Retirement party held for outgoing DDI president
A group that included city elected leaders, developers, and others gathered Monday to mark Bill Kalkhof’s 20 years as president of the downtown Durham revitalization-focused group Downtown Durham Inc.
Kalkhof, 65, retires Tuesday. He’s said in a previous interview that one of the options he’s considering for his future is a run for the Durham City Council Ward 3 seat. He said on Monday that he plans to catch his breath, and wants to serve the community in some way, but is undecided in exactly what capacity.
“To this day, I’m honored by the opportunity the community gave to me to have an impact on my adopted hometown,” Kalkhof said, as a line of well-wishers waited nearby at Tyler’s Restaurant & Taproom. Kalkhof’s retirement party was held at the Speakeasy at Tyler’s, which is located at American Tobacco downtown. “I’m proud of what the collective ‘we’ have accomplished,” he also said.
During the retirement party, Matthew Coppedge, DDI’s chief operating officer, gave a presentation of the new construction and redevelopment projects that have been completed downtown in Kalkhof’s 20 years with the group.
The list included the redevelopment of American Tobacco, the opening of the Durham Bulls Athletic Park and the Durham Performing Arts Center, and the completion of the downtown streetscape improvement project.
Coppedge also highlighted projects that have been proposed for downtown’s future, including proposals to redevelop two different existing City Center buildings into hotels.
Durham City Councilman Steve Schewel, who attended Monday’s retirement party along with city staff, elected leaders, and others, described Kalkhof as a relentless visionary who is able to bring people together to make deals.
“Twenty years ago, who wanted to live downtown?” Schewel said. “Nobody. Only the bravest pioneers.”
Schewel said he believes there’s now an influx of people who want to live downtown and businesses that want to locate there. He also said he’s confident that the proposed hotel redevelopment projects will go forward.
He also noted that construction has begun on the apartment project on West Chapel Hill Street across from the Durham police headquarters. Collegiate housing developer Memphis, Tenn.-based Education Realty Trust is partnering to build the community in Durham through a joint venture.
Schewel said that as a critical mass of downtown residents is reached, the area will need additional infrastructure including a grocery store and more public parking.
“It’s really been his kind of relentless optimism, combined with his ability to put people together that’s made it go,” he said of Kalkhof’s work downtown.
Reginald Jones, who works for the city’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development, said the challenge for downtown is getting enough people working and living there. He said he believes a critical mass has not been reached yet.
Jones noted proposals such as the hotel redevelopment projects, the West Chapel Hill Street residential project, and a 26-story building that has been proposed by a Colorado-based firm for the corner of Main, Parrish and Corcoran streets, as having a potential positive impact.
As for Kalkhof’s replacement – the process is still underway to finalize a selection. Tucker Bartlett, chairman of the DDI board, said in-person interviews have been held with four different candidates. The four were selected from an initial pool of 85 applicants for the job.
The search committee is deliberating on the final selection, Bartlett said. Kalkhof said there will be no public announcement of the selection until after the DDI board holds a meeting in May.
The rest of the staff at DDI will continue to operate the organization, Kalkhof said.