of operating funds to maintain streets after the '07 bond but the H-S suggests they're satisfied with the progress promised by Bonfield to build that into upcoming budgets. Meanwhile, BOCC'er Joe Bowser seems to be dissatisfied with NCDOT explanations over the rationale for delays in repaving downtown streets, though there's not signs that other City Council or BOCC members share the fretting. (Herald-Sun)

DPS Re-Org: The Herald-Sun notes that key in the Design for Accelerated Progress program unveiled by DPS is a re-organization of the district, with former chief academic officer Terri Mozingo now a peer to three of her onetime assistant superintendent reports; all four now oversee elementary, middle and high schools, and report to Lewis Ferebee, the chief of staff that superintendent Eric Becoats brought with him from Guilford County. (Herald-Sun)

New UNC System Chief: Erskine Bowles' replacement as head of the UNC state university system -- which oversees Durham's NC Central along with other institutions statewide -- appears to be Thomas Ross, an alum and current president of Davidson College and a UNC Law graduate. (Herald-Sun)

Big DL Expansion at RDU: Delta Air Lines looks to be stepping in where American stepped out, adding fourteen daily flights at RDU this fall (a nearly 33% schedule increase) including to service that AA abandoned like Hartford and Columbus. Orlando, Tampa and St. Louis will also see new non-stops, along with augmented New York (JFK) and Boston service. (TBJ)

Flywheel sponsors "Splash Mob" tomorrow at Durham Central Park

Splashmob Let's be real. It's been brutally, horribly, unseasonably, unbearably hot this summer. BCR has heard from precisely one person (an ex-Granite Stater, though not my uxorial half) who has loved the weather, and approximately twelve hundred who can't wait for fall to get here -- or for global climate change to just start sloughing the damn ice shelf into the oceans so we can all drown already.

The folks at Flywheel Design seem to be thinking the same thing, or so we'd imagine based on their calling for shenanigans tomorrow at 5:30pm at Durham Central Park for the first-ever "downtown deluge" of what they're calling a "Splash Mob" event.

Yes, it's a play on the flash-mob idea that's been wired then tired in recent years. Yes, there will be water balloons and water pistols provided by the downtown design agency -- though you are encouraged to BYO water guns.

No, Durham Fire Chief Bruce Pagan, before you ask: it is not fair play to send the downtown fire house crews out there with high-pressure hoses hooked up to a fire hydrant. Yeah, I'd be the one calling shenanigans on that one.

Oh, and there's a Flywheel-sponsored after-party at Fullsteam Brewery downtown after. More at Flywheel's web site.

BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for August 25, 2010

School Tiers Released...: DPS released its new tiers of school performance and expectation under the district's Design for Accelerated Progress program. Tier 1 schools -- which will receive priority for resources and staffing -- include Y.E. Smith and Glenn elementary schools; Chewning, Lowe's Grove and Neal middle; and Southern High plus the Lakeview alternative school. The Tier 3 and 4 schools included most of those on the "desirable" list (in the screwed up way we think about schools), including DSA, Jordan, Riverside, and elementaries like Watts, Mangum, Hillandale, Creekside, Forest View and the like. (N&O)

...As Race to the Top "Won": Meanwhile, NC ended up winning up to $400m in the Obama administration's Race to the Top program, with the state agreeing to impose innovative new measures such as allowing school districts to transform perennially low-performing schools into public charters (with full refresh of staff and administration) or opening the door for state officials to manage disappointing schools. The state, meanwhile, gets dollars to support a new-teacher corps and to encourage innovative methods for school success. (N&O)

Most Teachers Rehired: DPS was able to hire nearly 200 teachers this summer, including rehiring almost of those let go in the spring budget crisis, thanks to the state's lottery funds shift and a local property tax boost. The new school year kicks off today. (Herald-Sun)

Continue reading "BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for August 25, 2010" »

Welcome, student friends, to the Bull City show

This BCR post was originally published on Aug. 21, 2007. In honor of the arrival of Duke first-years today and of NCCU first-years and students last week, we're republishing this here with minor edits for their benefit -- and that of those many daily readers who've started reading BCR since then.

I wanted to dedicate this morning's post to Durham's newest residents -- its fair college students, matriculating at NC Central University or Duke University for the first time, perhaps, or returning for a further year of studies. 

The ride into town is a bit less magical than the Hogwarts Express (please do dodge the potholes, they're not just there for the aesthetics), but once you're here, I hope you'll join in in discovering the great things that the Bull City has to offer.

What's that, you say? There's great things in Durham? Surely I jest, you must think.

Well, I'm not kidding. But I understand where you're coming from. 

In the early 1990s, when I was touring college towns to make my own undergraduate choice, I took a look at Durham and headed right back to I-85. It wasn't until a number of years later that I realized that Durham was the right place for my wife and I to live, the place we felt most at home anywhere we'd lived on the East Coast. (I've chronicled that transformation on this earlier blog post.)

