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Monday, August 10, 2015

Durham is a city of things unnoticed: Such an odd find at the Jack Tar Motel

Posted By on Mon, Aug 10, 2015 at 10:07 PM

"New York is a city of things unnoticed. It is a city with cats sleeping under parked cars, two stone armadillos crawling up St. Patrick's Cathedral, and thousands of ants creeping on top of the Empire State Building. The ants probably were carried up there by wind or birds, but nobody is sure." So begins one of my favorite nonfiction stories, Gay Talese's eloquent homage to his city, "New York Is a City of Things Unnoticed." It chronicles the overlooked, the underappreciated, the infinitesimal details of daily living. I'm always looking for these sorts of things, scanning the ground, peering down...

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Friday, July 17, 2015

Love Durham? Then you need to come to
Mindy Fullilove's talk about cities

Posted By on Fri, Jul 17, 2015 at 11:46 AM

What: Dr. Mindy Fullilove, will lead a reading and discussion of her book Urban Alchemy: Restoring Joy in America’s Sorted-Out Cities Where: Durham County Public Library 300 N. Roxboro St. When: Sunday, July 19, 3 p.m. Free and open to the public Few things could be worse for Durham than turning it into one big high school. Yet sometimes I wonder if that’s where the city is headed. The tech start-ups, the life sciences industry, the upscale hotels, the condo-mania: All of it points to a growing, thriving and desirable city, but one that threatens to divide us into...

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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Durham Hotel: Before, a gutted shell.
After, Mid-Century Modern luxury

Posted By on Wed, Jul 15, 2015 at 7:36 AM

When I arrived in Durham nine years ago, two downtown buildings caught my eye: The Oprah Building, aka, the Jack Tar Motel, and the former Home Savings/ Mutual Savings Bank. Against all the early 20th century brick buildings, these mid-century oddities, well, I didn't know whether to fall in love or feel aghast. Eventually I warmed to both buildings, especially the MSB's gold dentils that dangled like a vampire's fangs over its entrance. For the past year, I've been watching the transformation of the old bank into The Durham Hotel, a swanky boutique on East Chapel Hill Street. I...

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Saturday, June 27, 2015

At Durham Farmers Market, a beautiful tone

Posted By on Sat, Jun 27, 2015 at 2:17 PM

The crowds at the Durham Farmers Market can be overwhelming if I'm not in the right head space. But today I was, and I'm fortunate that I went, because I stumbled upon John Rutledge, a Durham accordionist. His instrument is a Beltuna, which  in Italian means "beautiful tone." Rutledge also performs at the Hillsborough Farmers Market on N.C. 86. ...

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

39 parking spaces = 31 affordable homes

Posted By on Wed, Jun 24, 2015 at 10:17 AM

Now we know that less than acre of land near Ninth Street is going for a cool million dollars. And we know that if Blacknall Presbyterian actually develops 39 parking spots on that Iredell Street property—currently home to two historic mill houses—the total cost comes to $41,000 a parking space. So in the affordable housing world, what does $41,000 buy? On Monday, I spoke with Blake Strayhorn, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Durham, who told me that $41,000 will cover about 80 percent of the cost of building a house. On Iredell Street, if you do the math...

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Orange Street in Durham: A zone of fun and purloined plants

Posted By on Wed, Jun 17, 2015 at 11:59 AM

Oh, Durham, how I love thee. You're so funny, so weird.  I often stroll down Orange Street, a downtown walkway, for a breakfast of avocado toast at Scratch, or a detour down Alley 26 to observe the construction. Last month, I noticed someone—a buttface, indeed—had stolen some plants from outside the Fun Zone.  Aaron Averill, a local tech guy who owns a nearby building, heard about the purloined plants, and started a crowdfunding campaign to replace the greenery.  Now fun has returned to Orange Street.                          ...

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Thursday, May 14, 2015

On a street corner, Mount Zion schoolkids preach fire and brimstone

Posted By on Thu, May 14, 2015 at 6:54 PM

"Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand!"   About a half-dozen kids, about 7, 8 years old, from Mount Zion Christian Academy had camped out at Chapel Hill and Morris streets in downtown Durham Thursday morning.  While the adults stood in the background chatting among one another, the kids passed around a megaphone to preach some hellfire and brimstone, having memorized the speech: "If you were to die today, where would you spend eternity?" ...

