Project 20/10: Duke sees decade of growth -- and joins peers contemplating recession's pain (#6)

If NC Central was in a student-growth mode this past decade, Duke was in a physical-plant growth mode.

The student body stayed roughly the same size in the 2000s, but Duke's campus didn't, with significant new facilities seen in everything from research labs to a new museum to new facilities for public policy, nursing, law and other professional programs. By the Duke Chronicle's estimate, that worked out to hundreds of millions of dollars in construction activity over the decade.

Duke_chapel  The work helped to cement in bricks and mortar the university's growing national and international reputation, something that in the bigger context is quite remarkable for an institution less than a century old in its current form, and one constantly competing with institutions hundreds of years its senior and tens of billions of dollars wealthier for the top students, researchers and faculty.

It's a move cemented in a move that started last decade, with an ambitious $1.5 billion capital fundraising effort, the "Campaign for Duke" launched under then-President Nan Keohane -- and from a quadrupling of annual giving since mid-1980s levels.

At the same time, the 2000s saw Duke launch an ambitious international expansion effort. It joined the ranks of peer universities partnering with developing countries' schools and governments for efforts like the partnership for Singapore's national medical school. And as the new decade approached, Duke turned to an even broader set of overseas expansions, with Fuqua's MBA program poised to lead the way in London, Russia, Shanghai, India and beyond -- and with press reports noting the school's board considering a significant campus partnership on a 200 acre parcel in Kunshan, China that could break ground early this year.

The decade's end saw Duke break ground on a massive expansion of its hospital facility, with a new inpatient pavilion and cancer center adding nearly 850,000 sq. ft. of space between the original Duke South hospital (today's clinics) and the 1970s-vintage Duke North tower, for a total investment of nearly $700 million and the permanent addition of as many as 700 jobs.

The decade's end brought new worries for the university as, like its peers, the stock market's crash and declines in giving during the Great Recession led to cost-cutting and reductions in staffing, efforts still underway.

Even as news reports have filled with pessimism over Duke's financial position, however, its early and historic investment in a medical and research campus have left the university less dependent on its endowment than some of its counterparts in American higher education.

Duke's growth in the past decade, and the expansion in health care and international activity set for the 2010s, marks our sixth-biggest Durham story of the past decade.

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Project 20/10: Downtown revitalization takes off (#7)

To this observer, there've been two periods of downtown Durham's revitalization in the past decade:

American Tobacco, and everything thereafter.

The "everything thereafter" tag is meant in no way to minimize the accomplishments of locations like West Village, Golden Belt, the Durham Performing Arts Center, and of new businesses in and around the loop; far from it. Rather, as we'll talk about later on the top-20 list, the debate around American Tobacco was relatively singular, and its impact as a mind-changer unmatched.

But the rest of downtown's changes are nothing to shrug at.

Even as a relative newcomer to the Bull City, I'm amazed at the changes I've seen in and around downtown just since the mid-2000s.

In 2004, downtown was a fairly dead place, day or night, especially if you weren't bound for city or county offices, or for the occasional office space outpost in the Hill Building or Durham Centre. Few food options and no nightlife options obtained, while the one-way traffic on Main St. and Chapel Hill St. made driving through downtown a job for the hardy.

By the end of the decade, the city center still has its very quiet times -- but it's a picture that's undergoing a change. New restaurants, bars and nightspots have combined with new start-up retail options to bring more life than downtown's seen in years.

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Project 20/10: High profile cases aside, crime declines dramatically (#8)

Aside from Duke lacrosse, there were some high-profile crime stories in the Bull City this past decade. And -- no surprise here, again -- they drew a disproportionate level of interest and media attention. 

In 2008, the murder of Duke student Abhijit Mahato and UNC student body president Eve Carson in two separate incidents, allegedly by two young Durham men, chilled the region and created a stir during and after the manhunt for their killers.

And bookending the decade, the 2000s opened with the death of Nortel executive Kathleen Peterson; her husband, unsuccessful mayoral candidate and author Michael Peterson, was accused and convicted of murdering Peterson in their Forest Hills home.

Both stories were tragedies, albeit tragedies that drew differential media and public attention (compared to everyday crime) thanks to the prominence or unusual circumstances of their deaths.

Sadly, there've been two dozen murders most years in Durham, few rivaling a scintilla of the public's interest that these cases did.

And Durham continues to draw attention throughout the region for having a crime rate that exceeds those of Raleigh and Cary, thanks to demographic differences and proximity issues that miss the fact that Durham rates right behind them as one of the safest cities in the state.

But amidst the media (and Realtor) obsession with crime and safety in the Bull City, one story has been drastically under-reported -- so much so, that I think ranks among the top twenty stories in Durham this decade.

Since the mid 1990s, per-capita crime rates have fallen dramatically in Durham, due what appears to be both population growth as well as a decline in nominal levels. Witness, for instance, the change in crime index rates from the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports dating back to 1995:


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Project 20/10: Lacrosse case draws national attention (#9)

Not surprisingly, local media outlets have picked the Duke Lacrosse case as one of the very top stories of the decade in Durham and Triangle news -- often pegging it as the number one story of the past ten years.

