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August 2010

BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for August 23, 2010

$2.7m Ask for Greenfire Hotel?: The Herald-Sun had an update this weekend on Greenfire Development's request for incentives from the City and County, which while under wraps during negotiations would appear to involve $1.5m in local aid from the municipalities plus $1.2m in "deferred fees," sez the H-S. BOCC'er Joe Bowser is noted to be on board for the deal, which could bring much-needed additional hotel rooms downtown -- though the use of tax dollars towards a project receiving local property tax abatement as an historic property, and for a project valued at less than $50m, both technically don't meet the County's economic development standards. (Herald-Sun)

Noise Complaints at Creekside Development: You know, when I take the T.W. Alexander shortcut back from the RDU airport and pass the Creekside townhomes near the Sheetz and Page Rd., I always ask myself, "Isn't it noisy and annoying living in townhouses surrounded by RTP offices and warehouses?" Fast-forward to today, when residents in the townhouses are asking for -- wait for it -- D.P.D. and planning/zoning involvement over late night noise, the only explanation of which seems to be that it's emanating from offices and warehouses. (Herald-Sun)

Walltown Rec Center Debuts: A big crowd turned out for Saturday morning's dedication of the new Walltown Recreation Center, something long awaited in the community -- and with a beautiful gym/performance space with elevated walking track and fitness room, plus community rooms, computer lab, culinary center, teen and senior rooms and more. Residents expressed their gratitude for the decades-awaited center -- but also made it clear they've not given up on wanting a pool on the site, either. (Herald-Sun)

Durham Rescue Mission Ponders Expansion: The East Durham lifeline to people and families struggling with homelessness, hunger and other ills is almost at the halfway mark in its quest to raise $4.5 million towards a two-story building on its E. Main St. campus adding a commercial kitchen and dining room/events space to bring a number of activities inside. The plans for the new structure are now in the hands of the Planning Dept. (Herald-Sun)

Continue reading "BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for August 23, 2010" »

Dogstar Tattoo to make its new home at Golden Belt

We noted here last week that Dogstar Tattoo would be moving out of the Bill Fields-owned building where it's been a Ninth Street fixture since the 1990s come the end of this month, but noted that the moisturizer and bandages hadn't dried enough on the new lease agreement for us to be able to share just where the inkers would be moving to.

Well, it's official: Dogstar is moving to Golden Belt, where it'll have a permanent home on a highly visible corner near the new Bikram Yoga Durham studio that's planning to open later this summer.

Dogstar owner Kathryn Moore tells BCR that the tattoo parlor -- a frequent Best of the Triangle winner in the Indy's reader polls -- is excited to be moving to a larger space than its current Ninth Street digs.

Continue reading "Dogstar Tattoo to make its new home at Golden Belt" »

WSJ tags Durham #1 market for investment properties in the US

Re_market_report Despite the downturn in sales, most of the real estate professionals I've spoken with have opined the housing market in Durham hasn't been as badly-hit as some markets around the country.

Looks like the Wall Street Journal -- or at least a Cary-based researcher they cite -- is in agreement.

The paper calls Durham the number one housing market in the US out of 315 analyzed based on projected price appreciation for investment properties for conservative investors.

The business newspaper cited a new study by Local Market Monitor, Inc., a firm that has long provided forecasts on housing markets, and which has now turned to investment prospects for single-family homes, on the premise that certain markets seem unlikely to degrade further in prices. 

Stable employment, including a high-percentage of jobs in fields like health care, government, and education, plays a key role in their analysis.

Continue reading "WSJ tags Durham #1 market for investment properties in the US" »

International grocery to take old Circuit City site

My friend and fellow Derm-blogger Joe has long talked about the string of international grocers near the old South Square, most particularly in the 70s/80s mall-sprawl on the eastern side of University Dr. by Saladalia, Eastern Lights, and whatever that Indian restaurant's name is this month.

Now they're getting some locally-owned competition in big-box format -- literally.

The death of Linens 'n Things and Circuit City left more gaps in most shopping center owners' portfolios than Gordie Howe had in his smile at the end of his NHL career. And that's notably true of Westgate Plaza, whose sole major long-term retail tenant remaining (Toys 'R Us) looks like a raggedy tooth hanging from a senior prepping himself for dentures.

Circuit City moved out when the Richmond, Va. retailer wound down operations, while Ashley's Home Furniture is closing its location in that plaza, too.

But N&O retail maven Sue Stock reports in today's edition that the owner of a City of Oaks international grocery is getting ready to take over the Circuit City space:

Owner Li Zhang also owns the A&C Supermarket on South Wilmington Street in Raleigh, but at just under 50,000 square feet, this new store will be much bigger.

Zhang will stock fresh produce and seafood, and products for Asian, Hispanic, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cooking. There will also be an international food court and coffee shop inside.

