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Commission Delays Hearing On Duke Rezoning Plan

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DURHAM, N.C. — Duke will have to wait at least one more month to see if it can revamp Central Campus. They want to turn it into a place where students can live, shop and eat, but some nearby businesses don't like the idea.

Before Duke can do anything, the land needs to be re-zoned from mostly residential to University District Zoning. The Durham Planning Commission was set to hold a public hearing on the issue Tuesday night, but concerned neighbors asked that it be delayed.

Residents, along with businesses, are worried about what exactly this development will entail.

Ninth Street restaurant owner Hamad Ghanayem is watching Duke's plans to turn the mostly residential Central Campus into a residential, retail and restaurant development.

"I believe it's going to impact Ninth Street business, said Ghanayem. "(If) people have more choices, they are going to have an impact."

The Regulator Bookstore was worried about competition, also.

"That was a big concern to me," said co-owner Tom Campbell. "They were going to open a bookstore a quarter of a mile from here."

Now, Campbell said Duke administrators have told him a bookstore is no longer part of the plan.

Duke has said it has a vested interest in the economic health of Durham and doesn't want the project to negatively impact places like Ninth Street. Still, nothing has been decided. It's that plan, or lack thereof, that has the nearby neighborhoods concerned.

"Duke needs to provide a much more detailed plan," said John Schelp of the Old West Durham Neighborhood Association. "What they've submitted is mostly blank."

Concerned neighbors are hoping the planning commission's move to delay a decision on re-zoning for the project will give them and the businesses time to get more details.

"This puts the ball in Duke's court," said Schelp. "We know they know what the issues are. We know we can talk with them because we've worked with them in the past."

To show its commitment to Ninth Street businesses, Duke announced a pilot program last week that will give all first-year students $50 to spend at certain restaurants on Ninth Street.

Duke's revitalization of Central Campus is expected to span the next 20 to 50 years, and local businesses are invited to set up on campus. The re-zoning issue now moves to the Durham Planning Commission's August Agenda