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Kevin Davis
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I'll be the first to admit it: I've often been underwhelmed, like many of you perhaps, at the County's idea of urban development. While the County got a great recession-era price on the new Courthouse, for instance, its entry plaza is a barren wasteland at stark contrast with well-activated, engaging urban spaces elsewhere in downtown. And heck, when the project was under discussion, it took a ton of community grousing from this site and hundreds of other folks to preserve even the glimmer of a street-level retail future for the new Courthouse's parking deck. Similarly, the Human Services building on East Main has managed to be uncharmingly similar to the old Sears department store there that once housed the functions. Sure, there's glass and windows, but it's still a big-box-on-the-block, with all its attractive green space on the inside and no street-level retail to engage East Main -- to say nothing about the big ol' parking lot next door. (Witness the resulting scrutiny over a planned Durham Police HQ just to the east of here.) It's for these reasons, then, that I feel more than a glimmer of optimism about the proposed refresh of the 1978-era County Courthouse, on the northwest corner of Roxboro and Main. Compare this to the structure we've known and un-loved for so long: The old structure -- said by Jim Wise and others to have been outgrown almost as soon as it opened, and brought to obsolescence less than forty years later by the jail-blocking... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at Bull City Rising
A crowd of more than one hundred packed the Mt. Sylvan United Methodist Church's sanctuary on North Roxboro on Thursday night to hear the latest from the development team proposing a Publix-anchored shopping center at the corner of Guess Road and Latta Road in north Durham. The logistics contrast from this fall's last go-round on this subject couldn't be starker: a crowded, uncomfortable elementary school cafeteria where speakers couldn't be heard and unruliness reigned at times, versus the pews-and-pulpit auditorium with PowerPoint, amplified audio, and (Publix-provided, natch) refreshments. Similarly, while the developers were often on the defensive in the first meeting, in this session the agenda (there was an agenda) was tight, the presentation carefully crafted, and unanswered questions that raised hostility the first time were sometimes -- though crucially, not always -- answered in this second go-round. Most crucially, residents got to see the developer's projections on the impact their Latta Road improvements would have on the congested road's traffic flow. It was an argument, backed by simulation data, that seemed to get murmurs of assent from the crowd, but follow up questions from two residents asking for before-and-after vehicular volume counts were pointedly left open. The developer also put forth a working site plan and likely renderings for the commercial district, along with examples of single-family detached homes that Durham-based homebuilder Cimarron Homes is proposing for the site. There were again clear opponents in the audience -- though this time, met by what appeared to be, based on... Continue reading
Posted Nov 19, 2015 at Bull City Rising
If you thought the general election would follow the primary's trends, then last night's election results weren't too surprising at all. The People's Alliance slate of incumbent Steve Schewel and ballot newcomers Jillian Johnson and Charlie Reece moved on to victory in the general, with all six candidates maintaining their order-of-finish from the primary round. Schewel earned 28.1% of the vote to lead all candidates; Johnson, who put together a model ground-game campaign in her bid, followed with 23.4%. Indeed, from the time the earliest precincts started to report, the only real question was whether we'd see a surprise for third place, where Reece (18.1%) bested Mike Shiflett (13.8%). Reece beat Shiflett by 2,301 votes, according to provisional results released by Durham's Board of Elections. And nearly one-third of that lead (725 votes, or 31%) came from Reece's lead in early voting and absentee tallies, which accounted for only one-fifth of all votes placed. If it sounds like last night was a bad night for the endorsement slates of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People and the Friends of Durham -- well, that would seem to be a fair explanation. If you ignore Schewel's vote totals, since he was endorsed by all three PACs, and look just at Johnson-Reece and Shiflett-Hart, the latter earned more votes than the former in only seven out of 56 precincts. But in those seven precincts, Shiflett-Hart outpolled Johnson-Reece by a total of only 291 votes. By comparison, Johnson-Reece outpolled Shiflett-Hart by... Continue reading
