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Revitalization Takes Hold in Downtown Durham

The Bull City has been talking about remaking its downtown for years. Finally, residents can see where investors are putting their money.

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DURHAM, N.C. — At Rue Cler in downtown Durham, the atmosphere is decidedly hip and urban. Many say it's part of a new and different Durham.

"I like this restaurant. I like the feel of it. It brings more culture to Durham," said Nkem Ejoh, a local college student.

The restaurant and bakery opened a year ago, and Rue Cler's manager, Cam Davis, says business is better than good.

"We're here for the long haul," Davis said. "There's new life in Durham, and we're excited to be a part of it all."

A half-dozen more downtown restaurants are expected to open in the next few months.

It's a sign the pace is picking up in the Bull City.

In the past year, investors poured $110 million into the city center. This year, add to that, more offices, shops and a recording studio.

"You add all that up, and that's $250 million to $260 million in private investment coming out of the ground with cranes," said Bill Kalkoff, executive director of Downtown Durham Inc.

There is an 89 percent occupancy rate in the downtown area. That compares favorably with Raleigh, which has about a 92 percent occupancy rate.

Along with the development, however, comes growing pains. In the next five years, the city will need an additional 1,000 parking spaces.

"At the end of the day, working with commercial or residential clients, they want to know 'Where am I going to park, and how much is it going to cost?'" Kalkoff said.

Parking plans need to come fast. In the next five years, the number of downtown condominiums will skyrocket to nearly 2,500 from the 600 now in place.

"There are still improvements to be made, but you can see the progress," student Kurrell Rice said. "That's the important part. You can see the progress."

And that's what downtown leaders say is the point.


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