Triangle blogger Meg has a tour of the Wake County store on her blog complete with photos, finding A&C not too bad a place to shop (though preferring Cary's Grand Asia instead.)

Dolly's moves downtown, provides nicer digs for Main St. Pharmacy

213-w-main  We mentioned last week that there's plenty of activity happening on the downtown retail front of late -- and don't think the stories are done yet.

Next up: the property at 213 West Main St., which currently houses the Main Street Pharmacy along with some storefront windows with changing displays; two apartments, including at least one recently-renovated unit, are on the upper floor.

The building's owner, Jennifer Donner, also happens to own Dolly's in Brightleaf Square, a popular purveyor of vintage clothing, gifts and other accoutrements -- including those "Durham Love Yourself" buttons you see all over the place.

And Donner's planning to relocate this fall from Brightleaf Square to Main Street, bringing another general retailer as the city center branches out from dining and drinking to something a little more shopping-oriented.

Continue reading "Dolly's moves downtown, provides nicer digs for Main St. Pharmacy" »

BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for August 20, 2010

DPAC Wows on Wicked: The DPAC's second-year numbers were up big, with a $2.9 million profit bringing more than $1.2 million in for the City's share, twice the profit the city-earned on a full year adjusted basis its opening year. Then again, "Wicked" seems to have been the big difference, with its sold-out 32 show run accounting for one-quarter of all revenue. The windfall with offset ongoing slow naming rights and room occupancy tax revenues, for which the City is a half-million below projections, and will support ongoing repairs and maintenance including an upgraded sound system. (TBJ, Herald-Sun)

New Hope for Peterson?: The recent mess at the SBI isn't the only thing that may give Michael Peterson supporters hope for a new trial; the novelist and onetime mayoral candidate convicted of murdering his wife this week saw his attorney and former neighbor submit multiple affidavits including one a professor of veterinary medicine, all asserting that the wounds on former Nortel exec Kathleen Peterson were consistent with owl attack marks. Peterson is serving a life sentence on the charges. (N&O)

NCCU #1 Among HBCUs: US News' rankings has placed NC Central eleventh among more than 100 historically black colleges and universities nationally, and ranked it first among all non-private HBCUs for academic quality. Spelman, Howard and Morehouse were the three top-ranked institutions in the survey. (Herald-Sun)

Continue reading "BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for August 20, 2010" »

Walltown rec center sees ribbon cutting, community day this Saturday

It's been a long wait for the Walltown neighborhood and nearby communities -- with Walltown in particular pressing for more than a generation for a rec center promised to them as the days of segregation ended.

Saturday, the historically African-American neighborhood that once provided many of its own quasi-municipal services (and tolerated a trash incinerator's presence) will see the official ribbon cutting on the Walltown Recreation Center, the latest in Durham's network of indoor activity and athletic centers.

It may be the last for some time, too, with a South Durham rec center on the capital improvement plan skids, and with parking deck overruns for the Durham Centre deck costing money intended to buy and convert the Trinity Ave. Y into an indoor pool specializing in the needs of seniors and other special populations.

Walltown_350 Anyway, Walltown's center will have a ribbon-cutting from 10:00-10:30am on Saturday, Aug. 21, followed by an open house/community day until 2pm.

The center will open for limited hours (3pm-6pm weekdays) on Wednesday, Aug. 25 for youth, teen and after-school programs only.

The City is tentatively targeting October 4 for a full opening, with the center opening at 8:30am Mondays through Saturdays and closing between 6pm and 10pm depending on the day. (Sunday hours: 1-6pm.)

The 25,000+ sq. ft. facility features a gym for athletic events and performances plus an elevated indoor walking track. Mature adult social and activity programming will also be provided along with dance studio and culinary spaces.

DPS chair Forte-Brown thanks Lottery for teacher save in new commercial

Lottery_commercial Listservs have been abuzz with a media appearance you may have seen during local newscasts, too -- the presence of Durham school board chair Minnie Forte-Brown in a video segment crediting the North Carolina Education Lottery for helping to save hundreds of teaching jobs in North Carolina.

Proceeds from the lottery -- controversially passed a few years back in NC -- are typically earmarked for helping reduce class sizes in early grades, providing pre-K services for at-risk populations, and school construction. 

(35% of each dollar of revenue goes to these purposes; the bulk of the remainder goes for prizes, commissions and administration.)

The General Assembly agreed this year to allow school construction dollars to flow to emergency funding for teacher positions, which Forte-Brown notes had an impact in Durham.

"The funds generated by the North Carolina Education Lottery helped to save teaching jobs here in Durham," Forte-Brown says in the two minute video, a slice of which is also airing on television locally at least. "It is actually helping to make our schools better for our children."

