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November 2010

October 2010

Much to do for the trick-or-treating Durhamite

Jackolantern 'Tis "the season" to count down the days until "the season".  Those that are eagerly awaiting the commencement of this year's holiday festivities, or those just plain distraught over this week's spell of Indian summer, have quite a few events to keep them occupied this weekend.

All weekend long, the Durham Jaycees will be hosting their 38th annual haunted house.  Each night will benefit a different Durhamn charity, with tonight benefitting the Kramden Institute

Saturday's patrons will see their proceeds going to Durham's Ronald McDonald House, with Sunday having a Duke vs. UNC theme.  Now in its thirty-eighth year, this iteration of the Jaycees Haunted House is making its home in the Shops at Northgate (1720 Guess Rd.) Hours are 6:30pm-11:00pm all three nights.


Saturday kicks off with the seventh annual Cree Habitat for Humanity Halloween Bike Ride.  Saturday’s event is one of two annual bike rides that benefit Durham Habitat for Humanity.  As in years past, this year’s ride will offer three distances, with each route beginning and ending at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. The 31-, 62-, and 100- mile routes all feature full support from the Durham County Sherriff’s Office.

Pre-registration is now closed, but walk-up riders can register beginning at 7:30AM for a $45 fee.  Those looking for a preview of the routes can find them, along with more information, on Habitat’s web site.

Continue reading "Much to do for the trick-or-treating Durhamite" »

BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for October 29, 2010

RTP EPA Site Air Quality Issues?: WRAL's investigations team looks at allegations of problems with indoor air quality and mold at -- of all places -- the EPA's massive operations site in Research Triangle Park, where workers have been complaining about respiratory illnesses and issues since moving into the building in the early 2000s. Messrs. Stewart and Colbert, no need to rally on the National Mall this weekend, we've got your restoration of irony right here. (WRAL)

American Underground Opens, HTC Nearby?: The H-S' Monica Chen has the lowdown on the Underground, the new incubator space in the subterranean digs of the Strickland Building at ATC that gives a ray of light to new startups -- and inspiration to developers everywhere seeking to market difficult-to-fill space where rays of light never deign to shine. Of course, the lightless basement space is able to be leased at very low rates that work great for start-up companies, helping to draw innovation and entrepreneurship to the Bull City -- and Chen notes the ongoing reports that the basement space just to its south is likely to be the R&D lab space for cell phone maker HTC. Cheap space? Maybe, but our speculation is that -- as one NC State grad-turned-Apple engineer learned when their lost iPhone 4 was bought by Gawker -- you keep your shiny new phones and software where, well, where the sun don't shine. (Herald-Sun)

Gives "Grassroots" A Whole New Meaning: And that's a doubly ironic kicker to this story. Longtime Durham political activist Jackie Wagstaff -- whose City Council tenure was followed by a school board stint where Wagstaff was often at the heart of a tumultuous four years for DPS -- is reported to be pressing a write-in campaign to get a seat as a county Soil & Water supervisor, a past jumping-off point for several politicians. And that double irony? Wagstaff's distributing her own campaign materials urging her election (that's "grassroots"), and of course, grass' roots grow in well-watered soils (that's... OK, that's a pretty weak joke.) (Herald-Sun)

Power of the Purse: If Durham's powerful legislative incumbents lose to conservative upstarts in this week's election, it won't be for a lack of funding. Luebke, McKissick, Michaux et alia have outraised and outspent their competitors, the Herald-Sun notes in an analysis of campaign giving; the margins range from 2-to-1 to about 7-to-1. (Herald-Sun)

Chancellor Featured: The new chancellor of the NC School of Science & Math, Todd Roberts, is featured in yesterday's Herald-Sun. Roberts is a native of Durham -- and weirdly, of NCSSM, since he was born in Watts Hospital before its conversion to the school -- and arrives from the top job in the Ann Arbor, Mich. district. The H-S' Matt Milliken notes that the statewide residential school for math and science is still eyeing expansion under its revised master plans, but budget cuts to the UNC system make that a more temporally distant prospect than it was a few years back. (Herald-Sun)

Zombies, March: Zombies. Fourth year. Marching downtown (and great for the whole family, seriously.) Starts at Piedmont, Saturday, 6pm. And yes, we still think Howard Clement would make, as we said in '07, "a bad-ass zombie." (N&O)

Durham's Chesterfield, from the inside -- and on the verge, perhaps, of renewal

When it comes to downtown Durham's largest, most significant structures, most exist only in one of two states: renovated or demolished.

