Local News

Duke, neighborhood on road to compromise over gated street

Posted April 9, 2009 5:51 p.m. EDT
Updated April 9, 2009 6:37 p.m. EDT

— Duke University has backed off a proposal to close off a public street near campus for improved security.

Neighbors protested Duke's plan to put a gate at the intersection of South Buchanan Boulevard and Maxwell Avenue, where the university is undertaking a $50 million redevelopment project.

"People use that area for bikes and walkways to get to Duke and Campus Drive," said John Glasson, who lives on nearby Burch Avenue.

Glasson said the shortcut helps people avoid having to cross the rail line a block to the north of Maxwell Avenue.

"With all the trains coming in, you can't get through that area (without the shortcut)," he said.

Duke has revamped a vacant 200,000-square-foot warehouse along Maxwell Avenue for classrooms, offices and lab space. The university also is upgrading an old coal-fired steam plant to run on cleaner-burning natural gas.

Eventually, 650 Duke students and staff will use the facilities, and Duke officials floated the idea of closing access to the street and issuing key cards to those who needed to get in. They said the proposal was solely for safety reasons.

"It feels like too much of a land grab," Glasson said.

City officials would have to give Duke permission to close Maxwell Avenue and Sumter Street, a cross street about halfway down Maxwell, but Mayor Bill Bell said the City Council needs more information about the project before making a decision.

"Do the streets need to be closed or don't they, or can we get by with actually putting gates on the parking lot and still allowing access for the community?" Bell said.

Duke officials said they are working with Durham officials and people in the neighborhood on a solution and likely won't seek to close the two streets.

"We are in the process right now of working with the neighborhood association (and) with the city, making sure that all things work," said Mike Schoenfeld, Duke's vice president for public affairs and government relations.

Schoenfeld said Duke also plans to pave the gravel streets as part of the redevelopment and replace the century-old utilities that run beneath them.

"It's a ... bridge between the Duke campus and the downtown," he said.