Posted Nov 4, 2015 at Bull City Rising
I'm doing something new this election cycle -- since tomorrow's vote is itself an unusual one in the recent history of Durham politics. Outside of incumbent Steve Schewel, none of the other six finalists for City Council have experience in local elected office, and few have experience in the usual junior-varsity types of civic engagement. And, the depth of coverage of the usual outlets on this election has been perhaps thinner than we've seen in the past, save for the sheer number of candidate forums. So, for the first time, I'm -- not endorsing, per se, but seeking to bring a lens of qualification. Based on candidates' answers to questionnaires, and the conversations I've gotten to have with them -- who is best prepared to serve on City Council? I'd suggest that four candidates -- Steve Schewel, Jillian Johnson, Charlie Reece, and Mike Shiflett -- are the four who deserve your consideration tomorrow. (You are voting tomorrow, right?) More after the jump, but to summarize: Schewel's depth of civic experience, outstanding service in his first term, and depth of vision for Durham, make him a natural and appropriate choice. Reece, while lacking traditional civic board experience, has reasonable relevant experience, and articulates positions on the issues not dissimilar from the "pragmatic progressive" super-majorities on City Council in the past decade. Johnson also lacks traditional civic experience, and some voters will be concerned that she comes from a full-tilt activism background and the Occupy Durham wing of local politics. But, those... Continue reading
Posted Nov 2, 2015 at Bull City Rising
Last week, Bull City Rising had a chance to sit down with five of the six finalists for Durham's three open City Council seats. We're bringing you our in-depth interviews with the candidates this week, ahead of early voting. We invite you to watch each and full -- and, to check out our commentary on each candidate's interview and perspectives, after the jump. Robert T. Stephens is a Durham newcomer, having lived in Durham for a little less than a year. Stephens argues that his lack of Durham experience is countered by an understanding of what he describes as systemic oppression, particularly with his involvement in Black Lives Matter activism, his travels to Ferguson, Mo. and elsewhere, and what he describes as an organizing role leading a march on the Streets at Southpoint Mall last year. We have a candid and frank conversation with Stephens about his experience and positions, his candidacy's heavy backing from Teach For America alums, and his advocacy for those he argues are left behind in today's Durham. Note: the bottleneck in getting these interviews posted is the transcription and writing efforts; the previous posts have averaged 2,000 to 3,000 words. We're behind and in the interest of time, we're posting this interview without the transcript and narrative-- those will be added this evening. On Why He's Running Those who have heard Stephens speak at candidate forums have likely heard his very personal, difficult story of learning his father, a Raeford pastor, died from a heart... Continue reading
Posted Oct 30, 2015 at Bull City Rising
Last week, Bull City Rising had a chance to sit down with five of the six finalists for Durham's three open City Council seats. We're bringing you our in-depth interviews with the candidates this week, ahead of early voting. We invite you to watch each and full -- and, to check out our commentary on each candidate's interview and perspectives, after the jump. Jillian Johnson has made a big impact on the Durham political scene in the course of a fraction of a campaign. She placed a strong second to Steve Schewel in the primary -- trailing an incumbent, past school board member, and all-around four-decade political vet by only a thousand votes or so. And if we ribbed Charlie Reece for his ubiquitous mailers, I challenge you to find a street corner in Durham that doesn't have one of her campaign signs. (Johnson told Lisa and me during an off-camera moment in our interview that her young children, unsurprisingly, delight in seeing 'mommy' everywhere they go.) But Johnson's embryonic political history -- she's been engaged in activist movements throughout her sixteen years as a Durham resident, but has not appeared to serve on any City or County boards, and hasn't participated in broad-based civic activities outside deeply progressive movements -- also have raised questions, both about her background and about the apparently extremely well-organized engine to bring a capital-P Progressive to Council. So in this interview, we talk with Johnson about her positions on the key issues she's raised... Continue reading
