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Atlside

Downtown Durham streetscape & the Loop

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Nice views of Durham's Main Street thanks to internet photos

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Plaza located next to Main Street

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The 5 points plaza

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^The plaza is not utilized at all-that area is a dead zone. The only thing in the area that attracts flies is Bull McCabes.

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That's too bad. Plazas are utilized best when surrounded by a mix of uses, particularly commercial.

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There is almost no residential within walking distance and many of the big projects planned for downtown north of the RR tracks have not yet begun. American Tobacco is so self contained that its activity never spills out to the rest of downtown. Again still, the Brightleaf area, just west of here, has a cut-off feel due to the combination of the tracks and downtown loop between it and the area by the plaza. Carolina Theater is close by but has its own plaza.

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The building in which Blue Coffee is located has "We Want Oprah!" in big letters across the second floor.

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Bringing an old thread back from the dead. Caught a post on Bull City Rising about the two-way loop conversion.

Kimley-Horn's alternatvies for undoing the Durham Downtown Loop are available online now, and they're TERRIBLE.

They don't change anything: literally, all they do is convert the loop as-is to two-way. High speed turning movements and pointless pedestrian-inaccessible traffic islands abound. One of the plans even leaves Roxboro as a 5-lane, one-way racetrack. At one point along Morgan street, there is a 1200 foot segment with no stoplights and no pedestrian crossings whatsoever.

Come on, is this the best you can come up with? Somehow they made the streets two way and seem to have completely forgot about stitching the city back together.

If ever there was a time to tell the traffic engineers to toss their 2035 traffic predictions out the window, this is it. Durham won't shrivel up and die if traffic can't jet through downtown at 45mph. Besides, the East End Connector and the Alston Avenue should make the traffic capacity of the roads through downtown into less of an issue.

On the whole, This reminds me of the "Bypass Roundabout" option for the Morgan/Hillsborough intersection in Raleigh, only on a much larger scale. (As I recall, Kimley Horn was the consultant for that one too.)

The public workshop is this Thursday, 10/15/2009. I sincerely hope the public sends them back to the drawing board for a complete redo.

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Maybe I have history on my brain too often but it seems like a good place to start might be with pre-loop map of the area....? The whole Liberty/Morgan arc between Roxboro and Mangum is can easily be regrided and land could be freed up for development. Heck even a nice future high-rise lot between the one-way pair as a result of such a re-grid makes sense on this side of downtown. Regardless, the premise should be less pavement....

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I agree - the historical grid is a good place to start, with a few exceptions:

Historically the south side of the loop (Ramseur) wasn't even there. That should be kept.

Historically, there was also no connection between Morgan and Holloway or Liberty. That connection was built when the loop was built or slightly before. Prior to that, Morgan ended at Roxboro. Now that the damage has been done and the buildings that used to be there have been torn down, the connection from Morgan to Holloway should be kept. But the Morgan-Liberty connection is pointless and should be dropped.

My suggestions:

  1. Both directions of Morgan should proceed straight through to Holloway. (Historically, Holloway connected to what is now City Hall Plaza)

  2. Ditch the Morgan-Liberty connection entirely.

  3. Make Liberty a two-way street east of Roxboro and connect it to Church Street on the west. (Thereby restoring the historical connection)

  4. Re-grid the Morgan extension by extending Chapel Hill and Cleveland across it (restoring two more historical streets). Put in stoplights and crosswalks. This breaks the 1200 foot block into three human scaled 400 foot blocks.

  5. Roxboro and Mangum can stay as a one-way pair, but Roxboro should be no wider than Mangum: two to three lanes. Use the leftover width for parallel parking and extra wide sidewalks.

  6. Get rid of all the high speed turning movements and traffic islands.

  7. Realign the western curve of the loop so that instead of curving back around in a loop, it goes due north through the old bus station and along the Belt Railroad, ending at Morgan or perhaps Fernway Street.

Map here.

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As others have said, downtown Durham will never reach its potential until its pieces become more open/connected and less self-serving/self-enclosed.

The DPAC faces north, but feels more like a part of the DBAP/American Tobacco campus than "inside the loop". The proposed loop "fixes" won't fix this. The decaying parking decks on the south edge of the loop need to be replaced with smart, mixed use towers, but the money and political will do not seem to be there. And American Tobacco and Diamond View have concentrated the office, residential, and retail demand.

West Village was supposed to connect Brightleaf with the Loop, but it seems to have turned into the Brightleaf/West Village district, seperate from the district inside the loop.

The first wave of inside the loop improvements have not spurred much development inside the loop other than Locopops and Full Frame, which was close to being there already. Rue Cler and Merge Records would have opened there regardless of the street grid.

Even the DAP rennovations appear to have done little to help the Central Park area north of the loop, and the warehouse rennovations east of downtown seem to be their own island as well.

I was hoping Greenfire would have reignighted downtown Durham, but everything seems to be on hold, likely due to the ongoing credit crunch.

After going to Charlottesville, VA and riding their trolley last week, I think a downtown -> 9th/Broad Street -> Northgate free circulator a la the R Line could help connect the proverbial dots and bring more Durham residents into the mix, but DATA has a rough reputation to overcome.

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You're right to point out that, no matter how the road layouts and streetscapes are improved, things won't get stitched back together until the developments that do happen focus outwards rather than inwards.

West Village looks great (and I'm sure Main Street will look great through there when it's complete) but it still directs a lot of its activity inwards. Although the warehouses and warehouses and factories were originally built as inwardly-focused complexes unconcerned with what was happening outside, I still think that American Tobacco and West Village could have done more to engage the street and look active and attractive from areas other than their interior courtyards.

