David Arneson, of Center Studio Architecture, sent this proposal for a reimagined downtown Durham (specifically the Marriott/Civic Center/Carolina Theatre complex) to the ABCDurham list this afternoon. Here’s what he said, in part:
Moving the Civic Center away from its current location would allow us to restore the block of Roney Street between East Chapel Hill and Morgan Streets, and also the eastern half of Manning Place. This would greatly improve pedestrian and vehicular connectivity. It would also help to set off and frame the Carolina Theater and return it to its historic setting.
New storefronts along East Chapel Hill Street would greatly enhance the street level activity and vibrancy of this block. These buildings could be several stories tall with office and/or residential spaces on upper floors.
The Marriott (or another hotel) could expand and build another tower adjacent to the renovated park. And the ground floor here could be greatly improved with restaurants or other retail that open onto the park.
The Civic Center could live on top of the existing Durham Centre parking garage. This space is terribly underused. A new Civic Center here could create ground floor pedestrian entrances at the corner of Morris and Morgan and mid-block on Morgan. The existing elevator and stair towers with the stepped planter here are woefully inadequate as an entrance to Durham Centre. No one knows how to get to this huge building. Where’s the front door? We could fix all that and create a much better pedestrian experience on this block of Morgan.
The south façade of the Civic Center could be all glass with an long gallery space here that looks south over the Carolina Theatre, the plaza, and all of downtown. It would be at the level of the current roof terrace, so the view here is great. The experience would be similar to the lobby levels of the DPAC with their glass façade facing north toward the city.
Services and loading docks and trash and recycling could all be on the north side of the garage/Civic Center.