I think one of the most jarring things for many new residents of the Bull City -- particularly those hailing from Long Island, or Newton/Wellesley, or Plano, or Manassas, or the like -- is that Durham doesn't look like suburban America. Everything isn't tied up in neat subdivisions and strip malls, outparcels and freeways. 

Those things exist here, too, but there are actual streets and blocks that haven't (entirely) been torn up for re-development. There are old tobacco and textile factories that haven't been demolished, but instead form the bulk of the skyline.

There are poor people here -- wealthy people, too, but plenty of poor people. And African-Americans and Latinos and Asians and Native Americans, and Caucasians too.

Continue reading "Welcome, student friends, to the Bull City show" »

BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for August 24, 2010

New DATA Operator: Triangle Transit's board is selecting the new private-company operator for DATA, and it won't be current controversial manager MV Transportation, whose bid was disqualified over staff concerns on the financials. The top choice, Veolia Transportation, withdrew over pension concerns, leaving second-place First Transit as the likely selectee. First Transit operates Durham's paratransit service that, as the H-S' Ray Gronberg astutely remembers, stranded a couple of riders during DPS graduation ceremonies this spring, something the operator and officials say is a thing of the past. (Herald-Sun)

More Roadwork Speed-Bumps: From the account in this morning's paper, NCDOT division officials got a rougher reception at the BOCC meeting last night than they did from the City Council on August 2. Division 5 engineer Wally Bowman appeared to discuss the challenges inherent in repaving very old streets in downtown while dealing with everything from utility repairs to trolley tracks to bad foundations underneath to activities accommodating the new courthouse construction. See our Monday article for more details. (Herald-Sun)

Red Lobster Troubles: The beleaguered Red Lobster on 15-501 near the bypass turnoff can't catch a break; after a deadly shooting outside the restaurant some weeks back, three armed men held up the place robbing the business and customers on Sunday night. Law enforcement continues to investigate; the perpetrators appear to have fled to Chapel Hill where a chase was discontinued by our baby-blue colleagues to the south. (Herald-Sun)

Carter to Durham: Former Pres. Jimmy Carter will be at The Regulator bookstore on Ninth on Sept. 28, signing copies of his new book based on entries he kept in a diary during his White House years. (Herald-Sun)

Rain, Flooding Today: Heavy rains are expected for the region; in Chatham Co., there's been nearly three inches of rain since 3 this morning along the heavily-traveled commuter road NC 751. (NBC 17)

Downtown repaving brings under-the-asphalt surprises -- and a road diet that bicyclists welcome

Repaving an old road, NCDOT officials note, is kind of like tearing out the sheetrock in an older house. You're never entirely sure what you're going to find until you actually dig into the framing.

So too goes the at-times rim-rattling story of downtown's main thoroughfares, state-maintained streets like Mangum, Roxboro, University Dr./Lakewood Ave., and Chapel Hill St./Kent St.

At issue: stimulus-funded road paving work that's annoyed some downtown commuters and residents, even as it brings repaving to streets very much in need of resurfacing.

These streets became candidates for ARRA dollars at the City's request, the NCDOT notes, opening the door to smooth riding... once the roads get finished, that is. 

The project's left some downtown streets in milled condition for longer than some have desired while under-the-surface issues were getting resolved. 

Resident and local official concerns have been met with what one local official noted was a high level of attention, notably with a presentation by Division Engineer Wally Bowman before the City Council at their August 2 meeting and a similar reassurance scheduled to reach County Commissioners tonight.

Continue reading "Downtown repaving brings under-the-asphalt surprises -- and a road diet that bicyclists welcome" »

Wine Authorities' Gross to bring burgers, beers to downtown Durham in new venture

Bcbb_illustration We're able at last to share word of another of the new businesses lining up to open up shop downtown.

The latest is a new concept from an old hand on the Durham business scene: Seth Gross, the co-owner of the popular Wine Authorities shop in the Rockwood neighborhood. 

Gross is branching out, going back to what he says was a love before his wine days: craft beers and brewing.

Bull City Burger and Brewery is the name of the place, set to inhabit the Greenfire building at 107 E. Parrish St.

(That's the green-painted structure to the southwest of Dos Perros, set in on Parrish St. and featuring recreated advertisements on its western exterior wall overlooking the Trinity UMC parking lot.)

The restaurant, slated for opening in February 2011, will feature burgers, hot dogs and similar fare along with an on-site brewery featuring beers with links back to the history of Parrish St. and of Durham itself.

And it's not a place with small ambitions.

"We want to be someday added to the list of the great burger joints in the United States," Gross says.

Continue reading "Wine Authorities' Gross to bring burgers, beers to downtown Durham in new venture" »