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Monday, May 4, 2015

Durham Police: protests, body cameras and troubling crime reports

Posted By on Mon, May 4, 2015 at 12:46 PM

Anything that could be thrown had to be removed. In anticipation of a sizable citizen protest against Durham police last Friday, workers spent part of a stormy afternoon downtown picking up bricks. There were stacks of them on several corners, saved for streetscaping projects.Given the tense and often combative relationship between Durham Police and many citizens, particularly in communities of color, the streets needed apparently swept of potential projectiles. However, as if on cue, the storm clouds parted, the sun came out and the three-hour demonstration and march, held in solidarity with Baltimore protesters over police brutality, was peaceful. The...

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Saturday, April 25, 2015

A meditation on a walk along East Main Street in Durham

Posted By on Sat, Apr 25, 2015 at 9:13 AM

Over the last week, I've spent a lot of time walking up and down East Main Street between Golden Belt and downtown, trying to wrap my head around the (largely negative) ramifications of a new Durham police headquarters on that stretch.  Heading from downtown, you pass the Durham Human Services building at Dillard and Main. On its own, the building's modern architecture is striking, with its expanses of glass and clean lines and embellishments, like a slatted overhang on the front. The problem is its scale: The building seems oversized for the street. And with DPD, another monolithic institutional...

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

With the Loop going around in circles, Durham has a song but no melody

Posted By on Wed, Mar 25, 2015 at 10:23 AM

In general, the mood of Mayor Bill Bell, publicly at least, rarely runs higher than room temperature. Even-keeled, even poker-faced, he’s a hard guy to read. But at yesterday’s final presentation of ideas to reconfigure the Loop, Bell, well, I wouldn’t call him excited, but he did seem animated, possibly intrigued by the idea. “I think we need more discussion, but it might be easy to do,” he said. “We would need to find the money to make it happen.” After two days of discussion, drawing and math, a group of developers and urban planners—with input from the city and...

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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Cool reads for when you're bored at work today

Posted By on Thu, Mar 19, 2015 at 9:14 AM

CityLab, one of my favorite online reads, has a kooky piece about a Polish guy who makes paper cut-outs of Brutalist architecture. This style of building, which was cheap and relied heavily on concrete, was popular from the 1950s until about the mid-1970s. The N.C. Mutual Life building in Durham and many state government buildings in Raleigh are constructed in this style. Over at the traditional MSM, The New York Times' Lens blog features a killer photo slideshow of the Russian underground wrestling scene. In Russia, the guys wearing stars-and-stripes Spandex are the villains. And finally, Nauti.us, the fantastic...

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Friday, March 6, 2015

Behind the Green Wall: A bank vault

Posted By on Fri, Mar 6, 2015 at 6:56 PM

Mausoleum? Bomb shelter? What is it? For the past several weeks, I've watched as the Green Wall at Main and Corcoran streets has fallen, as a forgotten piano has succumbed to the excavator and as construction workers have removed brick from building facades, literally one by one, in an effort to save what's salvageable.  And now, lo and behold, guess what else was inside these crumbling buildings? An empty bank vault, according to Greg Hills of Austin Lawrence Partners, which is restoring three buildings along Main Street and Parrish Streets and building a 26-story skyscraper on this slab of clay....

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Waiting for the first pitch at Wrightwood Park in Durham

Posted By on Thu, Feb 26, 2015 at 10:44 AM

I love the oft-overlooked Wrightwood Park in Durham precisely because of its overlookedness. The playground equipment is tucked away in the pines. The shelter house is small, with an old fireplace and questionable bathrooms. Even in the height of summer, the baseball field is rarely used except by dogs chasing Frisbees. I trekked over to Wrightwood today, and other than the sound of cracking tree branches, it was silent and empty. ...