Happily, more have followed the former path than the latter, though losses like the beautiful Union Station still smart. And of course, plenty of smaller structures have been lost in the process of building the downtown loop, NC 147, the NC Mutual Building -- or to the ravages of fire in the days when centralized water systems were crazy-talk.

In the urban core, though, the really big prizes are mostly off the table, with West Village, American Tobacco, Brightleaf Square and Golden Belt done.

But there are always exceptions.

And the Chesterfield is certainly an exception.


I had a chance to walk through the building yesterday with Josh Parker, the Millennial-generation Bull City native who started off in development working for Tom Niemann, Christian Laettner, Brian Davis and the crew around the West Village project, and who now has come into sharp relief against some of them with his unexpected bidding for the last undeveloped portion of the property.

Walking the floors of the Chesterfield with Parker and his team, you can't escape the feeling that you've somehow interposed yourself into a purgatory between those two states of existence.

Renovated? Hardly; the peeling lead paint, mysterious oil slicks, omnipresent animal waste and bizarre noises are an everpresent reminder of the liminal state of the building -- the Jaycees could make a killing having their haunted house there -- to say nothing of explaining the rationale behind getting you to sign a notarized disclaimer before you step inside.


But demolished? Not for a hot minute. 

If anything, the structure's ever-present tile-covered concrete pillars and poured concrete floors, most still replete with machinery, remind you that this isn't a structure that's going anywhere anytime soon.

Only problem for this factory is, that's just where it's been stuck for years.

But if Parker gets his way, perhaps not for much longer.

Continue reading "Durham's Chesterfield, from the inside -- and on the verge, perhaps, of renewal" »

Sunday talk commemorates centennial of Booker T. Washington visit to the Bull City

Booker It's been a hundred years since renowned African-American leader Booker T. Washington came to Durham to speak.

One hundred, exactly, this coming Sunday, Oct. 31, at St. Joseph's AME Church on Fayetteville St.

In that event's honor, Durham's Eddie Davis -- an educator and past state superintendent candidate, and one of the key movers in lobbying for state historic recognition of the Royal Ice Cream site where one of the South's first sit-ins happened -- will give a talk at St. Joseph's (now the Hayti Heritage Center) this Sunday commemorating the centennial.

It's no accident that the centennial comes in the same year that North Carolina Central University is celebrating 100 years of service educating the community.

Continue reading "Sunday talk commemorates centennial of Booker T. Washington visit to the Bull City" »

BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for October 27, 2010

More on Erwin Square: The Herald-Sun has a follow-up this morning on plans for up to 300 apartment units at Erwin Square, including a look at the Charlotte developer (Crescent Resources) working on the project and with clues about some of the plans neighbors may see next week, including hoped-for architectural compatibility with the historic Erwin Mills building. (Herald-Sun)

OND Park Advocate Targets TROSA: One advocate pressing for the City to deny a charter school and neighborhood proposal for independently-funded renovations to Old North Durham Park has picked up a new target for the crosshairs -- TROSA, the widely-respected Durham non-profit. We at BCR aren't sure it's a good idea to pick on TROSA over anything, ever, given their reputation and solid political support, though perhaps "cute kittens" and "teddy bears" were already taken as possible lobbying points. The non-profit admits it did lock a parking lot adjacent to the public space that it was supposed to keep open, but calls the action a staff error that's being corrected, and wishes that a park opponent had brought the error to their attention before complaining to City staff. (Herald-Sun)

