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The current design of the Bull City Connector's route resembles a string with a knot in the middle of it -- that is, the roundabout connection around Five Points, Chapel Hill St., and the like in order to reach Durham Station, the city transit hub. It's not uncommon to watch visitors (and even residents) scratch their heads around Five Points, trying to figure out which stop they need to take in order to get on the bus. While the route's path through the station helped keep DATA transfer riders in the mix, it likely also lengthened the route's time and impacted on-time performance. Come August 15, though, the Connector is slated to become a more direct route, running more closely along the Main Street spine through downtown, and extending further west into the sciences district on Duke's West Campus. Still, the changes have one other effect: curtailing 9pm to midnight service on Fridays/Saturdays, as closing time drops to 9pm across the entire route. Two areas are affected by the change. First, the BCC will no longer turn south on Erwin Rd. at Ninth St. to pull past Duke's Central Campus. Instead, the bus will stay on Main St. until Anderson St., when the connector will turn south instead to meet Erwin Rd. This change brings the bus past some newer points of density -- the Crescent Berkshire apartments (gotta love those quick REIT buyouts), Hilton Garden Inn, and other developments at the old Erwin Mills site. Next, the bus will... Continue reading
Posted Jul 20, 2015 at Bull City Rising
@Aaron: I'm not disputing that the government-driven development environment in China is radically different from what we have in the US. At the same time, for reasons that have much more to do with funding, political will and (I suspect) organizational inertia than anything else, we take forever to actually build and do things. Witness this quote from the Herald-Sun today ( "Marvin Williams, director of the City of Durham’s public works department, said depending on where the prospective sidewalk is being built it can take anywhere from six to nine months, up to five or more years to complete. And most of the projects within Durham come in on the longer scale — about two years to complete. And it looks as though that time frame isn’t going to budge. “That’s how they’re moving these days,” Williams said." Say what you will about comparing the US and China; that it takes one of our smaller, more "nimble" cities as long to build a freakin' SIDEWALK as it does to build thousands of kilometers of high-speed rail or subways, is an embarrassment. And note this affects roads just as much as it does transit, sidewalks, and the like. We can all think of good reasons for the status quo. But the status quo is pretty awful, all-in. Looking further at that article, the Fayetteville St. stretch quoted in the H-S would run, assuming a 5' width, almost $150 a square foot. To. Build. A. SIDEWALK. That's not far off the per sf. cost to CONSTRUCT A HOUSE. The H-S notes that City Council was stunned by the cost of the process. Hopefully this will be more than an eye-opener -- it'll be an incentive to see if there's any way to fix an insane process.
As Charlie (one of the candidates) notes in his comment, the field is indeed burgeoning. The shoes that Diane and Eugene are leaving over are big ones -- but it seems to look like a big opening door, too, to many prospects. It's nice to see a growing list of candidates for the race, along with Reece, Azar and Shiflett. It does indeed appears that at least two women are filing to run -- Jillian Johnson, and Sandra Davis. Also, Dr. Juan Alva, a physician who's operated an urban medical clinic since the 1980s in East Durham and is of Hispanic descent. Add to that a filing by one Ricky Hart, and the likely re-election run of Steve Schewel, and you have a pretty full slate. While I don't know all of the candidates personally, based on the experiences, professional backgrounds, and affiliations of a number of them -- we should indeed have a very interesting opportunity for dialogue on Durham's future. This is to say nothing, of course, of the long-expected-but-did-we-ever-believe-it announcement that Mayor Bell would not seek elected office beyond this last run for mayor. Given that two folks have filed to run and/or established campaign finance committees, you can never call any race for mayor a done deal... but: one imagines that barring some completely out-of-left-field event, Mayor Bell would be just as difficult to unseat in this race as any since his definitive win over Thomas Stith some cycles back. More on the filings:
I can't help but have a certain amount of cognitive dissonance when I read the fast-multiplying news headlines these past few days about parking in the Ninth Street area. Mind you, I'm writing these lines while midway through a two-week business trip to China, in the sprawling Shanghai-Suzhou metroplex in China's fast-modernizing eastern provinces. In the latter -- a New York City-sized metropolis that comparatively few westerners have ever heard of -- the shiny new Metro is practically clean enough to eat off of and, at about three dimes for a one-way ride, crazy affordable. Sure, cars flock to megamalls like the city's new Aeon complex on its eastern side, where a Chinese hypermart and an entire floor catering to neonatal and natalist young families sits cheek-by-jowl with a Burger King and the globally-inescapable, freakishly same-tasting Starbucks. But Aeon is also steps from a bustling subway system, with quick connections to buses that run with 10-minute headway. The edge-city where my work is based also has 15-minute headways on an excellent, easily-parsed, cheap (16 cents/ride) bus system. The terminus of that system is the high-speed rail line, where electric bullet trains depart every few minutes for downtown Shanghai and its domestic airport and to other parts of the country. A few dollars can get you across 30 miles of congested, 25 million-soul metropolitan landscape in less 18 minutes flat. Meanwhile, in Durham, it will take transportation planners, federal and state officials, and elected representatives twice as long to even get... Continue reading
