Today the City of Durham is discussing a proposed 26-story tower that would be the city’s tallest. The project would stand next to the venerable Hill building, inside of downtown’s loop, and would contain 133 apartment units in the buildings upper 21 stories. Half of the street level would be retail while the rest of the building would be parking garage.
There is a very nice pdf of the proposal posted at the Durham website. It includes details of the project, its positive and negative impacts on the surrounding neighborhood, and many, many renderings.
I first should say that I love the architectural style of the building. The use of balconies to give the building a softer, rounded look is beautiful. The building would be a great improvement to the stale Durham skyline. I do have many deep concerns about the viability of the building as a business project, and concerns about its affect on future housing in downtown Durham.
In Raleigh we saw the addition of two “highrise” condo buildings with the West at North project and the RBC Tower. Along with other projects such as Bloomsbury Estates, the Hue and the Paramount, Raleigh saw a fast glut of high-rise condo spaces in a very few years. Predictably the market was overbuilt for condos, and some projects either went to apartments or went into foreclosure. At this point does the downtown market of Durham need 133 sky-high apartment units when it really has…none? This is a big financial step for the developers into an untested market.
Does this project improve the quality of life in downtown Durham? For sure, the Durham loop is begging for some residential component. The area has much potential as a walkable, charming 24-hour live/work/play zone. I have serious concerns about any residential project that is more than 6 stories tall. Above 60 feet or so, residents are no longer part of the community, but rather, in their own world. It is more convenient in some cases to just go down to the car in the garage and drive to destinations. Would it be any different for this project? Does the Durham market want all of its apartment demand sucked up into one portion of one block.
In urban areas with an abundance of vacant lots, like Raleigh and Durham, I feel that the best residential plan for a viable long term community is in 3-4 story facilities. Row houses and small projects are far more likely to put pedestrians on the street, pedestrians who care about the neighborhood, than projects that allow residents to escape the very neighborhood being built.
The folks at Pre-Flight Parking near RDU informed me last night that the site is no longer taking new parkers, and will be closing as soon as the last car is claimed. Apparently within the last week the company that owns Fast Park bought out the Pre-Flight location last week. (A couple of employees said that they offered Pre-Flight employees $2 less per hour, too).
So, it appear that there are now only three alternatives for parking at RDU:
RDU: $12/day – Park across the street from either terminal
FastPark Parking: $5.45/day – No walking, covered parking, complimentary car wash, bus delivery from your parking spot to terminal front door.
District Drive Park & Ride: Free – Ride TTA’s bus ($2 each way, exact change) Route 100 (.pdf). Note that this option is only convenient for late morning/early afternoon arrivals and departures. Lot is not under surveillance, but there is security-by-obscurity in a safe area.
The nation’s next Sur La Table store may land at Streets at Southpoint Mall tomorrow morning. The store, which carries a full line of cooking equipment, is aiming for “go” when the mall opens.
I visited the Sur La Table store in SoHo a couple of weeks ago and while the store is similar to Williams Sonoma, the inventory is a bit more of a full complement cooking supply store and not quite as high-end than Williams Sonoma. It’s a store this market badly needs, especially the Raleigh market.
A few things to note in the store: the selection of thermometers, knives, and the demo of the induction cooking surface. Also of note is the store’s Grand Opening Sale which gives customers a $10 gift certificate for each $50 spent thru the store’s closing on Sunday evening. The store also runs cooking classes, such as Sunday’s $47 Essential Knife Skills class, which has gotten rave reviews online. (ask them if they demo the CIA method of peeling a pepper!)
The store is located in The Streets at Southpoint’s outdoor section.
I got a tip yesterday that GHG, George Bakatsias’ restaurant group, will be opening a Greek restaurant in the former Pyewacket space on W. Franklin Street. If this is true, it is some darned good news, and a nice departure from the Chinese/Mexican/Bland offerings that have plagued the reasonably priced Chapel Hill restaurant scene for so long. It’s also good news because I’ve always found Bakatsias’ restaurants impressive (even the Café Georgio that was in the depressing basement of Fine Feathers in University Square!). We’ll keep an eye on the timetable for this one!
Triangle Modernist Houses continues their excellent series of architectural tours with a tour of the former North American Headquarters for Burroughs-Wellcome. The building was one of Paul Rudolph’s best pieces, and has not been open to the public for decades. It was featured in the strange, salvaged Natalie Wood/Christopher Walken movie “Brainstorm.”
The tour takes place on Saturday, October 20 from 9am to 1pm. Advance tickets are $9.95 and $15 day-of. Tickets and more information are available at the TMH Tour Page.
