DURHAM — Bill Kalkhof, Downtown Durham Inc.’s leader since 1993, said Wednesday that he will retire at the end of April.
“I believe that I’m leaving a place better than I found it,” Kalkhof said, making his announcement at the end of DDI’s annual meeting.
During the meeting, he described several major projects on the downtown horizon, such as the 21C Museum Hotel in the former SunTrust building, and afterward said one of his favorite sayings is, “Leave a party while it’s still a good party.”
During his tenure, Kalkhof helped downtown revive with more than $1 billion in investment, including the American Tobacco campus, Durham Performing Arts Center, West Village and a makeover of the downtown streetscape.
“He’s provided great leadership for DDI,” Mayor Bill Bell said. “When you take something like a blank canvas, he’s been the artist that’s helped create the picture for downtown.”
Kalkhof thanked DDI’s many supporters and his co-workers at the nonprofit created in 1992 to revive Durham’s long-declining central business district.
There was no need immediate word on who might replace Kalkhof.
Dan Ellison, an attorney and long-time promoter of the downtown Durham arts community, said the DDI board would need to reassess where downtown Durham is headed and what kind of leadership is needed.
“Under Bill’s leadership, downtown Durham has gone from a place where no one wanted to be to a place everyone wants to be,” Ellison said. “In 2012, downtown Durham is the envy of the Triangle.”
City Councilman Mike Woodard, the council liaison to DDI, described Kalkhof as “a force of nature.
“Bringing downtown to where it is today was the work of a lot of people, but Bill is the one who drove it,” Woodard said.
Kalkhof said he has “a lot of energy left” and wants “to continue serving in some capacity. … That will include a serious consideration of running for public office.
“I like politics,” he said. “I think I have something to offer.”