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Officials expect Durham's population to double in the next 25 years

Durham has changed significantly over the past decade due to revitalization efforts and shifts toward the technology and innovation industries.

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Lora Lavigne
, WRAL reporter
DURHAM, N.C. — Durham has changed significantly over the past decade due to revitalization efforts and shifts toward the technology and innovation industries.

The population is expected to more than double in the next 25 years and much of that growth and development is happening in downtown Durham.

From 2010 to 2016, more than 10,000 new housing units were added in Durham, according to the City-County Planning Department. And over the next 25 years, the county’s population will grow to almost 450,000 according to the Durham-Chapel Hill- Carrboro 2045 Metropolitan Transportation Plan.

Almost everywhere you turn in downtown Durham, you will notice cranes in the air and a new tower added to the skyline.

“With Durham growing so much we can’t be audience members to the economic development,” said Leonardo Williams, who was recently elected to Durham City Council.

Despite the pandemic, this year downtown Durham is seeing growth in all sectors. The organization that guides area development, Durham Downtown Incorporated (DDI), shared the numbers for this fiscal year.

“Really for downtown Durham, it’s remarkable that we’re seeing this development occurring in commercial development, small retail storefront development and residential development,” said Nicole Thompson, the President and CEO of DDI.

The organization presented the update to Durham County Board of Commissioners Monday night. The data shows downtown office space has increased by 11% and residents units are up 7%.

“Everything that’s planned under construction and already opened we’re seeing probably 7500 units that will be online in a couple of years,” Thompson added.

More small business have come online with a net gain of 10% since March 2020.

“Even though we lost 21 businesses since March 2020, we actually gained 38. We are [glad] to see that they are hanging on and continuing to do all they can stay open,” said Thompson.

“There are a lot of great things that are happening in Durham however we tend to lead and evolve in a very fragmented way,” added Williams.

Williams believes the focus now should be to ensure the new development is equitable.

“One thing that we have to do is take advantage of the growth that we have. So we have to leverage those relationships of the new businesses coming to the area. And the other thing is just making sure we have more folks getting access to capital,” he added.

Willams has owned a small business, Zwelli’s Kitchen, for several years. He said Durham must continue to support the local business — which is considered the root of the city’s success.

Thompson said there is a focus on increasing affordable housing near the downtown area as well.

“You know we were the city of medicine… now It’s time to say Durham is ready for business and we’re ready to create that here locally,” Williams said.

The future for downtown Durham is looking bright with plenty of opportunities. The areas adjacent to the core of downtown will also benefit from the new growth.

DDI’s focus for 2022 is to continue supporting small businesses and a safer community.

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