Durham – A City on the Move

Through good and bad times, one of the things that make the American experience unique is our mobility. Whether it is migration from one region of the country to another or economic mobility, Americans are always on the move. Go West, young man, go West and grow up with the country, was heralded by Horace Greeley in the 19th century, and there have been similar waves through much of our history. More recently, Florida, and other southern states were prime destinations for snow weary Boomers.

605 West - Luxury Apartments for Duke Grad Students

605 West – Luxury Durham Apartments

But while much of the nation’s attention was focused on the loss of value of real estate from the Great Recession , a  less obvious impact was the reduced mobility for many Americans who otherwise would have relocated for a better job-prospect had they been able to sell their home. Now that people are again able to sell their homes, Americans are once again on the move. And if they happen to be from New York, New Jersey, Ohio or Pennsylvania , increasingly, Raleigh-Cary-Durham is where they want to be.

The Raleigh–Cary and Durham–Chapel Hill metropolitan areas are known more affectionately to those of us who call it home as the ‘Triangle’ and the area entices young professionals to the region for many reasons. Chief among those are that it is the state capitol, and a  great IT presence, RedHat, Cisco and Citrix just to name a few. And I would be remiss if I failed to mention the biotech concentration in the Research Triangle Park.

Durham has turned a corner from an industrial town based on tobacco to a diverse urban area with an artistic bent and a flair for attractive entertainment and nightlife options. As the recession has eased, dormant plans and new enterprises have combined to present an agenda of growth in Durham that is truly breathtaking!
Downtown Durham has long been in a state of flux, with popular projects like the American Tobacco Campus and the ballpark outpacing the downtown area, which has been alternately drab and promising. The Durham Performing Arts Center has been a rousing success, record breaking in fact, but like the aforementioned venues, strangely disjointed from a downtown that isn’t quite there yet.

But downtown Durham and the surrounding area is alive with new construction and approved projects ready to go. 605 West, a large Apartment complex for Duke graduate students is rapidly rising at Gregson and Chapel Hill. The large parcel housed a long abandoned building and a motel that had seen better days. Two hotels are being built; one downtown in the SunTrust building is a boutique art hotel concept, the other a loft hotel built on the site of the very successful Performing Arts Center.

If downtown is ever to match the popularity of the venues south of the downtown loop and become a true entertainment area that keeps the interest (and the dining and nightlife dollars) of triangle revelers and tourists alike, it needs the sparkle and the density of a true downtown.

Of course, any modern improvements  in a city that prides itself on traditional architecture and appreciation of local history can be contentious. Organizations like preservation Durham keep a watchful eye on neighborhoods and downtown alike, lest we lose our soul in the rush of progress.

Sean O’Shea is a mortgage lender in Raleigh-Durham North Carolina

 (919)530-9916