DURHAM, N.C. — Three Durham city officials have taken a field trip to Houston, Texas. They are on a fact-finding mission for a proposed theater that would go downtown in the Bull City.
When the DATA bus station moved, it abandoned a big chunk of land in the heart of Durham. City planners want to fill that void with a multi-use theatre.
Durham Mayor Bill Bell joined councilman John Best and outgoing city manager Marcia Conner for the overnight trip to visit a multi-use theatre in Houston. The three went to Houston because the theater there is managed by Clear Channel, the company Durham officials are talking to about managing the theatre.
"It's an exploratory trip," Bell said. "We've looked at this events theater for some time.
"I don't want expectations too high on this trip. I don't want people to expect that because we're going, it's a done deal."
Among Bell's concerns is what a 3,000-seat performance center in Durham would do to the city's smaller theaters.
If the city builds the theater under the current proposal, the Durham hotel/motel tax fund would cover $24 million of the project, leaving at least $6 million for a private company to pay.
"We want to be sure we have an operator so we don't have a black theater," Bell said, "and it will be profitable, to the extent it helps pay for itself."
If so, the proposed theatre will add drama to an already dramatic revival of downtown.
Bell said if Durham builds the theater, the American Dance Festival is expected to be a major draw for the facility.