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.


Listserv Gem

The author of this email, a guy named Rodney Derrick, is probably the archetype for what I’ll turn out to be once I’m older & retired. Dude actually changed Durham city policy via crankitude. I can only dream of someday achieving that.

Anyway. This email was sent to multiple public downtown Durham listservs, so I figure it’s kosher to post it here. This is the entirety of it. I’m omitting Rodney’s email address but he’s pretty easy to find.

Hi Scott and others downtown,
As some of you know, theses of us on the 100 block of W Main have just learned this week that instead of businesses going into 112 W Main of which we had been advised, the plan is now for a discotheque. 
I know from the feedback I’ve received a PAC meeting or informal meeting of some sort is expected to take place on Thursday to discuss these issues as everyone has their own perspective and individual concerns. Is this something Alice could facilitate in your absence? 
Numerous residents and businesses on the 100 W Main block are concerned about learning this nightclub is planned for opening at 112 W Main this fall. For example, one resident on our block who also has a business here said this, “As far as I am concerned I think that night clubs are bad news.  Being from New York City, I know the rampant drug and gun scene that comes with late night partying. Coupled with NC loose gun laws and the terrible gun violence I have observed from the Durham police right outside my window in the past 6 months, I am not at all interested in this kind of scene in my neighborhood.

Please advise me as to the best way to voice my community support”.

Supposedly this is a DJ-based nightclub potentially going in the Empress Development project across the street from us at the Baldwin and the Kress. This is somewhat surprising news considering informal conversations we’ve had with Empress indicated that this location would be turned into offices, a restaurant based on a successful food truck, and something like dry cleaning on Parrish (e.g. businesses that respectfully would not keep us up all night).

Just for some background, as you probably know, our block has not had the best history/luck with nightclubs (i.e. Xscape Lounge disaster, the burned-out buildings across from us from the 2001 fire, shootings in mid-2000s etc.) so the prospect of yet another nightclub here is somewhat perplexing. 

1.. What assurances will the owners of the 26 residential units in the Kress and Baldwin, and the other residents around us on Main and Parrish, have that this new nightclub will not be a bass factory, pumping thundering music into the wee hours of the morning? We have had the opportunity to read Greenfire’s tenant feedback from the rental days at the Baldwin and the #1 complaint, and #1 reason for tenants leaving, was noise from Xscape Lounge. Will appropriate soundproofing for a nightclub be installed during the ongoing renovations? If residents are affected by excessive noise, what recourse will we have? 

Please note we do hear the Pinhook occasionally but owner Kym Register is receptive and quite sensitive to feedback about these issues and honestly their mix of live and dance music genres leaves most nights relatively quiet. 

2. Will this nightclub be permitted by the city to prop its doors open? As you’re probably aware, nightclub noise and open doors is currently a hot-button issue in Raleigh. Open doors increase noise levels substantially and bass travels far enough without additional help. We are especially concerned now with their request to incorporate their business with Chicken Bone Park and how much noise pollution this could create in the area. 

3. The first months we lived in the Baldwin several years ago, residents had to call police several times because of rowdy patrons at Xscape Lounge (Marvell Building) pouring into the streets and fighting after 2am. What assurances will we have that this will NOT be repeated with this business? Will there be an additional police presence at closing times to prevent this from happening?

4. With the state expanding their allowance of guns in bars and the very nature of a disco culture, we are very concerned with potential gang warfare and guns and the danger to folks in their homes and businesses and walking the streets.

Also, I think since at the last PAC meeting you noted that Empress would be presenting their plans to the public, and since they’ve asked the PAC for support for grant money and park access, it would be appropriate for those plans to be presented and discussed publicly at a PAC meeting. Their tenant’s presence would also be very much appreciated for introductions. I think many now would object to use of Chicken Bone Park for a nightclub but I could be wrong. Dialog is always good. 

We are also happy to discuss these issues privately due to the time constraints of public meetings as you have suggested, but right now many of us feel like we have been here all along across the street since the building was purchased. This shouldn’t be so hard. We shouldn’t be the last to know these things.

If you are looking for more agenda issues, I have some concerns after Mark’s presentation last week about how hourly workers and/or their employers will afford parking downtown with the meter changes. That was kind of railroaded through to get to gigabit topic. It was obvious that Anna was uncomfortable with the change as well. I’m curious with more hourly workers being added yearly how they’re all going to take the BCC from remote lots? That seemed a bit absurd.
Also, as you know, I raised the issue of construction permits downtown not taking into consideration downtown businesses, and even though this was covered today in the Herald Sun, perhaps it deserves some discussion.
Additionally, I have been in a dialogue with the Fire Chief for several months over concerns about the incredible increase in these Unit Trains with their Oil Bomb Tankers and many hazardous materials roaring through the city at all hours of day and night. Just in the last week, there have been major derailments in Lynchburg VA, Greenville NC and Bowie MD. Fire Chiefs all over the USA are saying that they do not have the resources to put out such fires. Even the James River was set ablaze. And Canada is now moving to ban these Oil Tankers as being unsafe, especially with the oil sands products and other oil being produced in such increased quantity. Over the last year, towns in Canada and North Dakota have been destroyed and many people killed in derailments.

Regards and safe travels,

Rodney Derrick

Listserv Gem