What surprises await this week? A new police chief? A new downtown plan? Plus, essential reading on the Carolina Theatre and housing
Pour another cup of coffee (or if you’re reading this in the afternoon, a stronger elixir), and kick back in your lawn chair, civically minded reader, there’s a big week ahead:
First, read today’s Durham News story about the new deal the city is striking with the financially strapped Carolina Theatre, giving up to $500,000 to keep it operating. In exchange, the city will receive weekly financial reports and other fiscal monitoring. What a great idea.
If you just got to town, late last year, theater executives announced that although they thought the city-owned facility was profitable, it was actually more than $625,000 in the hole, an oversight blamed on bad accounting. Several people from the nonprofit that runs the theater resigned, including the director Bob Nocek. And last May, even before the accounting debacle was made public, Director of Finance Sam Spatafore was fired for failing to follow a payment plan he’d set up with the N.C. Department of Revenue.
Some of the chronology hasn’t added up for me (no pun intended). Theater management knew in April 2015 that the books were a mess, yet the full extent of the financial hole wasn’t publicly revealed until December, just a few days before Christmas.
Nonprofit Quarterly also covered the story, noting that “a number of cases lately of organizations that have been unaware that they were running large deficits over years. All the trappings of financial oversight are there, but none of the substance.”
Other than brushing up on your math, keep tuned in for Downtown Durham Inc.’s master plan update. DDI is supposed to release a draft of its 2015-16 Downtown Master Plan, which it updates every seven years. Two public meetings were held last summer, where residents chimed in about their priorities. There were several refrains that emerged from those meetings, two of them being affordability and grit.
The 2008-09 plan seems almost quaint now (and the 2000 version absolutely antiquated), predating the completion of the Durham Performing Arts Center, the expansion of American Tobacco Campus, even the bus station. However, seven years ago, the plan did foreshadow the major construction projects, including the old SunTrust/now 21C Museum Hotel, the Jack Tar, the old Liggett & Myers factory, and Durham Central Park.
What didn’t happen: Renaissance at Durham Centre. The 2008 plan forecast a “twin” tower to the glass fortress on Morgan Street that was to consisted of 200,000 square feet of condos or mixed-use. The economic crash scuttled those plans, although one could argue the new skyscraper is essentially Tower No. 2, just a few blocks away.
Kent Corner, site of the Durham Co-op and the center for Child & Family Health, turned a year old this month, and infill development, some of it private, some of it Habitat for Humanity homes, has begun in Lyon Park, particularly on Carroll Street. The future of several houses on Kent Street, and the historically minority neighborhood in general, are the topic of a community discussion Monday at 5 p.m. at Immaculate Conception Church, 810 W. Chapel Hill Street.
On Tuesday, Durham CAN unveils its vision for working with the new police chief — either Cerlyn Davis or Mike Smathers, another piece of big news that could be announced this week. Durham CAN is holding a press conference at 5:30 in front of DPD headquarters, 505 W. Chapel Hill St.; parking was available at Duke Memorial United Methodist Church, across the street.
A new and controversial $71 million Durham Police HQ will be constructed on East Main Street, and over the next five to 10 years years, that end of downtown will be the new Durham Central Park neighborhood as far as construction goes.
An integral part of that area is Oldham Towers/Liberty Street public housing projects owned by the Durham Housing Authority. On Wednesday at 5:30 p.m., DHA, 330 E. Main St., will hold a public hearing about a significant change to its five-year plan: The demolition of Oldham Towers and Liberty Street, which will be rebuilt and converted to privately managed but DHA-owned properties.
This is known as the RAD program (Rental Assistance Demonstration), a push by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to help housing authorities nationwide get out from under the escalating costs of maintaining their properties.
While the financial burden is real, RAD can have serious consequences for residents. Hat tip to Brother Ray Eurquhart, who sent me this cautionary tale from 2014 that describes how privatization could curb residents’ civil rights remains pertinent. Yes, there are fair housing laws but myriad ways to game the system. (See today’s New York Times for how one town tried to use rezoning to keep out the poor and minorities.)
You can comment on the proposal through Tuesday, April 26.
And finally, the state legislature convenes tomorrow at 7 p.m. for the short session. How can we miss them when they won't go away?