Posted Oct 29, 2015 at Bull City Rising
Last week, Bull City Rising had a chance to sit down with five of the six finalists for Durham's three open City Council seats. We're bringing you our in-depth interviews with the candidates this week, ahead of early voting. We invite you to watch each and full -- and, to check out our commentary on each candidate's interview and perspectives, after the jump. Mike Shiflett is making his second bid for a City Council seat; in 1999, he came in fourth in the primary and couldn't get enough votes to make the top three in the general election. It's 16 years later, and Shiflett came in - fourth in the primary, again. This time, he's doubtlessly hoping for a different general election outcome. Interestingly, in that 1999 race, People's Alliance president Diane Catotti publicly backed Shiflett, their nominee, while the now-defunct centrist-left Durham Voter's Alliance considered swapping their support to Thomas Stith after the primary when Shiflett said he wanted to see all the City-County merger details before giving the idea his unqualified support. (Psssst, hey, all you kids with stars in your eyes and Instagram on those shiny phones of yours: Back before we had smartphones; hell, before anyone but realtors and doctors had cell phones; we used to talk about merging the governments. Oh, and how broken local government was, something the nouveau Durhamites have truly not experienced, you lucky dogs, you.) In 2015, Shiflett didn't get the PA endorsement, but earned conservative and Durham Committee support he... Continue reading
Posted Oct 28, 2015 at Bull City Rising
Last week, Bull City Rising had a chance to sit down with five of the six finalists for Durham's three open City Council seats. We're bringing you our in-depth interviews with the candidates this week, ahead of early voting. We invite you to watch each and full -- and, to check out our commentary on each candidate's interview and perspectives, after the jump. If you don't know the name Charlie Reece by now, your postal carrier does: the first-time office seeker has had a fairly ubiquitous presence via mailers, street signs and an active social media campaign. Like his fellow People's Alliance endorsees, Reece's platform includes a heavy focus on campaign themes of equity for all -- including affordable housing and preserving Durham's neighborhoods' character -- along with a focus on the importance of community policing. Reece, the general counsel for his family's contract research firm Rho, sat down with Lisa Sorg and me to talk about his candidacy and his stand on some key public policy issues. Durham's Next Police Chief Relative to the rest of the PA slate, Reece has spent more time talking about policing and community safety issues -- an area where he's focused before the race, too, given his connections to the FADE coalition that successfully lobbied Durham officials on changes to probable cause searches and other perceived inequities in justice. Reece talked about the characteristics he wanted to see in Durham's next police chief, highlighting three: Good experience with true community policing Experience working... Continue reading
Posted Oct 26, 2015 at Bull City Rising
Last week, Bull City Rising had a chance to sit down with five of the six finalists for Durham's three open City Council seats. We're bringing you our in-depth interviews with the candidates this week, ahead of early voting. We invite you to watch each and full -- and, to check out our commentary on each candidate's interview and perspectives, after the jump. Steve Schewel may be in his first City Council re-election bid, but he's no stranger to Durham politics. Besides his first four-year term, Schewel sat on the Durham school board during its stranger-than-fiction dysfunction in the mid-2000s; and, as the longtime and now former publisher/owner of the Independent Weekly, an experienced observer of local politics. Schewel talks with Lisa Sorg and me about why he's seeking re-election, affordable housing and incentives downtown, the proposed new police headquarters, and what's working and what isn't in job creation. We also ask Steve about where he differs from his fellow PA endorsees -- and talk about his interest in the mayor's seat should Bill Bell indeed not seek re-election in 2017. Durham, from Gilded Age to Golden Age? Of all the candidates we interviewed, Schewel was the most positive in tone both on the performance of the current Council and on Durham's future. Perhaps this is unsurprising, given his status as the sole incumbent running for re-election. Not that Schewel didn't express his desire to see certain policies change; in talking about a Council that was often unanimous in spirit... Continue reading