Posted Jul 9, 2015 at Bull City Rising
In an announcement to a range of Durham listservs and residents tonight, Mike Shiflett disclosed his plan to run for one of Durham's at-large City Council seats in November's election. Shiflett -- a longtime Northgate Park resident, PAC2 and Durham Businesses Against Crime activist/chair, and transportation/transit guru, among a long list of civic accomplishments -- is the second person we've heard to throw their hat in the at-large race ring. INC president and former non-profit head Philip Azar has already signaled his candidacy as well. Look for Shiflett to formally announce Tuesday at noon at downtown's Major the Bull statue. (Disclaimer: I'm proud to consider both Mike and Phil friends, a point that's worth mentioning given the conflicts of interest a race involving acquaintances and friends will inevitably entail.) Continue reading
Posted Jul 6, 2015 at Bull City Rising
@John - reasonable people will disagree (and you're eminently reasonable.) When I talk about developer handouts, I mean the kind of wholesale, developers-can-do-no-wrong atmosphere I grew up with in Orlando, where developers make huge donations and face no challenges on their projects. E.g., a 751 South would have been a gimme in any other community. In those communities, City Council is basically an expressway to what bigger-business wants. Has the Council favored downtown redevelopment? Sure. But while the developers involved are, by the nature of the beast, bigger players, my own opinion is that the Council hasn't been unreasonable. And to be real for a moment, the HPC blocking development on a West Village surface lot struck me as a puzzler at the time. This Council has long pressed developers to try to reach accord with neighborhoods on projects; has appointed civic-minded folks (not developer shills) to boards like the DPC; and, while the administration is putting a turd on the table for the new Police HQ, is getting pushback -- including from some of our soon-departing Council members. That you don't agree with the Council's decision is perfectly okay, but doesn't translate to their being developer shills. Durham, downtown and elsewhere, is far better than it was 15 years ago, or a decade back when downtown was an empty hulking shell. No disagreement on non-profits and their interests, but credit to a number of Council members -- and groups like INC -- for pushing back on the likes of the East Durham transit equity issue you raise.
One of the challenges I'm sure folks in government face is that, while everyone wants a piece of you when something goes wrong, everyone takes your work for granted when things are going right. With last week's announcement that Diane Catotti is stepping down from City Council after three four-year terms -- coming on the heels of Eugene Brown's similar announcement a couple of weeks back -- Durham's City Council is about to lose two experienced, veteran leaders. It's perfectly natural for Brown and Catotti to be ready for new challenges and some time off after twelve years on the Council. But to those who've paid less attention to City happenings in the past few years than, say, in the early 2000s, it's easy to forget that the City's veteran legislature is undoubtedly one of the keys to the City's success. And in looking at the elections to come, will we come to realize we've taken experience for granted? Durham's City Council, in my time observing it, has stood out from other elected boards in places I've lived on a couple of fronts: the members by and large are experienced; have civic and private-sector leadership experience; they analyze issues on their merits; and special interests take a back seat. This doesn't mean I always agree with their positions or their votes on issues, but it's hard not to respect the background from which they come on issues, and particularly the deep experience they bring to their roles. Our mayor is... Continue reading
Posted Jun 30, 2015 at Bull City Rising
