The INDY moves downtown near a tech hub | Editorial | Indy Week

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The INDY moves downtown near a tech hub

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There were no mouse droppings. No broken sink. No windowless rooms where, if you worked too long, your eyesight regressed to that of a mole.

Seven years ago, when the INDY 's Durham office moved from what looked and smelled like a frat house on West Hillsborough Street to the Venable Center, I marveled at our new space: 13-foot ceilings, wooden beams and so much natural light that sunglasses would not be out of place inside.

It looks like work gets done here.

Now the paper is moving again, about four blocks away, to the first floor of 201 W. Main St. Across the hall is the Main Street campus of American Underground, the hub of Durham's startup and tech culture. We're looking forward to rubbing elbows with creative thinkers and entrepreneurs, especially for a media company that wants to innovate as it straddles the print and digital worlds.

Since the summer, we've been brainstorming about how to cover the booming tech community and culture. Our proximity to American Underground will undoubtedly help us cultivate relationships as we talk shop over a friendly game of Galaga in the Vault or blow off some steam with a trip down the slide.

Does it look like work gets done here?

We envision our coverage to have a tone similar to that in the arts, music and food sections—supportive without resorting to boosterism; circumspect without sinking into naysaying. When something goes awry, expect our news writers to ask hard questions.

In September, the hype aside, I criticized Google Glass, which debuted locally at American Underground's headquarters at American Tobacco Campus, over privacy concerns. Last week, Brian Howe wrote an in-depth story covering local universities' forays into virtual reality. This week, Jane Porter delves into the Town of Garner's plans to attract tech and biotech to its community of 26,000 people.

The rise of tech has far-reaching economic and social effects—some good, some not so good. The influx of creative workers likely will inject additional cultural energy into Durham and Raleigh, which could translate into more restaurants, arts and music venues—and audiences with the disposable income to patronize them.

We need to lean on our local officials to make sound policy decisions regarding incentives and development. Our cities will need more housing, especially near downtown and on transit lines. How this will impact the affordability of rental housing—and spur gentrification—is an important policy question. North Carolina's high-tech workers earned an average annual wage of $76,800, or 95 percent more than the average private-sector worker's wage, in 2008, according to state commerce department figures. They can afford the downtown lofts whose prices exclude so much of our cities' middle class—and are unthinkable for service sector workers. (Read a darker vision of this phenomenon in the Nov. 26 New York Times: "Making San Francisco Accessible to More Than Just the Tech Elite.")

It's an exciting time to live in the Triangle. The view from my third-floor office in the Venable Building looks at the Durham County Courthouse and the jail, which for a newsperson is equivalent to a vista of the Poconos. At the INDY's new space, the editorial offices are at street level. We can see the bus stop and passersby, the transformation of the SunTrust building into a boutique hotel, the green wall of the old Woolworth's department store, as it ... well continues to stand, which is not a given.

Starting tomorrow we have a front-row seat to the world—and to possibility.

This article appeared in print with the headline "Prime movers."

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