Local News

UNC grad helping shape future of downtown Durham

Posted March 24, 2017 1:00 p.m. EDT
Updated March 24, 2017 7:18 p.m. EDT

— Downtown Durham is a little noisy these days. Crews are busy working on projects across the city, including the 27-story One City Center tower.

It's a far cry from the Bull City Nicole Thompson remembers from a quarter century ago.

"It was not really a place that was first on your list of places to go. There was not really a lot to do," Thompson said.

Durham Bulls Athletic Park, the American Tobacco Campus and the Durham Performing Arts Center have all sparked a boom downtown. They've also changed the vibe.

With plenty to do and more on the way, Thompson is now running Downtown Durham Inc., the nonprofit that is designing the city's future by making sure the central business district stays strong.

"It's absolutely phenomenal what has happened," Thompson said of the changes since she was in school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "Coming at this time, when it's just starting to pick up, it's really a great time to be in Durham and be a part of that."

Thompson has previously worked in economic development in Virginia and Colorado.

She said the biggest challenge for the Bull City is maintaining its identity as it grows.

"How do we make sure that we keep local businesses part of this vibrancy? How do we make sure that we keep the diversity that has made Durham what it is?" Thompson said.

Thompson said keeping Durham's identity will require everyone from longtime residents to big-time developers to get together and talk about the future.

Downtown Durham Inc. has created a master plan to guide development over the next several years.

Organizers will gather feedback from residents at an open house on April 30 from 6 to 8 p.m. at The Temple Building, at 302 W. Main St.