A reader named Mike recently alerted me to an interesting retail story going on in Morrisville. It seems that the Town and Country Hardware (“formerly Ace”) at Davis and Morrisville Carpenter is closing on October 31. According to employees, the store’s lease was not renewed and the replacement will be a Wal-Mart Express.
This is interesting on several levels. According to a News & Observer article in July, Wal-Mart has been rolling out 15,000 square foot stores in small towns to compete with large drug stores and Family Dollar stores. Morrisville, however, is suburbia, and there is a full-sized Wal-Mart store very close by at I-540 and 54.
Secondly, this is apparently a dagger to the local Ace Hardware system and consumers’ ability to maintain equipment. A year ago I my lawn mower needed repair, so I took it to the Ace Hardware on Kildaire Road late on a Saturday afternoon. It took the store a month to return the lawn mower because that store is not an actual service site. Rather, they sent all lawn mowers over to “the Davis Drive store” (presumably the one at hand). I’m not sure where Cary’s Ace is sending lawn mowers now, but if they are sending them to North Ridge, it will be 2 months to get one repaired.
It is extremely sad to see stores like this (that offer services to our appliances) drying up. It’s one thing to worry about the amount of garbage we could be composting, but it’s another thing to make servicing expensive items like TVs and lawn mowers so difficult that it is easier and/or cheaper to simply discard the item than to go through the service hassle.
UNC School of Dentistry Welcomes
Modern Era with Dedication of New Building
At the end of April, the UNC School of Dentistry opened a $118 million expansion that greatly enhances the school’s ability to accommodate not only larger class sizes, but to educate more effectively. The facility also positions the school as a worldwide leader in dental research.
The UNC School of Dentistry started out of a Quonset hut in some woods near the UNC Hospital in 1954. A few years later the “Old Dental Building” was erected and set the school on the path to being one of the South’s finest. However in 1969 the school opened Brauer Hall, 5-story complex that housed both clinical and educational spaces. It was an important step as the school was able to both grow its class sizes and split its clinics into specialized spaces.
However as the next couple of decades passed, the school found itself unable to keep up with the state’s burgeoning population, and found itself with outdated clinical spaces that no longer met the standards of modern dental technology. With a boost from Butler leader Bud Tarrson and his wife Linda, the school opened Tarrson Hall, a 5-story companion to Brauer Hall, in 1997 that solely included clinical spaces to meet the school’s needs.
While Tarrson Hall greatly improved the patient care the school provided, it was an architectural paradox. At the dismay of myself and many Class of 1996 classmates, the school chose to extend the 1969 Internationalist façade from Brauer Hall onto Tarrson Hall. Yes, it was aesthetically consistent, but so are his-and-hers El Caminos. Functionally, however, the folks at Odell in Charlotte designed a masterpiece. Tarrson Hall pulled the patient experience toward the corner of the complex closest to the parking decks, allowing the school to renovate the opposite end of the school in a manner that best satisfied educational and research needs. No longer were patients seen ambling through student locker rooms and janitors’ closets looking for hidden clinical spaces. Tarrson simply restored logic to was the functional spaghetti of the 70s and 80s dental complex.
In 2000 the citizens of North Carolina approved a massive bond initiative that saw every UNC campus greatly improve its physical campus. At the end of this parade is the Koury Oral Health Sciences “building”. Composed of two fused buildings that greatly resemble hotels in the game Monopoly, the facility replaces two minor buildings of the once 5-building dental complex. It adds a new hands-on simulation lab for teaching clinical skills to dental students, a large auditorium, a large classroom, research labs, and numerous conference spaces. Not only will current and future students benefit, but also practicing dentists, as continuing education courses can perhaps find their way back into the “schoolhouse”. Koury is its own building, but that is easy to forget as architects utilized the resulting gangway as a large multipurpose atrium.
I took a brief tour of the facility last week and was duly impressed with the amount of detail and foresight that went into not only the design but the execution as well. The building is so well integrated that one is almost surprised to encounter any disconnect with the old complex.
It is better to think of Koury as a crescent that lines the western border of the complex. The needs for this building are quite different than those served by Brauer Hall, so architects eschewed floor height constraints set forth by the existing complex. Lab and large class spaces need high ceilings, so each floor is taller than those in Brauer, which creates a “malocclusion”, if you will, between the upper floors in the complex. The connection to Brauer Hall’s third floor is on a floating stairway landing, and connections to the Old Dental building are engaged by stairway landings and a two-sided elevator as well.
The teaching lab space in Koury is fantastic, easily serving a class size of 100 or more (Since 1969 the school could accommodate class sizes in the 75-83 range). Not only is the space bigger, the lab benches are updated with brand new equipment, and the A/V presentation system is up to date. More impressive, though, is the open space afforded by surprisingly few columns. This is more helpful to large class lab teaching than one would initially expect. The column issue is quickly noticed upon entering one of the recently renovated labs in Brauer Hall.