No_ifs Certainly there's a lot that makes the story newsworthy. It's a story that touches on so many of the things that makes for good copy: conflict over class, over education, over race. 

It was a conflict that highlighted what would eventually be tarred political corruption, in what emerged as the story of an overreaching district attorney who, as the consensus story has seemed to run, was obsessed with re-election and let his initial assurance of guilt get in the way of truth.

I'd argue that the lacrosse case was a key symbol of the polarization of America this decade. It divided left from right, with progressives accused of being quick to side with the accuser and against the players, while conservatives were quick to jump to the players' defense, particularly as more facts and questions appeared about the accuser and district attorney Mike Nifong.

I've said and written little about the lacrosse case here at BCR, leaving that to those who, frankly, followed the case much closer than I, given that a cottage industry popped up around the case.

For me, lacrosse has been less-relevant to follow as a story simply because I think it could have happened anywhere, and because the flashpoints picked up by the media reflected broad divisions in American life more so than they did some Durham uniqueness. 

Contrary to national media assumptions, there was not some peculiar singularity about the Bull City that allowed this case to happen here. 

Of course, it's still a significant story, largely because of the local impact it had, and the unflattering exposure it gave to Durham. 

But I'd argue one key element in looking upon this as a national, not a local story: the lack of real, persistent local conflict created by the case in its time -- or any deep lingering effect here in Durham four years later.

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Project 20/10: IBM, Nortel lead decade of RTP big-employer cuts (#10)

The very fact that this little slice of North Carolina is named the "Triangle" comes back at its heart to the arrival of Research Triangle Park, an entity that celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in 2009.

It was a point for pride and celebration over RTP, the catalyst that helped to transform a sleepy, tobacco-centric region into one of the most recognizable brands in science and technology worldwide, and which helped turn Durham, Raleigh and Chapel Hill into a center for the modern knowledge-based economy. As the Research Triangle Foundation noted in a mid-decade submission to the International Association of Science Parks' 2006 conference:

[B]efore the Park was established, fewer than 15 percent of the businesses in the three counties surrounding the Park—Orange, Wake, and Durham—were in what was defined as “New-line” industries. This included businesses involved in chemicals, electronics, communications, business services, educational services, and engineering and management services. As more companies came to the Park and created other benefits, the share of new-line industries increased. By 1966, nearly 30 percent of businesses in the three counties were in new-line industries, by 1995, nearly 47 percent were new-line and by 2005, the percentage had reached 51 percent.

As this year's remembrance of RTP's founding have demonstrated, it wasn't always clear that the Park would be a success. Far from it: the Park's future wasn't secured in any meaningful way until 1965's announcement that International Business Machines would open up a 400-acre campus in the heart of the Park, in what would grow to become Big Blue's largest US operations.

Rtp_mapBy 2009, over 170 companies had established footholds in RTP. Yet more than half -- 56% -- had fewer than ten employees.

The 2006 IASP conference paper didn't break out firms by name, but noted that RTP had one employer with over 10,000 employees, and a second with 5,000-9,000 employees.

It's not hard to piece together that the first of those employers was IBM -- and that at one point, Nortel would have joined GlaxoSmithKline in that second category.

Ten years later, the Park has struggled back close to its pre-dot-com bust record employment levels, and newer entrants like NetApp and Cisco have established major operations here. And Glaxo recently named its RTP site as the official US headquarters for the London-based pharma giant.

But for two of the Park's biggest employer, the decline in RTP's 1990s lions -- and the inevitable questions over how to make the Park relevant to a newer, leaner, start-up-oriented generation (something already reflected in the large number of tiny companies there) -- stands as the tenth-biggest Durham news story of the past decade.

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Project 20/10: NCCU booms, broadens reach -- and faces conflict with neighbors (#11)

NCCU_sealNorth Carolina Central University celebrated its centennial last year, closing out the aughts with a look back at the history of America's first publicly-supported liberal arts college for African-Americans.

NCCU's been through a number of permutations in its history, starting out as a private institution (the National Religious Training School and Chautauqua) before falling on economic difficulties. State government stepped in in the early 1920s and transformed the school in the North Carolina College for Negroes; regional accreditation, the addition of graduate programs in the arts and sciences, law and other fields, before the school's rechristening as North Carolina Central University in 1969.

Three years later, the state of North Carolina reorganized its universities into a statewide system under a single Board of Governors, though like North Carolina A&T, Elizabeth City State University, and Fayetteville State University, NCCU has retained its identity as an historically black college/university (HBCU).

NCCU's campus between Fayetteville St. and Alston Ave. in south-central Durham sits in the heart of the heart of Durham's historic black middle- and upper-middle-class, nestled in a neighborhood populated by a number of descendants of some of the school's founders. It's a proud part of the City, one which has strong connections to the history of Hayti and "Black Wall Street" in their blood -- literally, in many cases.

For all that pride, this decade stands out as one in which, faced with a state booming in population and in need of more support for higher education, NCCU's seen its mission grow beyond its HBCU roots in ever-widening ways. 

