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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Golden Belt for sale?

Posted by on Sun, Dec 29, 2013 at 2:12 PM

Rumors that Golden Belt in Durham is on the market appear to be true, according to an online newsletter by Cassidy Turley, a real estate firm. The first page of company's third-quarter newsletter states that "Supported by strong institutional investor interest in the Raleigh/Durham area, a number of investment properties will be out to market in the fourth quarter, including Golden Belt."

The INDY confirmed the rumor from an independent source unaffiliated with the real estate firm or the property.

A secure, non-public URL also indicates the property is for sale.
Scientific Properties owns Golden Belt, which sits on seven acres at East Main and Fayetteville Street.

Golden Belt is a renovated historic textile mill that includes apartment lofts, artist studios, art galleries, retail shops, the Durham VOICE newspaper, a yoga studio and the City of Durham's Neighborhood and Improvement Services Department, among other tenants. 

According to Golden Belt's website, about 10,000 square feet of space is vacant.

We will update this story throughout the week online and in the Jan. 2 print edition.

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    Linchpin of downtown Durham's East End on the market

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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Hatgate Update: Appellate judges side with fired Highway Patrol trooper

Posted by on Sat, Dec 21, 2013 at 3:09 PM

Earlier this week the North Carolina Court of Appeals issued an opinion siding with a fired Highway Patrol trooper who, after losing his hat, gave a misleading story to his superiors about how he lost it.

We covered the hat flap in our Oct. 23 issue, following oral arguments at the Court of Appeals.

During a traffic stop on a gusty evening in 2009, Trooper Thomas Wetherington lost his department-issued hat. Although he couldn't remember how he lost it, he later told his superiors that a gust of wind had lifted it off his head, and that an 18-wheeler rolling down the highway had crushed it. The hat was discovered nearly a month later fully intact, and Wetherington was fired for violating the Highway Patrol's truthfulness policy.

The judges' unanimous opinion, filed Dec. 17, claimed that Wetherington's punishment (termination) did not fit his offense (fibbing). 

The attorney general's office will decide whether or not to appeal the case to the State Supreme Court. Wetherington reportedly wants to rejoin the Highway Patrol.
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    Judges' rule that the punishment didn't fit the offense

A first-person account of the clash between Durham police and protesters

Posted by on Sat, Dec 21, 2013 at 12:35 PM

Serena Sebring sent the INDY this account of her experience at the Dec. 19 protest during which demonstrators clashed with Durham police. Officers dressed in riot gear threw tear gas into the demonstration.

I'm a resident of Durham, a mother of three, and I work with an organization called Southerners on New Ground (SONG). On Dec. 19, my family and I were among members of the local community who went downtown to support the Huerta family after the loss of their son, Jesus, and to hold the Durham police accountable for the suspicious death of a minor in their custody.

We were told that Jesus Huerta's family wanted this to be a peaceful event, and we came to the vigil with flowers and a candle to leave at the site of his death [at police headquarters]. When we arrived at CCB Plaza we faced an unexpected level of police presence: Dozens of officers lined the streets, and barked at us to remain on the sidewalks. A multi-racial, and multi-generational group of community members took part in the vigil, including many families with children.

Throughout the entire event, we complied with police orders, as did everyone else that I observed. We gathered at the police department around the Huerta family as they said prayers and sang to remember their lost loved one, and were both surprised and somewhat intimidated by the appearance of a riot squad in full gear.

After leaving our flowers and candles there we walked back to CCB Plaza and it seemed things were winding down. I was waiting in line to sign up for future contact from a group who was forming to support the Huerta family and this community, when suddenly, and without any warning that I could hear, the riot squad began moving in on the crowd. We ran, but not fast enough to escape the tear gas that had been thrown in our direction by police. It burned our eyes, and filled our lungs with heavy smoke making it difficult to breathe. We left feeling terrorized by the police who are supposed to protect and serve us, and shocked to have experienced such brutality at an event calling for accountability for police brutality.

At home, I washed the toxins out of our clothes (which had begun to irritate and inflame our skin), but even today we are suffering from the physical effects of the tear gas. As a community member, I am deeply concerned about these actions by the police department. I believe that Durham should be a place where our kids can live free from fear of violence, and where we can assemble to demand police accountability without being gassed or beaten. 
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    Durham woman was among those tear gassed

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Friday, December 20, 2013

One dead, one hurt in Carrboro shooting

Posted by on Fri, Dec 20, 2013 at 12:26 PM

One person is dead and another hospitalized following a shooting early Friday morning in Carrboro.