Posted Oct 25, 2015 at Bull City Rising
A crowd of about 40 Durhamites attended last night's InterNeighborhood Council candidate debate featuring the six finalists for at-large City Council seats, along with the mayoral finalists. The entire debate is available for viewing on YouTube -- and it's a must-watch, we'd suggest, for folks who are planning to vote in the general election. After all, newspapers, PACs and blogs can endorse, summarize and critique, but ultimately this election is about finding the candidates each voter feels is qualified to serve and represents the values that they think should be reflected in Durham. Incidentally, next week Lisa Sorg and I will be recording video interviews with each Council candidate. Look for those on the site late next week. Here's a rundown on some of last night's highlights and key areas of discussion. Public Safety and Crime Most candidates agreed that Durham faced a perception of increasing crime and that, in the last year or so at least, crime had seen an increase. Several of the candidates emphasized the importance of repairing citizen-police relationships. Ricky Hart noted that residents and police "do not have that trust, they do not have that fellowship" as car-based officers drive through communities, while Charlie Reece called to "recommit to a policing strategy that gets police officers out of their cars and walking beats in their neighborhoods." The point was echoed by Steve Schewel, who noted that he frequently rides along with "young officers who are out there doing their best" and feel residents don't support... Continue reading
Posted Oct 15, 2015 at Bull City Rising
Just a reminder that the INC is hosting a debate for mayoral and City Council candidates tonight in the City Council chambers. Doors open at 6:30pm, with introductions starting 15 minutes later. The debate will start at 7pm and is slated to run for two hours. We'll be covering tonight's debate so look for a full rundown of what transpires. Even better, come yourself and have a chance to meet the candidates in the flesh. The event will also be broadcast on public access -- Time Warner Cable channel 8, and AT&T U-Verse channel 99. Continue reading
Posted Oct 14, 2015 at Bull City Rising
As widely expected, the People's Alliance slate of incumbent Steve Schewel and newcomers Jillian Johnson and Charlie Reece sailed to a top-three finish in yesterday's primary election. With nearly 9,400, 8,200 and 6,000 votes, respectively, the PA slate finished well-ahead of the rest of the pack. (See the NC Board of Elections website for the latest numbers.) Longtime Durhamite Mike Shiflett came in at the middle tier, with just over 3,800 votes; fifth and sixth place finishers Ricky Hart and Robert Stephens each drew about 2,500 votes. For the Shiflett and, to a lesser extent, Hart campaigns, the big question will be whether a get-out-the-vote campaign could close the gap with third-placer Reece. It's not an insurmountable gap, but it would be a tough get. In 2011 -- the last year where we had the at-large seats up for grabs -- Steve Schewel, Diane Catotti and Eugene Brown all had similar vote totals to those seen by the leaders in last night's results, while challenger Victoria Peterson (I know, I know) was at approximately Mike Shiflett's vote total level. The general election vote tallies by percentage didn't change much, although only one candidate (the perennial John Tarantino) fell out of that seven-person primary round. While we can expect last night's 13,000 ballots cast to probably rise to 20,000 or more in the general election, the question will be which way the eliminated candidates' votes split. Azar's total might swing to Shiflett, but the other candidates' tallies could be a more... Continue reading
Posted Oct 7, 2015 at Bull City Rising
