The city of Durham has started reconstructing and has plans to fully revitalize the American Tobacco, City Center, Central Park, Government Services, Warehouse and Brightleaf districts, which are all located in the heart of downtown Durham a few miles from Duke’s campus. Construction in these local areas has been ongoing in the past couple of years, a product of hundreds of millions of dollars local investors and the city of Durham have funneled into the area.
Many of the changes have come from Downtown Durham, Inc., an organization formed in 1993 to fuel downtown construction. It mostly focuses on economic development, parking, appearance, promotion and safety, according to the organization’s website. The city of Durham also crafted a Downtown Durham Master Plan in 1999, which called for many of the recent changes to the location.
The downtown area is now home to more than 40 restaurants and bars and various shopping venues. The Durham Performing Arts Center, which opened in 2008 with a $7.5 million contribution from Duke, features concerts, Broadway series and American Dance Festival performances, among other events. The DPAC is a part of the American Tobacco Historic District, which features a variety of restaurants and retail and entertainment venues in addition to office space.
The local arts scene goes beyond the DPAC, however. Golden Belt, which was one of the city’s historic textile mills, has been converted into a hub for the local arts scene, featuring artist studios, restaurants, live music and art exhibitions.
And finding transportation to the downtown district just became much easier. A free bus service, which began running in August, now connects downtown Durham and the campus. The bus stops near Trent and Flowers drives, near Duke South Hospital. The system, which is called the Bull City Connector, uses six new hybrid/diesel buses that were funded in part by $375,000 from the University. Duke will also help fund the service’s annual operating costs.
The downtown district is also home to the Durham Bulls, a minor league baseball team that plays in the Triple-A International League. The team plays in the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, which initially opened in 1995 and was later expanded for the 1998 season.
Durham Central Park, which has been recently revamped, features picnic areas, lawns and gardens, and is also home to the Durham Farmers’ Market, which utilizes the recently-constructed pavilion. The Durham Skate Park, which is located in the park area, opened in the fall of 2009 and is free to the public.
Although some construction projects have yet to be completed, the Durham revitalization efforts have improved the city’s downtown and may soon attract more Duke students.