The Carrboro Police Department reported a break-in and possible armed robbery at 105 Wesley St.—just southeast of downtown Carrboro—at 1:52 a.m. Friday morning. Authorities say they found two people on the scene with gunshot wounds.

Police said one was dead on the scene and the other was taken to UNC Hospitals with non-life threatening injuries. The State Bureau of Investigation is assisting in the investigation.

More information as it becomes available.

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    Police investigating possible break-in and armed robbery just south of downtown.

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Cops: gun shot residue found on dead teen's hands

Posted by on Fri, Dec 20, 2013 at 12:21 PM

Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez held a press conference this morning to address last night’s clash with protesters following the vigil and march for Jesus Huerta, which marked the one-month anniversary of his death. The teenager died Nov. 19 in the back seat of a police cruiser. According to police he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. 

Lopez also gave an update to the SBI investigation into Huerta's death. He said that lab analysis showed that gunshot residue was left on the gloved hands of Huerta, while no gunshot residue was left on the hands of Officer Samuel Duncan, who was driving the car.

The march started around 7 p.m. at CCB Plaza in downtown Durham last night. Participants marched down West Chapel Hill Street, where they held a vigil near police headquarters. Later, marchers returned to CCB Plaza. According to the police, bottles and rocks were thrown at officers in riot gear. The officers asked the crowd to disperse, then deployed smoke and tear gas. The standoff lasted about an hour.

During the press conference, Lopez said the officers showed restraint and ensured safety. “We used best practices in law enforcement,” he said. One demonstrator suffered a scrape during an arrest, he said. No officers were hurt.

Asked why tear gas was deployed in an area where children were present, Lopez said the use of tear gas offered better protection for children who were in danger from the sharp objects being thrown.

The police made six arrests:

• Andy Guadalupe Mendoza, 18, failure to disperse on command and resisting
• Gustavo Pascual Gutierrez, 22, trespassing (police headquarters)
• Benjamin Colt Markgraft, 20, carrying a concealed weapon (switchblade), disorderly conduct and impeding traffic
• Vianey Fuentes, 17, failure to disperse on command and resisting
• A 15-year-old juvenile female

During the press conference, more than two dozen concerned residents filled the lobby of headquarters. Afterward they expressed frustration for not being permitted to hear Lopez’s comments first-hand. They said they intended to lodge formal complaints.
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    Chief addresses last night's standoff during press conference

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Durham PD Chief Lopez to address Thursday night violence

Posted by on Fri, Dec 20, 2013 at 8:33 AM

Durham Police and protesters clashed downtown Thursday night - JUSTIN COOK
  • Justin Cook
  • Durham Police and protesters clashed downtown Thursday night

After Durham Police used tear gas to disperse a crowd of 200 protesters downtown Thursday night, Chief Jose Lopez is scheduled to address the public today at 10:30 a.m.

The demonstration was the second in a month to demand information about the death of 17-year-old Jesus Huerta, who allegedly shot himself in the back of a police car while handcuffed last month.

This is what INDY photographer Justin Cook witnessed:

"I was down by the old judicial building on Main.My first frame is at 8:46. I could smell the [tear] gas down the street. I ran toward Mangum, could barely breathe, cut through a parking garage and ended up by the office on Corcoran. 

I saw people laughing and yelling "Shelter in place"

Saw a cop whose gas mask failed. He was yelling for EMS.

Other people were huddled in buildings trying to escape the gas.

One guy walked up to me and was commenting on how ridiculous the situation was. He had just landed in the Triangle on a plane from NYC. I asked him if he was aware of the vandalism at DPD HQ during the last march. He wasn't. We parted ways and he said "this is… interesting" with a pretty shocked look on his face."

An altar in honor of Huerta behind Durham Police headquarters - LISA SORG
  • Lisa Sorg
  • An altar in honor of Huerta behind Durham Police headquarters

City Council discussed DPD's lack of transparency and community mistrust about the Huerta case, and three other officer-involved shootings, at Monday night's Council meeting, at which Lopez presented third-quarter crime statistics showing homicides are up over 2012. There have been 32 murders in Durham this year, the highest number since 2005, when 35 were reported. The number of aggravated assaults is down, which accounts for the overall 8 percent drop in violence crime.