The front page of today's Herald-Sun neatly captures two items that are both newsworthy and, quite unintentionally, at odds with each other. On the one hand, we have the arrival of Walk [Your City], a campaign with philanthropic backing to encourage downtowners to "park and walk" by reminding us all just how close so many of Durham's urban amenities are. And then on the other hand, we have this afternoon's special City Council meeting, intended to get City Council approval for City economic and workforce director Kevin Dick to negotiate economic incentives to pay for the renovations, along with new parking decks. So how are we getting to Durham's future? Behind the wheel, or on foot (or bike, or transit)? It's an easy and somewhat false dichotomy; for now, the iron-triangle between commuters, their employers, and property owners likely means new developments still need copious surface and structured parking. But, what's the role that local governments should or should not play in subsidizing downtown development, at this point in Durham's expansion? And, with car interest on the decline and technological change looming, is a future that contemplates so much parking akin to hoarding scythes in the dawn of the mechanized combine age? ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Before we start talking about parking, let's start by acknowledging that the rebirth of the Chesterfield, and the potential redevelopment opportunities of the Durham Innovation District, are staggering in their size and as momentous as the other big-site massive redevelopment projects that we've... Continue reading
Posted Jun 24, 2015 at Bull City Rising
A couple of days ago, we tweeted out a link to an article by Matt Hartman, a Durham-based writer whose article on downtown Durham and gentrification appeared this week in The Jacobin. The thesis of Hartman's piece is that downtown's "cool" is a cultural asset created by Durham pioneers and which, through its exploitation and marketing by developers seeking to revitalize empty buildings and vacant land alike, is being expropriated by capitalism. Perhaps not a shocking thesis to appear in a magazine that describes itself as a socialist voice for the left. And not an uninteresting one; it's definitely worth a read, wherever your views sit on the political spectrum. While his argument is an interesting one, I'm not sure I agree with all his conclusions. Still, Hartman's argument about the need to understand the nexus between public and private entities and to develop successful public spaces is certainly worth some discussion. Let's start by looking at Hartman's view of Durham's history, which seems to start in a classic gentrification analysis: abandoned spaces, available at a low cost and made into creative enterprises, then overwhelmed by second-wave gentrification so as to allow capital to benefit from what labor built. This argument is not novel. What I found more intriguing is Hartman's assertion that the culture of Durham -- Durham grit, as it were -- was created by the community, then used by developers seeking to commoditize the vision. The notion of privately owning and profiting from a public good is... Continue reading
Posted Jun 22, 2015 at Bull City Rising
Susan -- I'd take Jim over me any day! As I said in the hiatus-cum-sabbatical post four years ago, we need sustainable models for local coverage because the "citizen journalist" model is not long-term sustainable. Jim's a classic example of the importance of paid, professional, accountable, knowledgeable journalism in the community. I've been working for a month or so on some of the back-end changes and clean-up needed to relaunch the site, and drafted the comeback article Thursday night last week -- which made it so strange to me, too, to see news of Jim's retirement in an Mark Schultz email on Friday.
It's literally the end of a Bull City era in print journalism: Jim Wise has covered his last City Council meeting. Anyone who's picked up a newspaper in Durham since, oh, the Reagan administration has had a pretty good chance of having read or been influenced by his work. A dedicated student of Durham and regional history, Wise has always had the unique opportunity to take something out of the current headlines and tie it back to some other time in history -- even back to the 19th century hardscrabble founding of the Bull City, when needed. And his voice will be missed. Wise, who started writing for the Herald-Sun in 1981 and moved to the News & Observer in 2005 after new owners Paxton Media cut a quarter of the staff after their $125 million acquisition of the Rollins family's paper. (Yes, newcomers, someone paid that much for a newspaper in an MSA of less than a half-million people. In 2005. That's half what it would later cost Jeff Bezos to buy the Washington Post in 2013, and almost 50% more than what it cost to buy the Boston Globe that same year. Timing's a, well, you know.) He was a great pick-up for the N&O, as Wise has ably anchored the reporting crew and contributed great commentary to the McClatchy outfit. A Duke (class of '66) grad himself, Wise stuck around Durham for almost his entire adult life. Over the latter stretch of his career, Wise became known... Continue reading
Posted Jun 16, 2015 at Bull City Rising
By the end of Monday night's City Council meeting, some of the dais-holders seemed nearly giddy at the prospect of a meeting ending three hours sooner than many had expected. Indeed, the Council quickly dispatched with a number of controversial items -- with that expected to be most divisive perhaps, the 15/501 Business road diet, sailing through unanimously. See how the sausage got made after the jump. City Budget passes 7-0: Passed unanimously the FY2016 budget proposed by the administration. The only discussion of the night was around trails, with Steve Schewel spearheading a special $20,000 to $25,000 item for the administration to do a cost and feasibility study on trails and greenways. Schewel noted the upcoming capital budget review process, and that trails were left out in a previous round due to a lack of cost information. "I don't want to be in a state where the trails are left out again," Schewel said. The rider was included. 539 Foster passes 6-1: The City approved a deal with the developer of the proposed 539 Foster condo project, with Durham granting several easements on the City-owned, non-profit-managed Durham Central Park to facilitate the 90-unit project construction on Denny Clark's onetime business office. Schewel shared his appreciation for the DCP board's work on this, though adding that "in a way, they're in a funny position" as an interlocutor on publicly-owned land; he also stressed the importance of figuring out ways to compel future developers to include affordable housing when public assets... Continue reading