The large auditorium and the classroom are also fantastic, and are on par with the superb facilities found in other graduate school spaces on campus such as the Kenan-Flagler Business School. Additionally, the lab spaces are excellent, and presumably are the finest educational setting dental lab research spaces in the world.
As the science of Dentistry has evolved of the last half-century, so has the science of Education. In our four year period in the school, we were largely “lectured at” in lecture halls scattered throughout the dental and medical complex. They were cramped, run-down auditoriums that had been long-since converted into low-rise movie theater arrangements. Today’s era of education, however, advocates many more small group/discussion experiences. We saw hints of this style coming on in the 90’s, but the school, frankly, did not have the facilities to host such a model. Koury affords several locations for small group learning. I counted six conference rooms, but other minor spaces also exist.
The delivery of information has greatly changed since the mid-90’s. When we were not in lecture halls, we were in the basement of the Health Science Library viewing tapes of the driest of content. Now with the internet aiding this content’s delivery and the variety of spaces in Koury, students can learn the same material in a variety of ways with more flexibility.
The L-shaped atrium is one of the most fascinating pieces to the new dental complex. What was once a baron, dirty service entrance to Brauer Hall is now an excellent multipurpose space. Hallways in all of Koury’s five floors overlook the space which is largely lit by skylights during the day. The floor space of the atrium contains a new offering to the dental complex; a snack bar. The adjoining tables in the atrium all are located near numerous inset electrical receptacles in the floor, so the space can be used for small group study and other purposes at any hour.
Perhaps the most interesting element to the atrium, however, is the multifunctional elevator/stair column that now sits in the old connector space between Brauer Hall and the Old Dental Building. The landing facing the rest of the atrium contains a lectern, allowing one to address the cavernous room. From the the lecturer’s point of view, the atrium floor is not the only location imagined for the audience. There are perches on higher floors as well as the far corners of the atrium. This allows excellent sightlines for the audience of potentially hundreds in a space that for so many similar projects is discarded.
Most notable to drivers on Manning Driver, however, is the new pedestrian bridge that connects the second floor of Koury to the cafeteria in the Bowles building. This is another example of flawless design and execution, as pedestrians no longer have to dangerously cross one of UNC’s grand avenues.
Crossing the bridge is a pleasing experience. The walkway is covered in bricks, and feels like a continuation of the plaza spaces on each end, and is consistent with the more aesthetic older areas of the campus. The east view from the bridge is one of the best public views in Chapel Hill, too. Finally, the drainage system for the bridge is outstanding without causing a danger to those wearing heels.
There are a few problems with the additional facilities, though. The entire West façade of the South half of Koury integrates the sidewalk, offering pedestrians a covered walkway insulated from cars on Columbia Street. However this cover stops short of the Koury main pedestrian entrance, leaving a disjointed experience. Furthermore, the walkway extending north to the Health Sciences Library immediately swerves toward the road and exposes pedestrians to what is essentially a highway. Also, there is a clearing of land where the old Dental Office Building was that could have been converted into a small transportation plaza that would have been better than the current Health Sciences Library bus stop.
Also, the west end of the atrium floor is on a level that is a couple of steps up from the main room. These two terrazzo steps, found at the bottom of the main Koury staircase, are not permanently marked and are not seen easily by those who have completed their move down the stairs. Finally, the receptacles in the floor of the atrium are already getting torn up by the café furniture. A different design is needed for these to continue to be functional and safe.
There is so much more to the Koury building than can be appreciated in a simple tour during a dormant week for the school. A whole chapter could be written about the lab spaces as well as the building’s pursuit of LEED Gold certification. However it is fair to say that the complex almost perfectly satisfies the needs of the school in the Modern Era. The steering committee, designers at Flad & Associates, and builders are to be commended for making the UNC School of Dentistry the marquis dental education facility in the world for years to come.
Summer is just around the corner, and that means another great concert season in Raleigh. From now until the end of September, there is a slew of shows guaranteed to ramp up the fun rate in the area. In fact, there are very few dates between now and mid-June that have no event scheduled, so save up, and get out of the house!
There are 100s of good entertainment options coming this summer. The best 100 of them (as of today) are assembled below. Click the venue name for ticket information, opening acts, directions, and more.
In addition, soon, all of these events will appear individually in the gogoraleigh DoIt Calendar, so you can easily add any event to your personal calendar.
In the most bizarre announcement in area real estate history, WRAL is reporting that plans are on the board to transform the failing outlet mall near the airport into a China town. The mall will include a cultural center, a hotel, restaurants, and businesses that are Chinese with out being “Americanized”. Learn more from the link.