It's election time in the Bull City, and today's primary elections for City Council and Mayor will tell us who's moving on and who's moving out when it comes to seats on City Hall Plaza's favorite dais. Frank Hyman has his usual good analysis over at The Durham News, and I'm not inclined to disagree with Frank's math: this is, as Frank says, a race for sixth place, that is, who squeaks into the last slot in the primary. With five candidates getting a lock on endorsements -- Jillian Johnson, Ricky Hart, Charlie Reece, Steve Schewel, and Mike Shiflett -- it's hard to imagine any of the five not moving on to the next round. If we're laying odds on an order of finish, Schewel is a seeming no-brainer for the top slot, as the sole candidate earning endorsements from all three political action committees (Friends, Committee and PA) plus the Indy. Things to watch in the rest of the order: How do two newcomers to Durham civic life (Johnson, Reece) do against long-time civic type Mike Shiflett? Neither Reece nor Johnson list any experience on City- or County-appointed boards, commissions or the like, whereas Shiflett has a civic resume a mile along. Shiflett, a 1999 PA-endorsed candidate for City Council, didn't get the nod this round amidst a curiosity-piquing surge in PA membership and endorsement meeting turnout. On the other hand, Reece and Johnson have run social-media savvy campaigns, raised an ungodly amount of funds, and appear to be... Continue reading
Posted Oct 6, 2015 at Bull City Rising
Given all the hand-wringing going on about pocket neighborhoods and the disruption that's feared they may cause in further gentrifying Durham urban areas, the Atlantic Monthly's story "How Tasteless Suburbs Become Beloved Urban Neighborhoods" is a must-read. In it, Daniel Hertz makes a compelling argument in reminding us that, for instance: The 1,600 sq. ft. bungalows now praised as right-sized housing versus the "McMansions" feared to replace them, actually themselves dwarfed the housing stock that came before; These housing units, arriving during the conspicuous-consumption era of the 1920s, were in fact far out of reach from the average resident in a community; Zoning laws passed at the same time were pitched as a way to preserve these newly-created single-family home neighborhoods, keeping out multi-family and other arrivals that might impact the property values of the new homeowners in these neighborhoods. Most importantly, though, Hertz nails a point I've been fretting about in the recent debates on Durham change: the same people who are most worried about the Durham-character-and-neighborhood impact caused by the addition of thousands of units of new apartments, pocket neighborhoods, condo developments, and increases in density, are the same people by and large who are worried about the rate of price increases and low-affordability in Durham neighborhoods. Yet restricting housing stock, well-meaning as it might seem, is a guaranteed fast-track to low affordability. (Hi, the Dystopia of Chapel Hill!) While this is a basic supply-and-demand truism that I think works regardless of whether the new housing stock is... Continue reading
Posted Oct 1, 2015 at Bull City Rising
Update: Gray Brooks announced on Oct. 9 that the restaurant won't be named "Hattie Mae Williams Called Me Captain" -- see the comments for more detail. If it's Wednesday, it's DCVB-press-release-on-a-Pizzeria-Toro-project Day around here. Partners Cara Stacy, Gray Brooks, and Jay Owens, the team behind downtown Durham’s Pizzeria Toro, have announced plans to open a small, dinner-only restaurant at 110 East Parrish St., formerly home to Monuts Donuts. The opening is projected for winter 2016. “We’ve been a fan of this space since Monuts was operating out of it,” Brooks said. “We’ve always loved the sort of super small neighborhood restaurants that, somewhat ironically, you only ever really seem to find in really large cities. There a sort of intimacy, a grown-up informality, that it’s hard to get in a large space.” The team is excited about the small scope of the space. “We’re envisioning maybe 30 to 35 seats, mostly reservation, but with a small bar and food counter that we’ll hold for walk ins. Sort of a cross between a neighborhood restaurant and a date restaurant. We’re not even sure if we’ll have a phone; we may just take reservations by email.” The team plans on naming the restaurant “Hattie Mae Williams Called Me Captain”. Brooks explained, “The name comes from an amazing woman who took care of my sisters and me growing up while my mom was at work; basically working for next to nothing during times when my mom couldn’t afford to pay for her. She... Continue reading
Posted Sep 30, 2015 at Bull City Rising