Continue reading "DPS chair Forte-Brown thanks Lottery for teacher save in new commercial" »

BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for August 19, 2010

Duke Meeting Budget Goals: Duke president Richard Brodhead tells the N&O in a staff meeting that targeted staff reductions and cuts have moved the university in the right direction towards a 3-year, $100 million budget reduction, avoiding wide-scale layoffs. Annual giving was up to $346m last year, one of the best years in school history. (N&O)

More on DUPD: The Herald-Sun's Ray Gronberg follows up on Neil Offen's reporting on a state appeals court ruling that could strip Davidson College of its ability to run a police force; Gronberg talks to one defense attorney who thinks the move could impact Duke's police department, too, though the matter seems to come down to just how "independent and non-sectarian" the university is. The H-S' metro beat reporter suggests that the Methodist state conferences' role in affirming two-thirds of trustee appointments may be of interest in the whole matter. (Herald-Sun)

Mentoring Cuts: The Indy looks this week at new teacher mentoring in Durham, a program that didn't escape the axe of budget cuts but which is seen as needed in a district with a high number of new teachers -- and an 18% annual turnover rate in the mid-2000s vs. a 12% state average. The Indy looks at how one new teacher is preparing and raises the question of whether the newest entrants to classrooms will get the support they need. (Indy Weekly)

Suspension Policies: We usually focus on news stories and not op-eds in the Fishwrap, but an opinion piece co-authored by DPS board vice chair Heidi Carter discussing problems with how the state allows for and tracks school suspensions is a must-read. One concern: too many districts are sending kids home during suspensions instead of considering in-school suspension that has them in class but serving detention at day's end. (N&O)

Lay Health Workers?: Lincoln Community Health Center and NCCU are considering working to empower and train "opinion leaders" in communities to help out in coaching, educating and informing patients with chronic health conditions. The idea of engaging community members who can reach people when neutral health practitioners can't is used in some urban areas and in relatively impoverished nations to great success. (Herald-Sun)

Perez Featured: Columbia grad, poetry aficionado, professional baseball player. It is not in that order that most know Durham Bull Fernando Perez, whose return to the Tampa Bay Rays has been hampered by injury. Then again, Walltown resident and downtown foodie fan also don't fit into the common conceptions. The Indy's occasional baseball writer Adam Sobsey has an insightful profile; the Sobsey-Perez combination, by the way, probably has a greater literary IQ than any sportswriter and athlete combination in recent memory. (Indy Weekly)

BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for August 18, 2010

DPS Scrutiny Wrap: The Herald-Sun closes out its four-day series looking at the challenges of DPS with stories that ask whether as a community we're prepared to accept as a given the current low-performance of socioeconomically disadvantaged students, or whether the community is prepared to embrace schools and expect higher performance. Flexibility in hiring and terminating staff for performance and innovative methods of outreach from schools and the community back to homes to encourage everything from summer reading engagement to skills needed in order to set high expectations for learning. (Herald-Sun #1, #2, #3)

New Wrinkle for Orange Co. Trash: Remember that deal to send Orange County's trash to Durham's transfer station, thanks to the inability of the county to find a new home for its refuse once the landfill is full, a move that could in turn help Durham fund a new facility? Well, a deal isn't signed -- and Orange Co.'s solid waste manager tells the N&O that the county would like to talk with Chatham Co. over its landfill construction plans. A real possibility of change in destination, or a ploy to get better terms in negotiations with Durham's city manager? (N&O

More on Rolling Hills: The relatively high per-unit cost for housing at Rolling Hills -- despite the City's donation of land it paid to acquire, and including the decision to mingle in mixed-income housing into the project -- seems to have played a key role in the project not getting the financial support it needed from state tax credits to move forward. City officials note they'll touch base with the state housing finance agency to see how they might resusscitate the financing next year, while Mayor Bell draws an analogy to other projects like DPAC and American Tobacco that had false starts before moving forward for good. Meanwhile, Self-Help's plans to continue to build owner-occupied housing in neighboring Southside continue. (N&O, Herald-Sun)

IEM Arrives: Defense and homeland security consulting firm IEM celebrated its move from Baton Rouge, La. to Durham at the edge of RTP on Tuesday with a ribbon-cutting attended by US Rep. David Price and Gov. Perdue among others. Twice as many employees as expected are taking the company up on the offer of relocation from Louisiana to the Triangle; the firm has 7,500 sq. ft. in Reichhold's office space on Ellis Rd. and could grow by another 5,500 sq. ft. in the immediate future if desired. (Herald-Sun)

Duke Police Status?: The Herald-Sun asks whether the status of Duke's police force might be called into question due to the presence of religious tenets in its bylaws after a state appeals court ruled that a more religiously-aligned Davidson College should not have the delegated power to handle state law issues or make arrests due to separation of church and state provisions. A Duke official tells the Herald-Sun that the matter is under review but that the school believes the governance methodology is different enough at Duke that it likely won't apply. (Herald-Sun)