DPAC expansion enhances downtown

Sep. 06, 2013 @ 05:12 PM

Downtown Durham has many signs that it has truly reached the tipping point – that its rebirth that started in the early 1990s but didn’t really begin to hit its stride in this century is now surging along with little danger of reverse.

One sign of that is that critical parts of the redevelopment are themselves spawning more redevelopment.

The latest sign of that came this week with the revelation of plans for a significant expansion of the Durham Performing Arts Center.

It is hard to underestimate the impact the DPAC has had downtown. A clear affirmation of public support for downtown’s potential, it transformed our still-sparse skyline and has served to bring thousands of visitors into the city.

Many of those visitors don’t just take in a show or performance at the DPAC – they spend money in our growing number of downtown bars and restaurants. Perhaps most important, folks who may never have been to downtown Durham, or had not been here for some time, have a chance to experience the “wow” factor of DPAC, American Tobacco and the countless other signs of new life downtown.

Now, the DPAC is going to be an even greater draw.

The City Council is likely to approve a deal with Capitol Broadcasting that would add a 134-room hotel, retail space, a new President’s Club lounge and – this will be great news to many DPAC veterans – more toilets for women.

Mayor Bill Bell welcomed the news.

“I think it’s a great addition and is really going to enhance, not only the DPAC, but the whole issue of hotel rooms in the downtown area,” Bell said. 

The hotel – to be run by the Aloft chain – will join other new hotels in and around downtown in the former SunTrust tower, the former Mutual Community Savings Bank and the former McPherson Hospital. Those projects together will add 456 rooms to an area that has long been short of overnight lodging space – a deficit that has hampered marketing the Durham Convention Center.

All those new hotel rooms will ensure that even more folks are downtown at night.

The DPAC expansion is yet another example of Capitol’s commitment to downtown. It already has been a transformational player with the American Tobacco complex and with the Durham Bulls.

The project is expected to move forward quickly, with completion projected late next year or early in 2015.

We’ll be anxious for that date to arrive, another milestone on downtown’s ascent.