Last week, several news outlets reported on efforts by legislators to overturn the anti-transit poison pill inserted without any public debate in the last-minute state budget. That provision -- which would have limited funding for any new light-rail system to a half million dollars, though effectively exempting the $400 million in support for the under-construction Charlotte system -- was a stinker, as we noted here, coming without attribution and flying in the face of a project thumbs-up from a new, data-driven evaluation process implemented by the General Assembly and the McCrory administration. The irony that back-room politics might thwart a system intended to take the back-room politics out of transportation decisions does not appear to have been lost on state House members, who voted 81-28 to overturn the insertion. Given that the GOP holds a 74-45 majority -- that's a pretty darn bipartisan vote, right there. Indeed, GOP representatives alone voted 40-28 to overturn the poison pill; Dems were unanimous in their support for the idea, too. (Interestingly, though, House speaker Tim Moore was just one of two representatives to abstain on the matter.) The N&O and WRAL note concerns from urban-area GOP members who were troubled by the flouting of the new transportation project ranking system that Republicans had long argued was necessary to halt the bad old days when the state Board of Transportation was rife with cronyism. The amendment has to also pass a state Senate vote today; we'll be curious to see if there's any roadblocks... Continue reading
Posted Sep 29, 2015 at Bull City Rising
Quick reply from an airport without real Internet access: I believe the local share also includes fare revenue but would need to check. There is also the projected economic growth between now and then - same argument used in the bond funding documents by the then NCTA for toll 147/540. Will look through the DEIS and otherwise later but I dont think theres likely an issue here.
On Monday, GoTriangle sent out a press release about $1.7 million in Federal funding received to plan transit-oriented development. It was a good win, second only to Seattle's funding in the FTA effort, and a sign from the feds that the Durham-Orange project had significant merit. The release was embargoed until Tuesday for publication, a common step where media outlets and PR are concerned. Ironically, GoTriangle in retrospect probably wishes they had a different type of embargo: one to keep nasty cargo, as it were, from being smuggled in as a rider to the hush-hush, back-room state budget deal. But, alas: the small number of legislators putting together the state budget -- representing rural counties almost exclusively -- sneaked a surprise into what the Herald-Sun's Lauren Horsch noted was page 386 of the budget. That surprise? A $500,000 maximum project funding for light rail projects, across the board, from state sources. For now, this has the look that it could be a deal-killer, since there's no chance that the FTA will release federal funds to construct a light rail line without significant state and local backing. But what should we look for in the weeks and months to come on this? First, a quick recap. GoTriangle's expectation has long been that a transit project would be funded half from federal funds, with local and state sources each picking up a quarter of the cost. The area's lack of a significant local funding stream for transit was one of the factors... Continue reading
Posted Sep 16, 2015 at Bull City Rising
At last Wednesday's citizens-against-crime meeting called by anti-violence nonprofit founder Rodney Williams -- and covered in good depth by both the Herald-Sun and the N&O -- there were a number of regular citizens in attendance, but the room at the north Durham Golden Corral was overwhelmingly filled with Durhamites already fully-engaged in efforts to quell violent crime. Besides Williams and Kitora Mason of the Walk For Life group, attendees included Pat James, of Durham's Long Ball Program - Durham's Triple Play, a group that uses baseball as a learning and belonging opportunity for at-risk youth; Walter Jackson, of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People; and DeWarren Langley, who's long been involved in anti-crime initiatives and frequently honored for community activism. There was Diana Powell, a jail instructor-cum-minister and a man who works to help youth become unentangled from gangs; a single City Council candidate (Charlie Reece); Larry Thomas, founder of the Thomas Mentor Leadership Academy, which engages young men to provide a male role model and leadership inspiration. There was former County Commission candidate and bail bondsman Omar Beasley, too. And from the Durham Police Department, we had Assistant Chief Ed Sarvis and Chief Jose Lopez. Still, the turnout was relatively small; 30 or 40 in attendance, perhaps, and most already engaged in anti-crime efforts, largely through civic groups that seek to provide alternative paths to at-risk youth -- or to encourage residents, when that fails, to partner with the police to report criminal activities in their... Continue reading
Posted Sep 9, 2015 at Bull City Rising