Posted Jun 15, 2015 at Bull City Rising
On the surface, a road diet for the segment 15-501 Business just west of University Dr. probably seemed to city leaders to be, if not a sure thing, at least a fairly low-risk discussion. The process, intended to right-size roads that are two wide in order to reduce speeds and add features like parking or bike lanes, has been done on Main St., Chapel Hill St., and Erwin Rd. among others with little controversy. The traffic counts fit the pattern seen elsewhere. And from the City's perspective, it's a low-cost activity: NCDOT would cover the cost during a scheduled repaving of the road. Ah, but what's that they say about the best-laid plans? Instead, the discussion has turned into a heated debate. On one side, nearly a thousand residents signing a petition for a change they fear could be lost to controversy. On the other, a petition that has drawn the signatures of many of the corridor's businesses, including the owners of popular locales like Nana's, Q-Shack, Foster's and the like. (Guglhupf stands as the most vocal exception.) Neither side is sure which way the City Council will vote tonight. And ultimately, Council is in a tough position, with battle lines already drawn -- and one side seemingly guaranteed to go home unhappy. How did a seeming gimme get so contentious? Looking at the 15/501 road diet with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, two woulda-couldas loom: a gap in when stakeholders got involved; and, fundamentally, misgivings over whether a free... Continue reading
Posted Jun 15, 2015 at Bull City Rising
Hey gang -- thanks for the really kind words! It's really, really good to be back, and your positive comments mean a lot. Thank you!
The Durham Police Department has had, shall we say, not the easiest of times in recent years, coming under scrutiny and criticism on everything from an in-custody death, to whether enforcement is racially unbalanced, to the controversy over a new headquarters on East Main Street. Yet it's hard to think of a Durham P.D. officer who is better beloved in many quarters of the community than District 2's Sgt. Dale Gunter. Gunter -- who was recently named the force's officer of the year -- heads up his district's HEAT (high enforcement abatement team), which targets crime hot-spots and problem areas. But he's better known to District 2 neighborhoods as DPD's friendly listserv representative, responding to "hey Sgt. Gunter" questions that pop up from time to time. In the days since Gunter's award was announced, I've seen neighbors from all political stripes -- including some who've been very critical of the D.P.D. in recent years -- hurry forward to congratulate the popular sergeant on the award. Sgt. Gunter always closes his emails reminding folks to "Be Alert... the world needs more Lerts!" Based on the community response to his award, we might turn this around and say, police departments need more Gunters. Law enforcement agencies are of course trying to engage the public in a range of ways. From public information officers, to bicycle-based patrols in the city core, to the citizen observer patrols, to officers' participation in neighborhood meetings, it's a fact of life: you can't police effectively if there... Continue reading
Posted Jun 14, 2015 at Bull City Rising
Everything dies, baby that's a fact. But maybe everything that dies someday comes back. - Bruce Springsteen OK, sure, The Boss is better associated with New Jersey than Durham. But aren't all those wisecracks about Duke being the University of New Jersey at Durham enough to make him at least an honorary member? (To say nothing of the fact that his daughter apparently went to college at Duke.) Still, it's been a while. I've been spending a few days on this blog thingee, see, dusting off the cobwebs. If you came here for "authentic china nike jersey" or "louboutin sneakers" deals, sorry, the spam comments are all gone. (Oh, BCR also doesn't suck to read on a cell phone these days.) But hopefully you'll start to see a few things that look familiar. Springsteen's beloved Atlantic City, sad to say, has not fared as well as Durham in recent years. Heck, since this blog went on hiatus in 2011, AC saw a casino open to swelling crowds, then struggle and go bankrupt in only two years. Compare that to what you see when you look down the list of blog stories published in the weeks before our first goodbye. (Hey, some place called DaisyCakes is opening -- swell!) Over the intervening four years, downtown Durham has bloomed even further, even faster than before. Restaurants fill downtown spaces that were dead or dying. There are enough hotels to... well, I'm not exactly sure. Suffice it to say: Durham will not be... Continue reading
Posted Jun 13, 2015 at Bull City Rising