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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The fall of Durham's Green Wall

Posted By on Tue, Feb 24, 2015 at 5:09 PM

While I was out of the office yesterday, the Green Wall fell onto Main Street (we're guessing, unexpectedly, since the street was not closed when it happened), crushing the fence. Fortunately no one was hurt or killed. The building is one of several being demolished to make way for a 26-story skyscraper. Brenna Berry-Stewart, our circulation manager, shot photos of the construction workers in the pit, and the folks in hazmat gear shoveling bricks out of the street. When I arrived at the office today, I saw that the fall of the wall revealed a lovely mural on the...

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Friday, February 13, 2015

Why did Craig Hicks kill three Muslim students? Because he lost his humanity.

Posted By on Fri, Feb 13, 2015 at 1:05 PM

Your life is shaped by the end you live for. You are made in the image of what you desire. —Thomas Merton In the mugshot of Craig Stephen Hicks, you can see his desire. Maybe not the specific impulse to shoot three Muslim students in the head, execution-style, as he did last week, but in the stony eyes of Craig Stephen Hicks there is a desire for revenge, for power, for punishment. Why he harbors these feelings, we do not know. We do know his first marriage failed. We do know that he held a string of service jobs that...

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Friday, February 6, 2015

Durham's Green Wall: Demolition has reached the fish

Posted By on Fri, Feb 6, 2015 at 8:52 AM

...

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Friday, January 30, 2015

Demolition of the Green Wall in Durham, Day 2

Posted By on Fri, Jan 30, 2015 at 8:02 AM

Yesterday the bricks and paint and asbestos started falling, flaking and flying as demolition began on the Green Wall in downtown Durham. By the end of the day, one of the fish was losing its tail. I circled to the storefront facing Main Street because I knew an old upright piano had been stored in there. I wondered if anyone had hauled it out or if it would be consumed by the jaws of the excavator. I shot the photo very quickly—from the public sidewalk—because as I did so, one of the construction workers immediately got on the phone,...

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Thursday, January 29, 2015

In downtown Durham, the Green Wall is tumbling down

Posted By on Thu, Jan 29, 2015 at 12:26 PM

We knew it was time when the Bobcats and steam shovels and Rent-a-Fence arrived. The dismantling of the Green Wall and the de facto green lawn at Main and Corcoran streets began in earnest today. Workers wearing white haz mat gear are spraying water on the site to keep down the dust (and mold and God knows what other airborne particles dating from the 19th century). This is where the City Center project, the 26-story skyscraper is going. Plus, Austin Lawrence Partners is erecting new, and reportedly, historically appropriate structures in place of the burned-out, roofless buildings. The company...

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Friday, January 9, 2015

New condos to flank Durham Farmers' Market

Posted By on Fri, Jan 9, 2015 at 9:18 AM

If you're a mapping, planning, urban policy geek—or if you care about the future of Durham—you need to bookmark two sites: the city planning department's development tracker and Durham Neighborhood Compass. The tracker shows what's being proposed where throughout Durham, which, considering Wednesday's lengthy affordable housing discussion at City Hall, is important to follow. The Joint City-County Planning Committee discussed how to create and preserve affordable housing within a half-mile of each of the 11 proposed light-rail stations. This stipulation is necessary not only for Durham residents who rely on public transit to get around—or like me, prefer it—but also for...

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Friday, January 2, 2015

Let us praise dangerous playground equipment

Posted By on Fri, Jan 2, 2015 at 9:48 AM

At the risk of sounding like a drill sergeant or a very, very old person, playground equipment of yore was better. It served as a butt-blistering, splinter-stabbing, tooth-loosening rite of passage that introduced us kids to the realities of life. If we did not bleed from a fall from the monkey bars, then we were ill-prepared for our first job, just decades away. But today's playground is designed to absorb the impact of a child's fall and to cushion a city against the financial impact of lawsuits. Now slides are made from plastic that coddles a kid in a...

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Monday, December 15, 2014

Poppies: A concrete field of fallow development

Posted By on Mon, Dec 15, 2014 at 3:23 PM

Like most large developments, University Marketplace had a grand vision: 300 apartments and 110,000-plus square feet of retail space, including a gourmet grocer, Poppies, in southwest Durham, near SuperTarget and Sam's Club. That was in 2008, shortly before the Great Recession tanked the credit markets. And since then, University Marketplace off Shannon Road between U.S. 15-501 and University Drive, has lain fallow. One of the last tenants, Sitar India Cuisine, moved across 15-501, where it thrives. Even the H&R Block, which could set up shop in a lean-to, bailed several years ago. We have a call into Hawthorne Retail Partners...