The big-hole-in-the-ground downtown isn't a 21c Museum-Hotel art project or Major the Bull's swimming pool (though the latter would be a sight to see.) It's the future site, we've been told, of Austin Lawrence Partners' city-center tower, on the old Woolworth's site formerly controlled by Greenfire Development. The developer also bought the old Jack Tar Motel next door from the widow of Ronnie Sturdivant, the early downtown investor killed at his other property on Chapel Hill St. some years back, to provide additional tower parking while maintaining the original hotel use of the building. This week brings rumblings of what's to come at both sites. This morning, a press release from the Durham Convention and Visitor's Bureau revealed plans for a diner in the Jack Tar -- with the restaurant taking and preserving that name even as the hotel finds a new moniker. Meanwhile, the Triangle Business Journal this week tackled public records and Greenfire-cum-ALP staffer Paul Smith to address a question that's been buzzing in some corners of the downtown crowd: does Austin Lawrence have their financing, and can construction begin? On the restaurant front, the folks who brought Durham Pizzeria Toro -- Cara Stacy, Gray Brooks, and Jay Owens -- have signed on to open a diner in the old "We Want Oprah" building. The diner is slated for seven-day-a-week operations and will offer everything from breakfast and plate lunches all day long, to weekend brunch. The diner is planned to have a full bar as well. Brooks... Continue reading
Posted Sep 2, 2015 at Bull City Rising
As we speculated here on Saturday, developers are indeed proposing a Publix-anchored shopping center and residential development in North Durham. Neighbors got their first chance to offer feedback in a meeting tonight at Easley Elementary School. And unsurprisingly, residents in the largely-suburban environs north of the Eno River weren't hesitant to share a range of concerns -- notably traffic, but also including worries over property values, impact to area character, and duplication of commercial activity elsewhere on Guess and Roxboro. An overflow crowd that appeared to number 250 residents or more strained to hear updates from Florida-based developer Tom Vincent from Halvorsen Development, Morningstar land-use attorney Patrick Byker, and a number of project team members working on traffic counts, site planning and other topics. A real estate program manager from Florida-based grocer Publix confirmed their intent to open a store on site, while staff from Cimarron Homes confirmed they would plan up to 70 residential units on the site in keeping with mixed-use requirements. We weren't able to take an exacting account of opinions, thanks to standing-room only ergonomics and a back-of-room vantage point; if we were to take a swag, the crowd was generally as much as three parts opposition for every one part proponent and every one part what we might call "accommodator" -- the latter being residents who saw lemons but posited lemonade, like asking the developer for extra traffic improvements or wondering about possible help to property values. Byker projected the project won't make it through... Continue reading
Posted Aug 25, 2015 at Bull City Rising
Attorneys for a Florida-based developer proposing a 30 acre mixed-use project on Guess Rd. in North Durham have scheduled a neighborhood meeting for Tuesday night to brief nearby neighbors and associations (as required by Durham's Unified Development Ordinance.) Halverson Development Corp. is eyeing an assemblage on the southeast corner of Guess Rd. and Latta Rd., north of the Eno River and intends to ask City leaders for a zoning change to allow mixed-use in order to develop "single family/townhome residential development" along with 68,500 sq. ft. of commercial development. The materials sent to neighbors ahead of the meeting don't go beyond showing a grouping of 11 properties that are eyed for the rezoning, and doesn't show how homes, townhouses or retail would be divvied up on the site. But like a moth to a flame, there's two things that keep drawing our eyes back to the letter: "Halverson," and "68,500." Halverson, based in Boca Raton, develops a range of retail, but disproportionately seems to have Publix Super Markets in their pipeline -- including other Publix-anchored mixed use efforts. And 68,500 is definitely right in the range of Publix-anchored shopping centers. Publix's motto, seared into the brains of all once-and-present Floridians, is "Where Shopping is a Pleasure." If our hunch is right, we suspect they may be able to learn that in Durham, land-use isn't a pleasure (for anybody). ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ First, please indulge a momentary diversion of topic from your humble author. And this will come with... Continue reading