Cree Sees Growth: Durham-based LED lighting firm Cree is seeing big success with their commercial, retail and industrial customers for green lighting that's pricy up-front but lasts 20 years and delivers energy savings. And an N&O report from the company's annual meeting reports that their initial foray into residential sales -- direct, and through Home Depot -- is off to a successful start, too. The company is sitting on more than $1 billion in cash. (N&O)

Judgeship Candidates: The H-S' John McCann takes a look at Tuesday night's judicial candidate forum, offering at least a glimpse at the different views and perspectives that Superior and District Court candidates have in this year's race. (Herald-Sun)

Community meeting in the works for Erwin Square residential project

Erwin-sq There's more news afoot on a recently-in-the-news proposal to add as many as 300 multi-family residential units to Erwin Square, the ongoing redevelopment of the old Erwin Mills off Ninth Street.

Part of the mill was converted to apartments on the eastern side of the site, while an office tower, shops and the 2000s-vintage Station Nine apartments taking root on the western end of the property. In the middle have floated planning visions for a hotel and, now, a 280-300 unit residential project.

Developers Terry Sanford Jr. and Clay Hamner have been shopping the idea around for some time, as noted back in a September story in the Herald-Sun. Now comes word of a neighborhood meeting next Thursday where residents will have a chance to hear about the project.

The meeting is set for 6pm on Thursday, November 4 at Grey Stone Baptist Church at 715 Fifteenth St. in Durham.


Continue reading "Community meeting in the works for Erwin Square residential project" »

BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for October 26, 2010

Lakewood Montessori Middle +$1m: That Lakewood YMCA the County bought to turn into a new Montessori magnet middle school and leased-back Y facility? In worse shape than expected, to the tune of another $1 million towards its renovation; the uptick represented a one-eighth increase in the project cost. Unneeded contingency dollars from a Creekside Elementary expansion will fund the overrun, the Herald-Sun reports. (Herald-Sun)

It's a Dog Eat Dog World: The H-S has a colorful story on a licensed mobile food vendor who thought a competitor was being a wiener, operating without a license. The dispute led to a slight contretemps between the streetsters on Erwin Rd. near Duke Hospital, with a war of words taking place until the police -- who probably never sausage a thing like this before -- came in to settle the matter. The H-S piece is a story for our time, with the unlicensed vendor taking the stance that his unalienable rights are alienated by being forced to have a food license. Maybe he should throw a tea party instead? (Herald-Sun)

Early Voting Up: Early voting at the three sites (downtown's BOE offices and the north and south regional libraries) is running at a pace nearly 50% ahead of 2006's mark, another sign of intensive interest in this mid-year election. (Herald-Sun)

Biotech Bash: The new $10 million addition to the NC Biotechnology Center in RTP gets its debut today; it's named for former Gov. Jim Hunt, whose initial support led to the center's founding in '84. (Herald-Sun)

It's Not a Misprint: The Durham Police Department has been cracking down on speeders -- speeders! -- in Durham, along with drug activities and other miscreant creations. Holloway St. and Shannon Rd. were targeted. In other news, pigs have been spotted flying down E. Trinity Ave., where their altitude was just high enough to miss setting off the electronic speed limit signs. (Herald-Sun)

Try, Try Again: After missing the chance to set a world record for food drive collections last year, NCSSM will give it another shot this coming March. (Herald-Sun)

Bull City Vegan Challenge enters last week

Bullcityveganchallenge As October draws to a close, a reminder that this is the final week for the Bull City Vegan Challenge, an attempt to foster awareness of both vegan dietary interests and their power of the pocketbook in drawing business.

And the event certainly seems to be doing that; its sponsors note positive feedback from restaurants like Beyu Caffe and Rue Cler, where vegans are making up overwhelming numbers in the reservation books some night or -- in Beyu's case -- eating the restaurant out of house, home and vegan chocolate mousse. (Mousse can be vegan? Sign me up.)

Each of the restaurants competing in the challenge has come up with one or more dishes that meet the dietary criteria. Patrons try the dishes and vote via the BCVC web site for their favorites. And they're not shy about sharing what they think on the Facebook page or via comments on the web site, either.

