Local News

Despite Construction Pitfalls, Downtown Durham Promising, Some Say

Posted May 24, 2006 10:25 a.m. EDT

— Some business owners in Downtown Durham say construction has hurt their businesses, but they believe it will pay off for them in the long run.

The city is in the middle of a two-year $10 million street improvement project to realign some streets and open others up to two-way traffic. Nearly 1.5 miles of barrels and barricades line up along downtown streets.

"We've lost a little business from the traffic," said business owner Charlie Scott, whose has seen business decrease at his alteration shop on Morris Street by 25 percent. "People can't park -- then, they park, and police tell them to move their car."

The city's goal is to keep Durham traffic in the area flowing throughout the project. To do that, crews work on one side of a street at a time, leaving the other side open to traffic.

Although there is little doubt that the construction is inconvenient, some say there is a positive side because it is driving investors to pour more money into downtown Durham.

"We were leased up within three months," said Allison Spencer, of Greenfire Development -- one of many developers converting old buildings to new condominiums and office space.

In the last 10 years, private investors have put more than $125 million into downtown.

"The changes to the street will improve drivability of the city, and the improvements to the sidewalks will make it more pedestrian friendly," Spencer said.

In some areas, fancy, new streetlights are already in place. Brick is also making a comeback.

And, Durham leaders say a new and improved downtown could be back on track by March 2007 if everything goes according to plan.

Now, even Scott is sold on the vision.

"It'll be more beautiful when they're done with it," he said.