Posted Aug 22, 2015 at Bull City Rising
I'm very pleased to announce that Lisa Sorg will be contributing stories about Durham here at Bull City Rising, beginning this week. As an award-winning writer and editor at the INDY Week, Lisa has long established herself as one of the most prominent and knowledgeable voices about Durham. Lisa is someone whose perspective I've often agreed with, sometimes disagreed with, but always appreciated. We'll both be trying this out over the next few weeks, taking on a bit of an experiment in this little blogging adventure at BCR. We're not entirely sure exactly where it'll take us, but I'm looking forward to the collaboration. And, I'm especially eager to be able to help share Lisa's reporting, analysis and experience with our readers. One thing I've long appreciated is the camaraderie that developed in the 2000s between Durham bloggers and the local media. Editors and reporters from the Herald-Sun, the N&O, WRAL and WTVD and others have always been gracious and collegial, even as we approach stories from different angles and sometimes compete on approaches to stories. Lisa and the INDY Week were perhaps the most collegial and engaged of all over the years, from co-sponsoring a U.S. House District 4 debate to meeting up for drinks. I hope you'll enjoy Lisa's contributions in this new forum. Continue reading
Posted Aug 18, 2015 at Bull City Rising
It wouldn't be late-summer if we weren't seeing the endorsements season getting underway here in the Bull City. And the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People is first out of the chute with their endorsements. No surprise, the Mayor's race: Bill Bell is the Committee's nominee for what would he promises would be his last two-year term, capping off a four decade stint in Durham elected offices. Perhaps more intriguing: Besides a nod for the only incumbent, Steve Schewel, the Committee is also endorsing Ricky Hart and Mike Shiflett for the three at-large Council seats. One thing connects all three of the Council candidates endorsed by the Committee: a long tenure of civic engagement and tenure in the kinds of city and county committees that often have been the development league, if you will, for elected official talent. The endorsement of four candidates who've all been long-engaged in Durham's traditional politics may be a sign of the Committee's desire to see known quantities in key office roles, especially in a year where a number of first-time candidates and relatively new Durhamites are running. Interestingly, the campaign features two strongly social justice-oriented candidates; does their failure to get endorsed by the Committee send a message given recent scrutiny on Durham Police and race relations? Or, is this more a reflection of tapping known entities with long history of engagement, versus relative newcomers to civic life? We suspect the latter -- but this could also foreshadow an intriguing campaign meme... Continue reading
Posted Aug 16, 2015 at Bull City Rising
Development of any sort -- private, public-sector, not-for-profit, you name it -- invariably attracts a disproportionate interest from those in its immediate back yard. And developers of all ilks are quick to throw around the term "NIMBY" (or Not In My Back Yard) for those who would speak out against their best-laid plans. All too often, I find it's best to be skeptical of both developers' dreamiest promises as well as the loudest NIMBYs. After all, if Nick Tennyson's age-old advice is the best descriptor of the Bull City's growth -- namely, that if there's one thing Durhamites hate more than sprawl, it's density -- then perhaps the second might be, "Folks move to the community they find perfect as-is, not as it might become." Monday's Herald-Sun features a deep (three articles! first, second, third) look at the Durham-Orange Light Rail plan. And, as opposed to much of the natural inside-baseball coverage that we've seen on the project, the H-S here tries to pick up concerns that some project opponents have raised. But I'm worried that in picking this lens of analysis, Durham's paper of record has picked up only a series of voices that surround one particular back yard: the southern Durham County link between Durham and Chapel Hill that one resident, bizarrely to my mind, calls the "last vestige of green" -- never mind that major hospital/campus just on yonder side! The H-S misses a chance here to hear both from non-suburban voices with concerns over (or support... Continue reading
Posted Aug 3, 2015 at Bull City Rising