Several people were arrested at Thursday night's protest, although the list of charges has not been released.

Check back for more details later today.
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    Press conference set for 10:30 at Durham Police headquarters

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Anxiety sets in over downtown Durham water main project

Posted by on Wed, Dec 11, 2013 at 10:05 AM

A network of 80-to-100-year-old cast-iron pipes, which are more brittle and prone to breaking than ductile iron pipes, run below downtown Durham streets - LISA SORG
  • Lisa Sorg
  • A network of 80-to-100-year-old cast-iron pipes, which are more brittle and prone to breaking than ductile iron pipes, run below downtown Durham streets

Considering the traffic and parking migraine that is about to upend downtown Durham, few people attended a public meeting last night where engineers and the city outlined the parameters of the water main replacement project. But most of the people who did show up were anxious about the impacts on their homes and businesses.

Contractors will replace 2.3 miles of water mains beneath at least eight streets on and intersecting with the northern portion of the Downtown Loop. Many of the affected thoroughfares are major downtown arteries, such as Roxboro and Mangum streets. Engineering firm Kimley-Horn and the city will select a contractor to perform the work. The project, estimated at $6 million–$8 million is scheduled to start in April or May. It is supposed to last 18 months.

Restrictions have already been established to minimize—if that's possible—the disruption. No more than two adjacent intersections, and four, total, can be worked on at the same time. Several lanes on major streets will be closed during construction, but traffic will still be allowed. Parking, however, will be eliminated on the streets that are under construction until the work is finished. A timetable for each street has yet to be determined, according to Kimley-Horn, and public input will help determine it. 

A network of 80-to-100-year-old cast-iron pipes, which are more brittle and prone to breaking than ductile iron pipes, run below downtown Durham streets. It's not only the age of the pipes that is an issue, but considering the rapid development downtown—new apartments near West Village at Great Jones Street and West Main streets, the Museum Hotel at Corcoran and Main streets—the pipes cannot handle the demand for water and fire protection, says Jerry Morrone, engineering supervisor for the city's water department.

Businesses such as Scratch Bakery, which has already endured a noisy autumn as workers renovated the nearby Chapel Hill Street parking deck, will again be affected when Orange Street is closed. (The deck is slated to open next month.) The building's owners expressed their concerns to city officials at last night's meeting, but declined to comment publicly. Orange Street, which, under normal circumstances, is one of Durham's most pleasant pedestrian walkways, also includes residences and a law firm.

Rodney Derrick, who lives near Mangum and Main streets, is concerned about potential project delays that will further disrupt downtown businesses and residents. - LISA SORG
  • Lisa Sorg
  • Rodney Derrick, who lives near Mangum and Main streets, is concerned about potential project delays that will further disrupt downtown businesses and residents.

The aura of disruption is already concerning Rodney Derrick, who lives on the third floor of the Baldwin Building, above Revolution restaurant at Mangum and Main streets. He points to other city projects that have experienced delays, such as the American Tobacco Trail footbridge. It did not open on time because of construction and surveying errors. The West Main Street project also took longer than planned, due to rain.

"I'm concerned for Revolution," Derrick said. "The sad reality is that it has to be done." 

A second meeting is slated for Thursday, Dec. 14, from 6–7 p.m. at Blue Coffee Cafe, 202 N. Corcoran St.

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    Sparse attendance at meeting about downtown Durham project; a second chance to learn more on Thursday

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

No pain, no gain with Durham's new water main project

Posted by on Tue, Dec 10, 2013 at 11:11 AM

Orange Street is one of the roads scheduled to be excavated as part of Durham's water main replacement project. - LISA SORG
  • Lisa Sorg
  • Orange Street is one of the roads scheduled to be excavated as part of Durham's water main replacement project.

The last time some of the cast-iron water mains had been installed in downtown Durham, gangster Al Capone had been imprisoned for income tax evasion, Charles Lindbergh’s baby had been kidnapped and Amelia Earhart had become the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.

Beginning next year, the city’s water management department will replace these aging pipes—some of them are even older, closer to 100—in the northern part of the Downtown Loop. At least eight streets, several of them major thoroughfares, will be dug up during the 18-month project: Morgan, Mangum, Roxboro, Market, Foster, Holland and Orange streets, plus Rigsbee Avenue.

