Local News

Tenant moves while oft-flooded Durham building awaits repairs

Posted July 12, 2011 4:52 p.m. EDT
Updated July 12, 2011 6:33 p.m. EDT

— Although Durham officials promise a fix for the flooding that plagues part of University Drive, some local business owners said they couldn't wait another year for the repairs.

Heavy rains twice in May and again last Friday sent water rushing through the Rockwood Building and Nana's Restaurant.

"It's been miserable," said Pat Cooney, owner of Rockwood Barbershop. "(Business) stops right there on the spot as soon as you start getting water in the place. I mean, you can't have customers sitting in the chair with 2 feet of water in the barbershop."

A culvert channels a branch of the Third Fork Creek that that drains 228 acres under the property and hems the creek in between two buildings.

Part of the culvert has collapsed, and Ed Venable, Durham's stormwater engineer, said crews also have found that debris has blocked the drainage system in another area.

Scott Howell, who owns both the Rockwood Building and Nana's, is considering building an 8-foot wall around the buildings to protect them from the water. Venable said such a wall would need city approval and would be impractical.

Durham officials have entered into a public-private partnership with Howell to build a culvert that would reroute the creek around the area. Howell would be responsible for $15,000 of the estimated $800,000 cost.

State Department of Transportation engineers are expected to review the design of the new culvert in October, and Durham officials said they hope to start construction in January. Construction is expected to take six to nine months.

Sally Winchester, who operated a salon in the Rockwood Building, decided not to wait for the repairs. She has leased space nearby and moved the salon there for at least the next year.

"We just miss our little place," Winchester said, adding that she hopes to move back to the Rockwood Building once she no longer has to worry about flooding.

"The smell of the mud is so bad," she said.

Winchester estimated that she's lost about $25,000 from flooding damage, noting that she doesn't have flood insurance.

"(The business) literally went down the drain," she said.