Downtown Raleigh Alliance; Downtown Loop; the Underground; Gentrification | Letters to the Editor | Indy Week

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Downtown Raleigh Alliance; Downtown Loop; the Underground; Gentrification

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Downtown Raleigh Alliance #fail

Downtown Raleigh's future is poised to be promising ("The bold new frontier," May 6 ). But key attitudes need to be checked at the door as the Capital City forges ahead in crafting a plan for the future.

The city needs to establish design guidelines and design incentives to redefine the face of the city skyline. Innovative and daring architecture needs to be embraced and should include an expansion of acreage where tall structures are encouraged. Downtown dwellers and city leaders need to get over their phobia of vertical construction. The current snaggletooth skyline with its three 30-story "front teeth" strung out in the straight line that is Fayetteville Street needs more architectural implants of tall and visually interesting buildings.

The city needs to recruit a wider variety of retail stores in the city's core. Visitors to the convention center can eat and drink aplenty, but they'd be hard pressed to find an article of clothing, office supplies or a souvenir to take home.

While Downtown Raleigh Alliance is quick to take credit for the transformation of the city's core over the past decade, it has actually failed the city and its mission miserably. It has demonstrated a total lack of vision evidenced by the appalling dearth of retail downtown. The complement of restaurants and bars, a trend for which the DRA cannot take credit, seems to have reached a comfortable maximum load. Where is the Staples or Office Depot express store? Where are the general merchandise stores? The shoe stores? The dress shops and men's clothing stores? The dry cleaners? The small grocers? Unless DRA can show progress in the general retail direction, the city should withdraw its funding and redirect those funds to another entity that can produce positive results in realizing a viable downtown that is attractive to Raleighites and visitors

Lee Hansley, Raleigh 

Downtown Loop #fail, with potential for #success

Thank you for the article ("Circle of Hell," May 20) recommending that Durham finally "ditch the Loop and do Downtown right." In the interest of informed community consensus on this very important public decision, we offer the following thoughts:

Preserving Affordability and "Keeping It Durham" As much of the land along the Loop is owned by We The People, our City and County governments could joint venture the development of this public property with private developers and private capital (rather than selling the land). With these Public Private Partnerships, government could specify design and affordability guidelines for the projects.

Public Space Ditching the Loop creates better public space. It gives us great streets, parks, squares, plazas, and public buildings, all of which may be enjoyed by everyone living in or visiting Durham.

Cost  The quoted cost range of $12 million to $35 million is too broad to be informative. Let's develop some real design specifications for the work, and get a realistic contractor estimate. In doing this, remember what our parents used to tell us: "If you buy it cheap, you buy it twice," and "Do it right the first time."

Repayment  Private development along the Loop repays the bonds issued to do the work. Those private properties will pay taxes, and the PPPs will provide additional cash flow from renting apartments, offices and shops. Developers have built a lot of places we hate, but they have also built the places we love. Their money and their risk-taking make a Great Downtown Durham possible. For this reason, public funds should build the better public space, and private funds should build the projects that repay that public investment over time.

Bob Chapman and Rob DicksonCleveland & Church Partners, Durham

Assessing the cultural impact of the Underground

Thanks for your article on the Cameron Village Subway ("An unceremonious, non-musical farewell for the Cameron Village Underground," May 20.) Someone needed to point out the disconnect that has occurred surrounding this event. It's hard, even for those of us long in the tooth, to have memories that aren't tainted by current points of view or the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia.

I don't hold anything against the young people who have heard tales of the Underground from their parents or found intriguing photos in a box in the attic. It's impossible for them to understand a world without instant communication and accessibility, as impossible as it is for me to imagine what it was like for my father and mother to be out of touch for months at a time during World War II. (I can barely remember what it was like to have to find a pay phone at a truck stop to call the venue to get directions when we were on tour in the '80s.)

The need to commune in person is in a choke hold. The power of a live performance is largely generated by the audience, the scene. What the crowd brings is usually what the show reflects. In the heyday of The Subway, live performance was exactly that—LIVE. This is where you met your friends and talked about what mattered to you, who was cool, who was not, who your favorite band was.

The cultural impact of that place is more important than the nostalgia surrounding this event would lead one to deduce. Your article has opened the door for further consideration of this impact.

Thanks again, Grayson, for your thoughtful piece. I've enjoyed reading your well-considered critiques and articles. Keep up the good work.

Don Dixon, Canton, Ohio

Dixon was a member of Arrogance and a musician/producer living in Chapel Hill from 1969 to 1987.

Ignoring history and economics in gentrification story

Listing the Cleveland-Holloway Streets neighborhood as the "most egregious example" of "white flight" displacing low-income residents in "undervalued and historically black neighborhoods" (Triangulator, May 27) ignores both history and economics.

The specific area mentioned has only been predominantly African-American for 30 years or less. For well over 100 years before the mid-1970s the area was home to primarily white "middle class" property owners who owned businesses or managed larger businesses downtown. The change in residents, and to some extent ownership, took place as the housing stock aged. Many of the remaining structures are 100 or more years old.

The economic cost of remodeling or rehabilitating older homes with high ceilings, little or no insulation, woefully inadequate and outmoded heating, cooling, wiring and plumbing, not to mention doors and windows that are much less than "energy efficient," contributed to "white flight" from the area. While the long fight over an integrated countywide school system was a factor, the changes in construction styles and population growth weighed in as well.

The median price has nothing to do with racial diversity in residents (remember Durham has a long history of more renters than homeowners) and does not take into account the rise in value resulting from the expensive rehabilitation required to extend the life of the housing stock in the area.

The INDY should continue its fight for decent housing and diversified neighborhoods for all. However, it should temper its commentary and reporting with meaningful facts, not unsupportable claims and numbers without adequate context. The changes in the Cleveland-Holloway Streets area is fundamentally different from the situations in Chapel Hill-Carrboro where neighborhoods that were always "black only" succumbed to the student housing boom and commercial development.

B.M. Brodgen Jr., Raleigh


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