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Survey studies image of downtown Durham

Posted July 22, 2008

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— A survey released by the Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau shows the image of downtown Durham is improving, but some people still have negative impressions of the area.

The telephone survey was conducted May and June with 400 residents each in Durham, Orange and Wake counties. While 78 percent of Durham County residents had a "very positive" or "positive" impression of downtown, residents in Wake and Orange counties were mostly "undecided" about the area.

Bill Kalkhof, president of Downtown Durham Inc., said the image problem is isolated to a certain area.

“Within Durham County we like each other. Then you’ve got this ring around us for about 50 to 100 miles where we have this perception issue,” Kalkhof said. “When you go out regionally or nationally, Durham is held in very high regard.”

In Durham County, the percentage of residents who saw the area as “very positive” increased 28 percentage points from 1999, according to the survey.

About 48 percent of Orange County residents found downtown Durham favorable – a drop of 1.3 percentage points since 1999. Another 43 percent remained undecided. The favorable impression of downtown increased 1.3 percentage points from 1999 among Wake County residents. While about 44 percent found the area favorable, 48 percent were undecided.

DCVB representatives said the number of people who reported being uncertain about their impressions of downtown shows that people are moving from a negative impression to neutral and may eventually be won over.

Daniel Ellison, who owns buildings downtown, said it is common to hear the phrase, “Don’t go to Durham,” but never an explanation why.

In the survey, Wake and Orange county residents who visited the city, not just the downtown area, of Durham, during the last 12 months were more likely to report a favorable impression of downtown Durham. Seventy-five percent of those people said they had a positive impression of downtown. Thirty-one percent reported a very positive response.

“Durham has its image challenges. Some people think we are great; some people don’t,” Ellison said.

Some people blame the media.

“When you turned on the news, it used to be that crimes in Durham would be the first thing that you saw,” said Jennings Brody, owner of Parker and Otis, a downtown restaurant and catering business.

Some believe the reputation for crime has been inflated in the competition to lure workers in Research Triangle Park to live elsewhere.

Frank White, owner of White Cap Solutions in downtown Durham, said Wake County has been touted as the place to “come and live” and Durham County and the Research Triangle Park as the placed “to work.”

Kalkhof said marketing efforts have been concentrated in Durham County over the last five years.

“We are going to have to expand our outreach,” Kalkhof said.

Kalkhof believes the solution is a more unified marketing effort. He would like to see Durham do a campaign similar to the "I Love New York" campaign.

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  • Tired_of_LIBERALS Jul 23, 2008

    Good plan elmo. :-)

  • elmowantbeer Jul 23, 2008

    Tired_of_liberals: See, it's just another reason for me to stay in Durham and not go to Raleigh... I might get robbed.

  • Tired_of_LIBERALS Jul 23, 2008

    Crime is so busy in Durham that the criminals are commuting from Durham to Raleigh. See latest story "Durham man charged in Raleigh robberies" on WRAL's web site.

  • elmowantbeer Jul 23, 2008

    TENDERHEART1788 -- please share your source of info about Durham being the "8th most dangerous place to live." I've looked over every list I can find and can't find Durham in any top 10/15/20/25/30.

    I grew up in Raleigh, went to school in Chapel Hill, and upon returning to NC after living in other states I chose to live in Durham. Durham has something you can't get in other triangle cities, and I love it here. I've never been burgularized, mugged, shot, shot-at, raped, stabbed, or even murdered! And yes, I go out at night. Yes, I park in public parking lots. Yes, I work in downtown. There are parts of Durham that definitely need cleaning up. There are also parts of Raleigh and Chapel Hill that need cleaning up. If you use common sense anywhere you are, you will be fine.

  • Durham-Raleigh Jul 23, 2008

    First off, I live in and love Durham. We looked at Apex, Chapel Hill, Raleigh, etc. and chose DURHAM, near downtown. We love it and are happy homeowners who in four years have never been burgled, mugged, shot, etc. We have a great neighborhood and great neighbors.

    The WRAL comment boards draw a rather right-wing tinge -- cf. yesterday's disgusting cross-burning discussion. So I'm not surprised to see the discussion take this turn. But this needs addressing:

    "Durham was 32nd most dangerous place to live in one study http://www.morganquitno.com/cit00dang.htm I did not see Durham higher than that in any list. North Charleston, SC made all the lists as a dangerous place."

    The list you're using is almost a decade old. Durham has been DROPPING in these ratings, i.e., is a safer city now. Most recent data showed that you're more at risk from violent crime in Salt Lake City or Toledo than Durham.

    This won't change most people's hostile opinions. Fine, don't live here. But I love Durham!

  • OrdinaryCitizen Jul 23, 2008

    I thought Mayor Bell said, "We don't have any Gangs in Durham."

    There lies the problem with the city. Anyone who votes for him seriously needs an education.

  • Tired_of_LIBERALS Jul 23, 2008

    They probably polled 400 chamber of commerce members, realtors and downtown business owners for the survey.

  • Space Mountain Jul 23, 2008

    I highly doubt 78% of people in Durham have a positive view of downtown. Who did they ask for this survey? I was born and raised in Durham. I lived there for over 20 years. There are nice parts of Durham, but the one guy in the story is right, they are on the fringes of Durham, near Orange, Wake, Granville and Person Counties. There is no "false impression" about the area of Durham inside this circle. It is what it is, full of gangs and crime. I enjoy the Durham Bulls and South Point, but that's about it. I avoid most of Durham if I can.

  • dryjr Jul 23, 2008

    I have lived in Durham most of my life.spent time in the navy lived all over the U.S.,came back to Durham.I find that most people see Durham as Downtown only.Imagine if you thought of Raleigh as only southeast Raleigh,which is very rough.I live in the northern part of town.Never had any crime 20+ yrs.I can also bet that most people commenting have never been to duke forest,eno river,new hope area,falls lake area,etc.

  • 68_polara Jul 23, 2008

    They are again spending public money to give people a false impression of durham, which could result an putting them at risk. What they need to do is lock up the violent repeat offender felons which will reduce the crime. Down town and the rest of Durham might actually thrive then.

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