Winners get a nominal prize and certificate, but the real win here may be for Durham's vegans, should the contest manage to get some of these dishes added full-time to restaurant menus.

Participating restaurants include Alivia's, Beyu Caffe, Dos Perros, The Federal, Nosh, Parker & Otis, Piedmont, Rue Cler, Toast and Vin Rouge. The competition idea is the brainchild of two Durhamite foodies, Chef Shirlé Hale-Koslowski and Eleni Vlachos.

Durham Central Market co-op approaches owners goal, plans investment campaign for downtown grocery

The annual meeting of owners/members of the Durham Central Market cooperative grocery store project was one part community gathering, one part imagination -- and one part preparation, as owners heard the first of what will likely be a series of pitches for an upcoming capital investment campaign to get over the hurdles standing between the initiative and its goal of a Weaver Street Market-style store for Durham.

A crowd of sixty or so were present for the start of the annual meeting, which was preceded by some envisioning of where the actual market would someday stand on Mangum St. at the corner of Broadway at downtown's northern edge. 


That envisioning came in the form of red flags marking off the proposed 10,000 sq. ft. store here, a grassy outdoor seating and eating area there, and parking over there, and the back of the house and loading dock over yonder.

The goal was to make more concrete a project that's still be in the visioning stage for a couple of years, given -- as co-op board leaders explained -- a recessionary environment that's been hard on both lenders (who might a few years back provided easy construction and working capital) and developers (who might once have built the store and allowed the co-op to lease space.)

In the present economic conditions, though, Durham Central Market will need to raise a goodly chunk of the dollars needed to build the market and get it started.

And as yesterday's owners meeting made clear, once the co-op hits its goal of 1,000 owners (at $100 each), an investment campaign will be the next step.

Continue reading "Durham Central Market co-op approaches owners goal, plans investment campaign for downtown grocery" »

BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for October 25, 2010

It's a chock-a-block read of Saturday, Sunday and Monday news this morning:

More on Diplomas: The H-S takes a look at a variety of NC districts offering minimum-credit diplomas, which can provide a degree (and an uptick in the graduation rate) for students without completing all the ordinarily requisite electives. DPS super Eric Becoats' old district, Guilford Co., has the highest graduation rate in the state in part thanks to their limited-credit program, though Durham would allow the degree only for delayed graduates, unlike Guilford. And it looks to be a ticket to community college based on other districts' experience -- though DTCC's Bill Ingram says the district hasn't brought the idea forward yet to them. (Herald-Sun #1, #2)

Alston Widening: The Durham News' Jim Wise has a wrap-up of this Tuesday's NCDOT hearing on the future of Alston Ave. Neighborhood revitalizers near Golden Belt and the Old East Durham neighborhood are concerned that a four-laning (or more) will bring pedestrian and bike woes and set back renewal efforts, while leaders in NECD's City-sponsored leadership council back the project as needed investment -- though they'd like to see new development at the site of the Los Primos grocery and fewer retaining walls, they tell Wise in this Saturday's paper. (The Durham News)

Pavers Far and Near Fear Revere, Steer More Dollars Here: Parkwood's Revere Rd. is a poison-pill of paving, now estimated to run between $1.3m and $1.5m after a new asphalt layer morphed into a full-gospel road reconstruction project. And Wise notes that there are other streets in the 1997-annexation neighborhood that have similar signs of major difficulties, which could mean more work to come in the near future. Meanwhile, the Herald-Sun provides a summary of what's at stake in this fall's road paving bond referendum, a plan with significant support from community organizations but which flies into the headwinds of a bad economy. (The Durham News, Herald-Sun)

SciMetrika Featured: The Herald-Sun's Monica Chen has an interesting feature today on SciMetrika, a Durham-based medical research firm that's expecting to nearly double its 60-person workforce this year in the wake of a growing stable of federal and private research contracts. The firm, which works in a sector similar to RTI International down in the Park, is taking over the space left by CED as that entrepreneurship booster moves to American Tobacco. (Herald-Sun)

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