A local developer is looking to give downtown Durham a facelift of about 15 stories. The result, if approved, will be a brand new high-rise, but planners hope it goes far beyond bricks and mortar.
The plan is to build a twin tower alongside one of the most prominent members of Durham's skyline -- the People's Security building. It will be a nearly identical twin on the outside but, on the inside, there will be a completely different focus. Instead of office space, the new building would house 216 apartments for older adults.
"For any downtown to really be revitalized you need to make it at least what we term an 18-hour-a-day city. That means having people out and about on the streets well into the night. Many experts say the best way to do it is to create a residential population," says Bill Kahlkof of Downtown Durham, Inc.
Kahlkof says 500 to 600 residents in the prosed high rise could start a domino effect. More shops, services and restaurants would follow, leading hopefully to even more residential development.
"One of the key components of a strong downtown is residential living," says
City Council member Howard Clement has pushed for more residential development in downtown Durham for more than a decade. When the twin tower proposal comes before the council next Monday, Clement says there's only one way to go.
"I'm going to be very much in favor of the proposal that's coming to the council," says Clement. "They're not going to ask us for one cent in terms of a funding mechanism for this proposal. They're just asking for our approval."
The developers are just trying to get the city's blessing to apply for bonds for the project. It won't cost Durham taxpayers. This issue of getting more people to live downtown is a tough one in Durham, Raleigh and in many other cities around the country.