As for Greenfire and the parking decks, I think they're rightfully planning to building on empty lots and renovating existing buildings first. No point to replacing parking garages when there are still surface lots to replace, too. But regarding the south edge of the loop - they are planning one building on an empty lot on the south edge of the loop, directly facing DPAC.

They also want to replace the Orange Street parking deck which is bordering on structurally unsound.

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As others have said, downtown Durham will never reach its potential until its pieces become more open/connected and less self-serving/self-enclosed.

The DPAC faces north, but feels more like a part of the DBAP/American Tobacco campus than "inside the loop". The proposed loop "fixes" won't fix this. The decaying parking decks on the south edge of the loop need to be replaced with smart, mixed use towers, but the money and political will do not seem to be there. And American Tobacco and Diamond View have concentrated the office, residential, and retail demand.

West Village was supposed to connect Brightleaf with the Loop, but it seems to have turned into the Brightleaf/West Village district, seperate from the district inside the loop.

The first wave of inside the loop improvements have not spurred much development inside the loop other than Locopops and Full Frame, which was close to being there already. Rue Cler and Merge Records would have opened there regardless of the street grid.

Even the DAP rennovations appear to have done little to help the Central Park area north of the loop, and the warehouse rennovations east of downtown seem to be their own island as well.

I was hoping Greenfire would have reignighted downtown Durham, but everything seems to be on hold, likely due to the ongoing credit crunch.

After going to Charlottesville, VA and riding their trolley last week, I think a downtown -> 9th/Broad Street -> Northgate free circulator a la the R Line could help connect the proverbial dots and bring more Durham residents into the mix, but DATA has a rough reputation to overcome.

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The rail line is a killer. There's no easy way from ATC to the rest of the downtown area. It would also benefit the city to demolish one or both of those parking decks that face ATC, DBAP, DPAC, jail from across the tracks. As it is, those massive blocks of concrete and the parking lots completely keep any potential pedestrian traffic square in their tracks. So now we have this ATC development, while nice on its own, all alone. High rents and a few restaurants, and zero benefit for any other part of the area.

Agreed on lack of connectivity. Not entirely true on Greenfire. They are moving forward on a scaled down, but well integrated office project at Parrish St, opposite the historic Hill Bldg (future boutique hotel). I think the later phases of their master plan would work wonders for the connection to DPAC and ATHD, but I suspect given that the future Ramseur St project is proposed as residential, it may take a while to finance and move forward until the market recovers. Perhaps some nice apartments would better match the market demand.

It's a far off fantasy, but burying the NCRR rail line (with freight, intercity, and light rail trains) through downtown would reduce the physical barrier to the south. If it ever happened, the space overhead could be capped with parks and/or more development, and one could imagine a more integrated multimodal center where the bus station and rail station are woven together over Chapel Hill St. This could be done with the Freeway further south later on. If money were no object...

There has been some talk about an urban circulator in Durham, perhaps connecting Duke, downtown, and Central with frequent service all day. The recession has cut the potential for operating revenue, but perhaps Duke and Downtown businesses could participate in some fashion. Stay tuned...

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Agreed on lack of connectivity. Not entirely true on Greenfire. They are moving forward on a scaled down, but well integrated office project at Parrish St, opposite the historic Hill Bldg (future boutique hotel). I think the later phases of their master plan would work wonders for the connection to DPAC and ATHD, but I suspect given that the future Ramseur St project is proposed as residential, it may take a while to finance and move forward until the market recovers. Perhaps some nice apartments would better match the market demand.

It's a far off fantasy, but burying the NCRR rail line (with freight, intercity, and light rail trains) through downtown would reduce the physical barrier to the south. If it ever happened, the space overhead could be capped with parks and/or more development, and one could imagine a more integrated multimodal center where the bus station and rail station are woven together over Chapel Hill St. This could be done with the Freeway further south later on. If money were no object...

There has been some talk about an urban circulator in Durham, perhaps connecting Duke, downtown, and Central with frequent service all day. The recession has cut the potential for operating revenue, but perhaps Duke and Downtown businesses could participate in some fashion. Stay tuned...

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So I didn't make it to the meeting but I'd be interested to hear how it went...

I used to think we needed to bridge over the tracks as well but after seeing Shaker Blvd (w/ Rapid down center of the road) and Canal St. in New Orleans I have changed my thoughts. Why not change Ramseur and Pettigrew into a pedestrian-oriented 25/30 mph boulevard (with parking on both sides of each road and a bike lane)? We already have the DPAC facing Pettigrew...Greenfire's building will be facing Ramseur...There is also a building planned between Vivian and Pettigrew facing the latter. This will create the proper environment that will attract people to "break out of the loop" on both sides. Wide sidewalks with tree plantings create a more inviting environment.

I also like a previous posters map for the Library area reconfiguration. The only change that I would make on the other side would be accomodating Pettigrew's terminus at Morgan St. along with Ramseur. I would even be tempted to name it "The Bull-evard"...okay maybe not.

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A revised alternative is posted. It's a big improvement. I wouldn't make any further changes to the west half; however, the east half still needs work.

  • Roxboro is still too wide - I'd rather have it 3 lanes, 1 way, with parallel parking, than 1-way, 5-lanes, and no parking.

  • Still no stoplight or pedestrian crossing planned along Morgan between Mangum and Roxboro. There should be stoplights at Cleveland and Chapel Hill.

  • Cleveland should be extended across Morgan. This would involve changing the direction of one-way City Hall Plaza. Illustration below.

  • The Ramseur/Roxboro intersection is still a cluster****. Tear down the bridge and make it a simple signalized intersection, with Roxboro being one-way, and Ramseur being two-way.

The latest plan:

clevelandmorganbefore.jpg

My plan:

clevelandmorgan.jpg

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