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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Ground has been broken on new office building in a nook off Alley 26

Posted By on Tue, Dec 9, 2014 at 10:00 AM

As regular INDY readers might know, I'm obsessed with Alley 26 and its offshoot nooks. It's my favorite spot in Durham—a throwback to an earlier time, that, with its brick and sharp angles and narrowness, feels vaguely European.  So I keep track of what's happening back there, whether it's the tree that was cut down (it was an invasive species and hostile even to birds) or the redevelopment of a small vacant lot behind 118 W. Parrish St.  For the map-obsessed, the official the address of this space, what a friend of mine calls a "wino encampment," is 120...

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

When the walls come tumbling down, who gets the piano?

Posted By on Tue, Nov 18, 2014 at 10:14 AM

Burned out and roofless: That's one sadsack row of buildings at 119 W. Parrish and 119-121 W. Main streets. (They are near Corcoran, for you development trackers at home).  But something is stirring in this block, besides the rats that have hunkered down in the detritus for the winter. Early next year Austin Lawrence Partners will gut the structures, rebuild the innards and save the facades. If the project goes according to plan, it will become retail space. I can't wait to see what the demolition crew will unearth. There is an upright piano inside the building at 121 W....

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Monday, November 17, 2014

Forgive us our trespassers: Playing in the Durham Coop parking garage

Posted By on Mon, Nov 17, 2014 at 2:59 PM

Before too much of Durham falls to the wrecking ball, I've begun documenting the intersections, the friction points, if you will, where old and new developments meet.  A locally owned grocery, the Durham Coop Market, I would argue, is a positive development, although I miss the purple-and-yellow awning of the Noah's Ark Daycare and the community gardens outside the West End Community Center. The co-op is scheduled to open in early 2015 at the corner of Kent and Chapel Hill streets. On Saturday, I was walking by when I heard boys laughing; it turns out they were a bunch of...

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Who's in the fishbowl now? A view from Main and Corcoran streets in Durham

Posted By on Wed, Nov 12, 2014 at 2:07 PM

Life, already interesting at Main and Corcoran streets, is about to become even more so. Yesterday, contractors began conducting soil borings in the lawn next to the Green Wall, in preparation for the 26-story skyscraper, scheduled to start construction on the lot next year. There was also a guy in his 60s sitting on the bus bench with most of his butt showing. He had a belt on but it had slipped down, and initially I thought he was wearing a thong. You can't unsee these things, and I did not photography it for posterity—or posteriority. No two days are alike...

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ProudlyUnaffiliated.....Well You sure wrote a fkn mouthful about shit unrelated to this story and added your political twist and felt …

by Tony D on Why did Craig Hicks kill three Muslim students? Because he lost his humanity. (Editor)

Chris, I used a zoom lens!

by Lisa Sorg on Durham is a city of things unnoticed: Such an odd find at the Jack Tar Motel (Editor)

Q: "8 feet off the ground, is an odd spot for a light switch.
How did one reach the switch?" …

by Chris Tiffany on Durham is a city of things unnoticed: Such an odd find at the Jack Tar Motel (Editor)

Very neat, as a 38 year old skateboarder, one of the things I've always talked about, since I was a …

by Noah Goyette on Durham is a city of things unnoticed: Such an odd find at the Jack Tar Motel (Editor)

At her lecture yesterday, Dr. Fullilove mentioned that the redlining mortgage maps were unavailable except by visit to the National …

by Andrew Edmonds on Love Durham? Then you need to come to
Mindy Fullilove's talk about cities
(Editor)

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ProudlyUnaffiliated.....Well You sure wrote a fkn mouthful about shit unrelated to this story and added your political twist and felt …

by Tony D on Why did Craig Hicks kill three Muslim students? Because he lost his humanity. (Editor)

Chris, I used a zoom lens!

by Lisa Sorg on Durham is a city of things unnoticed: Such an odd find at the Jack Tar Motel (Editor)

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