I've avoided posting any sort of update on where things stand with new content at Bull City Rising, largely because readers have been very indulgent with recent-past warnings that things were busy in the Real World and that content would be less frequent. But after some comments here, and particularly some kind personal emails checking in to see if everything was okay, I wanted to post a quick update here. I've long railed for the need for high-quality, financially sustainable local journalism in communities, and a big part of the reason for that is that no individual blogger can ever hope to keep up with all the news even in the best of circumstances. And when the circumstances aren't the best, well, then there's a real pinch. So what's been going on of late? Some of the time-management challenges have been local. This spring, my wife Darlene and I finished renovating a house on Gloria Ave., a full-on reboot of a historic house that needed more than a little TLC. And in the months that have followed, I've taken on some additional responsibilities at the day job, which have made for interesting new challenges, though again, less time. Several of you have written in to ask about the other challenge on the schedule -- a family illness I've alluded to from time to time here on the site, and in more detail to friends and colleagues around town. My mother continues to battle an end-stage respiratory disease, against which she's... Continue reading
Posted Sep 13, 2011 at Bull City Rising
Interesting discussion, all. A couple of points. First, I am about as much of a non-fan of Civitas and Art Pope as you will find. I do, however, give them credit for getting this information into the public record. Virginia Bridges of the N&O had a story this morning on the matter, too, though without all of the on-the-tape assertions that Civitas found. Second, I hope Im clear that I am not saying there may not have been good reasons for a change in DSS leadership. The history Robinson had in Nashville, coupled with claims in the N&O today by Bowser that there may have been significant complaints within the department, need close scrutiny. The tempest in a teapot over child care subsidies was also worrisome, especially given the resulting departure of a local non-profit leader. My concern here, though, is with the propriety of three board members deciding outside a meeting to vote to terminate Robinson and appointing one to the post. And the allegations that Bowser might have sought jobs for friends is equally worrisome. I have no quarrels, necessarily, with the outcome -- as long as the process was followed appropriately and there were no shenanigans.
I'll be the first to admit my preternatural wariness about the work of Civitas, the conservative think tank that's part of a sprawling consortium of organizations funded largely by Art Pope and responsible for the reddening of state government and in part for increased appearances by the likes of "Americans for Prosperity" here in our state. But we have damn too little investigative reporting happening around here, so credit goes where credit's due to Civitas' Andrew Henson for his story Tuesday about the termination of Durham County Social Services chief Gerri Robinson. As we noted here in our bon voyage to Robinson a couple of weeks back, the DSS chair came to the Bull City's host county after a rocky tenure in Nashville, Tennessee, and hit headwinds early in her term over a controversial child care subsidy idea -- one which was said to have hastened the departure of at least one local non-profit leader involved in early childhood support. But as commenters here noted at the time, there was a little grey-cloud asterisk hanging over the firing -- namely, the timing. The personnel change came simultaneously with the selection of one County Commissioner Joe Bowser as vice-chair of the DSS board, and with newly-appointed DSS board member Gail Perry getting called up to lead the agency at her very first meeting. Bowser arrived on the board amidst a summer of controversy, fresh off a sometimes-combative positioning on the controversial 751 South project, and amidst a rather bizarre public battle... Continue reading
Posted Aug 25, 2011 at Bull City Rising
One little-heard provision in this General Assembly's session work: the closure of a number of minimum-security correctional facilities throughout the state as part of a cost-cutting move that could shave almost $11 million from the state's spending line this year. Among the four facilities impacted, per the N&O: the Durham Correctional Center, a facility that houses more than 200 inmates and which sits just to the northeast of the Horton Rd./Guess Rd. intersection in North Durham, right near a few shopping plazas and backing up to the popular West Point on the Eno city park. With its October closure, it turns out a small piece of Durham County history will come to an end: In 1925, Durham County built a prison for $95,000 to house 150 inmates. Constructed of brick and surrounded by a heavy wire stockade, the three-story structure was noted as being the best planned prison of its kind in the state. On the first floor was dormitory space for inmates, as well as a dining hall. The second and third floors provided space for offices and staff. The building was heated by steam and showers were in the basement. Durham was one of 51 county prisons for which the state assumed responsibility with the passage of the Conner bill in 1931. It was one of 61 field unit prisons renovated or built during the late 1930's to house inmates who worked building roads. No word on what the future of the site is, i.e., whether the state... Continue reading