With that growth in mission has come a substantial growth in student population -- and with it, a campus straining at the seams, necessitating new buildings and its first parking decks to handle that growth.

Most controversially of all: an ambitious campus master plan that would, over the coming decades, absorb some of that surrounding neighborhood, an at-times difficult experience for those long-tied to the area's history.

NCCU's rapid growth and its broadening scope rank as the eleventh most-significant story in Durham of the past decade.

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Project 20/10: Brier Creek turns development eyes to eastern Durham County (#12)

Given all the fretting about the run-off impact of Durham development and growth on water quality in Falls Lake -- the key source of drinking water for Raleigh -- it's ironic that the impetus of much of that recent growth may have come from Raleigh's boom in Brier Creek, itself just a few miles from the lake's edge.

Time was that Raleigh was Raleigh, Durham was Durham, and never the twain did meet. But the late 1990s saw the envisioning of massive development near the Wake/Durham border, clustered at the intersection of I-540 and US 70 near the RDU airport.

As the N&O noted earlier this decade, areas like North Raleigh, South Durham and Cary boomed first, thanks to the presence of existing infrastructure, from roads to utility services.

But as those areas began to be built-out, low land costs in the US 70 corridor drew attention as the new outer beltway for Raleigh came to fruition.

Certainly Brier Creek's endless supply of stores and shopping have drawn many Durhamites, with griping over leaked retail sales across the border becoming a common bogeyman in development and zoning matters.

But it's also spurred new development in once-sleepy eastern Durham County, from the Brightleaf at the Park development near US 70 and Miami Blvd., to proposed developments further south.

It's not a story that's played out to full fruition in this decade. But all signs for development point towards eastern Durham County -- a story that promises to shape development directions in the Bull City in the two decades to come.

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Project 20/10: Ice storm shuts down the Bull City (#13)

Ice_storm  When I asked for feedback on the top stories of the decade, one item came up in a surprising number of submissions:

The 2002 ice storm. And while we're largely focusing on thematic trends in this roundup of news, some stories merit exception, this one among them.

For many Durhamites, December 2002 was a time when the lights went out -- victims of an inch of ice that downed power lines throughout North and South Carolina -- and never seemed to want to come back on.

Even as neighboring communities saw power restored within days, Durham and Chapel Hill lagged the rest of the region, leading to angry cycles of blame and recrimination from the western half of the Triangle, and couldn't-help-it responses from Duke Power, which said the two cities just happened to be among both the last-hit and heaviest-hit cities.

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Project 20/10: City, county surge ahead with bond-funded and major capital projects (#14)

One of the biggest Durham stories of this past decade is one that's just starting to impact local residents lies in the community investments made by city and county government -- and, ultimately, voters themselves -- through a series of major bond referenda this decade.

The amounts, on the face of it, sound impressive: $110 million in City general obligation bonds in 2005 for parks, transportation, public facilities, streets, sidewalks and more. 2007's County issue of $195 million in school construction funds, including dollars for the new middle school near Treyburn and an elementary school off Hamlin Road -- on top of almost $156 million in school construction funding in 2001 and 2003.

Add to that smaller bond issues for streets and sidewalks, library expansions and renovations, growth at Durham Tech and the Museum of Life and Science. And there's more: non-GO bond funded capital projects at the starting blocks, from the under-construction Human Services Complex on East Main Street, to the massive new courthouse complex planned to abut the jail downtown.

And that's not to leave out the Durham Performing Arts Center, itself funded through the non-voter mechanism of certificates of participation, backed with revenue from the tourism tax, downtown fund and general revenues if needed.

This construction spree comes on the heels of major population growth in the Bull City throughout the 1990s and 2000s -- and in the case of the City projects, after a decade when capital projects largely didn't happen, and the City found itself falling further and further behind on deferred maintenance.

The decisions by City and County leaders to make these investments, and the voter support for them, marks what we're calling the fourteenth most important Durham story of the past decade.

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Project 20/10: Local media strains under economic pressures (#16)

Old_newspaper_racks There's an old gallows-humor joke about the apocryphal high-stress university where a dean tells assembled students to look to their left and right, and to realize that one of them won't be sitting there in a year.

This decade has seen much the same thing happen in local newspapers throughout the country.

And Durham, sadly, has been no exception. Only in the case of the Bull City, that mathematics works out to two out of three reporters gone. And circulation hasn't been much better. 

As the Independent Weekly's Fiona Morgan noted earlier this year (emphasis added):

The Durham daily has seen a 45 percent decline in print circulation since the sale. Today, The Herald-Sun's average daily circulation is 26,000 and its Sunday circulation is 29,600, according to Audit Bureau of Circulation reports for the period ending March 31, 2009, down from 48,000 daily and 52,000 Sunday for the same period in 2005. The News & Observer's print circulation declined 7 percent during that time.

Job losses have also been more severe in The Herald-Sun's newsroom. At the time of the takeover in January 2005, there were 87 newsroom employees. As of Monday, there were 29.

Which brings us to our sixteenth-ranked story of the past decade: the challenges facing local news -- most particularly the Herald-Sun, but reaching through the whole industry in a tough economic time. 

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