DDI leader: Downtown has made progress, ‘long journey’ still ahead

Dec. 05, 2012 @ 06:42 PM

DURHAM – From proposals to redevelop existing downtown landmark buildings into new hotels to other plans for brand-new apartment projects, more development is in the pipeline for downtown Durham.

More than 320 new hotel rooms have been proposed to come online downtown by 2014, and more than 750 new residential units have been proposed.

That’s according to information from Downtown Durham Inc., an economic development organization focused on the city’s downtown.

The information was presented at the group’s annual meeting Wednesday in a game-show style format. Six members of the audience competed to answer the most downtown-related trivia questions correctly.

Downtown Durham Inc. President Bill Kalkhof presented the information as evidence of improvement for downtown. He compared what it’s like now to the state of downtown when the organization launched in 1993, when he said the area was described by the press as “moribund.”

Since the completion of a retail market analysis in 2010, 57 businesses, including shops, restaurants and service businesses, have opened. Kalkhof said the city is now known for its food, arts, baseball and growing retail offerings.

But he said there’s need for continued work. He said there are needs for increased parking, as well as to connect existing centers of activity at Brightleaf Square, American Tobacco, along Main Street in Durham’s City Center, around Durham Central Park and around Golden Belt.

In terms of hotels – Kalkhof said that to build on the existing number of rooms at the Durham Marriott City Center, three new hotels are proposed that would bring the number of rooms downtown to more than 500 by 2014.

But Kalkhof said that to be a destination for conventions, downtown Durham needs at least 700 rooms.

Kalkhof said that on top of the new residential projects that have been proposed, he believes another 2,500 residential units are needed.

“We are well positioned for the future,” Kalkhof said. “We still have a long journey before us,” he added.