Estimated cost is $6 million–$8 million.

Breaking up the asphalt could generate noise at 70–90 decibels, a range equivalent to the sound generated by a vacuum cleaner, a food blender and a power mower. (Breathing is 10 decibels; a jet taking off 80 feet away is 150 decibels, enough to rupture your eardrum.)

More than 15,000 people work at the 450 to 500 businesses downtown, according to Matthew Coppedge, chief operating officer of Downtown Durham Inc. Roughly 1,500 people live in the city center; of those about 150 reside inside the Loop.

DDI, is a nonprofit organization that advocates for economic development, safety, parking, appearance and promotion of downtown. Like the previous streetscape project, for this undertaking, it is the liaison for downtown business and residents between the city and the contractor, Kimley-Horn.

The INDY will have meeting coverage Wednesday morning. —Lisa Sorg

What City staff will present the plan at two meetings
Tonight, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 6–8 p.m.
Durham Armory, 220 Foster St.

Thursday, Dec. 12, 6–7 p.m.
 Blue Coffee Cafe, 202 N. Corcoran St.
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    Meetings about 18-month downtown project scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday

Monday, December 9, 2013

Durham residents to picket N.C. budget director Art Pope

Posted by on Mon, Dec 9, 2013 at 12:16 PM

As part of a statewide informational campaign, Durham residents and the NC NAACP will hold a picket this afternoon near the Roses store on the corner of Highway 54 and Fayetteville Road, starting at 4 p.m.

Pope, who was appointed state budget director by Governor Pat McCrory in January, is the owner of Variety Wholesalers Incorporated, a discount retail chain that includes Roses and Maxway franchises as well as smaller discount stores in the state.

Pope is well known for his right-wing political views and has given nearly $50 million to conservative think tanks in North Carolina, including the John Locke Foundation, Americans for Prosperity and the Civitas Institute, in the last ten years. In 2012, Pope’s family contributed $16,000 to McCrory’s campaign for governor and more than $100,000 to the N.C. Republican party; additionally, Pope-affiliated groups spent nearly $500,000 on McCrory’s campaign.

Picketers will hold banners and signs and pass out information about Pope. According to a press release by left-leaning watchdog group Democracy NC, the purpose of the picket is not to encourage people to boycott Pope’s stores— which are located in 65 cities in working-class and minority neighborhoods— but to “raise awareness across North Carolina and demand that Art Pope support the request for a Special Redemption Session of the N.C. General Assembly to reverse course on two extremist policies, the denial of Medicaid and emergency unemployment benefits that will harm the most vulnerable members of our state.”

Protesters will gather in the Kroger's shopping center lot on the corner of Highway 54  and Fayetteville Road before the picket.

See the full press release here:

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    Durham residents, NC NAACP to protest budget director's "regressive" agenda

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Fast food workers strike in the Triangle

Posted by on Thu, Dec 5, 2013 at 8:23 AM

Fast food workers in the Triangle are going on strike today to demand higher wages from the multi-billion dollar corporations they say don’t care about their employees.

The protests, which kicked off in the parking lot of a Capital Boulevard Burger King at 6 a.m. this morning, are part of a wave of strikes happening in more than 100 cities across the country. Around 30 workers— some who make the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour— showed up with signs and banners to protest their low pay. They want $15 an hour and the right to unionize without fear of retaliation.

Today’s fast food strikes come a year after the first strikes in the nation popped up in northeastern cities like Chicago and New York. Strikes began in the Triangle this summer.

Raleigh/Cary employment statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor put the median hourly wage for front-line fast food works at $8.57 an hour in the Raleigh metro area; an MIT study found that an adult with one child living in Raleigh would need to make $20.07 an hour, working full-time, to afford the basics to survive.

66,000 fast food workers in North Carolina are receiving some kind of public assistance, at a cost of $264 million a year to state taxpayers who subsidize low wages in the fast food industry.

Kevin Rogers of Action NC, a grassroots organization that advocates for low-income communities, said the movement for higher wages in the service industry is gaining momentum.

“This is going to be ongoing,” he said. “You’re going to be hearing more from us and hopefully the voices will be growing louder and people will be talking more seriously about this.”

A larger protest will take place this morning in Durham at 11:30 a.m., at 2115 Avondale Drive.

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    Workers demanding $15 an hour, right to form a union.


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