New life for Lakewood

Jul. 05, 2014 @ 09:17 AM

By August, the Scrap Exchange expects to be in its new home at 2050 Chapel Hill Road, in the Lakewood Shopping Center.

That’s great news about the quirky, eclectic recycle/reuse/craft emporium. For a few nervous days, it was knocked out of business when Liberty Warehouse downtown experienced a partial roof collapse that drove the Scrap Exchange and other tenants on an abrupt search for new quarters.

The Scrap Exchange quickly landed on its feet and thrived in the Cordoba Center for the Arts next to Golden Belt just east of the city’s center. But the exchange’s leaders had long contemplated owning their own building, and the tumult of the move and uncertainty with which they lived for some time only fortified that ambition.

Owning the Lakewood building will give the organization “more control over the environment and our space … to make it our home,” board President Margaret McNab told The Herald-Sun’s Cliff Bellamy last week.

Or, as Executive Director Ann Woodward put it, “we’re really going to be able to design the space in a way that reflects our mission.”

As exciting as the news is for The Scrap Exchange, it also bodes well for the future of the Lakewood area. Lakewood Shopping Center opened in 1960 as a premier example of the strip-mall shopping centers proliferating across the country in the postwar decades. Its original tenants included retailing stalwarts of the era, like Winn-Dixie grocery and two “five-and-dimes,” Woolworth’s and W. T. Grant. By 1966, they were joined by the Center Theater, decamping from a downtown that was beginning to see life ebb away.

The shopping center was perched on the site of an earlier Durham sensation – the Lakewood Park, an amusement and recreation center. The streetcar company developed the park for the perfectly sensible goal of getting patrons to pay to ride to the park at the end of the line.

It was a popular destination for three decades, drawing thousands to its merry-go-round, skating rink, swimming pool, playground and concession stands.  But the park, like many others around the country similarly developed, faded to oblivion with the growing popularity of the automobile – which in turn inspired shopping centers such as Lakewood.

But strip malls, too, have been challenged by changing times and habits, and Lakewood is a faded ghost of its heyday.  The departure of the Duke Surplus Store a few years ago removed one of the last significant traffic generators.

Now, the Scrap Exchange holds the promise of reversing those fortunes and laying the groundwork for a revived center. That in turn could enliven the surrounding area, ripe for the kinds of revival that has occurred in other historic city neighborhoods.

Food Lion, the most prominent store in the center, welcomes the Scrap Exchange.  “We are supportive of new businesses in the area and we look forward to the continued growth of this shopping center,” said Benny Smith, a spokesman for Food Lion’s corporate offices.

So do we, and we look forward to the Scrap Exchange’s continuing to blossom as a part of this community.