Posted Aug 9, 2011 at Bull City Rising
Once upon a time, being called nerdy or geeky? Most definitely not cool. Back in the 80s, all the cool kids were looking to work on Wall Street or in D.C., where the corridors of power did not admit the pocket-protector set. But with the Internet, mobile technology and the rise of tablets, apps and all manner of things technological, the nerdly are back. The revenge, one might say, of the nerds. And a recent Forbes blog post highlights Durham as being among the most geeky of all geeky cities, noting a National Science Foundation's ranking of our MSA as fifth-highest in the US for the percentage of workers in science and engineering-oriented occupations. In today's recession-weary economy, there's little question that those jobs offer a safer harbor (though one that's by no means free of risk) for employment security and income growth -- something that's helped our area make it through the recession with some of the lowest unemployment rates in the state. Don't be put off, by the way, at Forbes' mention of Durham, NC as the #5 "geekiest city" with a mention of the "Raleigh-Durham-Cary" CMSA following in the text. The NSF report upon which the Forbes post is based ranks "Durham, NC" as the MSA in question. That includes Durham and Chapel Hill, a four-county area that doesn't include Wake County. (Of course, plenty of the jobs in question in RTP and elsewhere have commuter residents from Wake and elsewhere driving in, though I'll continue to... Continue reading
Posted Aug 9, 2011 at Bull City Rising
From the That-Was-Quick Department: Two separate sources have told BCR that Durham County's social services director Gerri Robinson was axed Wednesday by the department's oversight board. Chalk this one up as officially unconfirmed at this time, as the County's public information office isn't currently in a position to offer confirmation or more information -- but from what we're hearing at BCR, this one is a done deal. The DSS Board -- which, as the Herald-Sun points out this morning, picked up a new chair in Stan Holt, vice-chair in BOCC'er Joe Bowser, and a new board member in Gail Perry, all through an organizational meeting -- reportedly terminated Robinson's employment for unspecified reasons. Intriguingly, Perry, who herself is a guidance counselor at Durham's Lakeview alternative school, is poised to assume the directorship on an interim basis as of Aug. 8, with Jovetta Whitfield serving in the position in the interim, according to an email from Holt. That email went on to add: This has not been an easy process and I know this will create some uncertainty in the agency. However, rest assured that we will now move quickly to find a new Director for the Durham County Department of Social Services. We've noticed a seeming uptick in closed-door DSS board meetings of late, which can be an indication of personnel intrigue (though at least one recent meeting purported to be over a matter involving a juvenile, which is a closed-records matter in most non-criminal cases.) That included two meetings... Continue reading
Posted Jul 28, 2011 at Bull City Rising
@Ross -- there have been persistent rumors for years that the Joint was looking in downtown. They were linked to the Cafe Zen space, before Tylers was linked to it, before Jim Anile took it on. But I suspect more smoke than fire.
@JJ: Thanks for the comment and the welcome-back. Been a crazy last few weeks on the homefront (ever-lasting renovations) and the work front, culminating with a 19-hour workday on Saturday for me and many colleagues... but also giving some time up for air and blogging in its way. I suppose when one makes an attempt at praeteritio it's only fair to note it. I would note that perhaps "still not loving it" overstates the ambivalence I have on NoCo -- wait, it's more than ambivalence. I like it, but don't like it, at the same time. How's that for being on the fence?
In one of the opening scenes of the dreadful, horrendous, abysmal, and also badly-acted film "Main Street" -- there's a reason, friends, you haven't seen this straight-to-DVD movie in theaters anywhere -- Amber Tamblyn's character drives her late-80s beater car up in front of the Bargain Furniture building downtown, checking her voicemail. (If I were Tamblyn, I'd be waiting to hear a message from my agent, apologizing for booking me in a piece-of-crap film.) The shuttered furniture store makes a perfect backdrop for Main Street's message of Southern discomfort, of old money gone broke and new money gone toxic; it's a symbol of desertion and loss and emptiness. But no longer, it seems. There's activity downstairs and possibly up for the building, long controlled by Raleigh entrepreneur Greg Hatem and Durham architect and developer John Warasila. In an ironic turnabout, the American Underground -- the incubator space that's nicely humanized a pit of a basement in the Strickland and Crowe buildings at Am'bacco -- may be expanding to the upper floors of 309 E. Chapel Hill St., while an a Durham location of the Raleigh barbecue restaurant called The Pit may be opening up on the ground floor. BCR heard a couple of months back that Capitol Broadcasting's Michael Goodmon was looking for more room for the Underground, which has been a very popular addition to the American Tobacco Campus. Even with the recent announcement that the LaunchBox Digital incubator's founders were moving in different directions (though one of the... Continue reading
Posted Jul 18, 2011 at Bull City Rising