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Durham in 2019: Scooters, development, elections and light rail

Downtown Durham’s skyline is changing rapidly. The most noticeable new building is One City Center, the tallest building pictured here. It’s one of several projects under construction, several that will be complete by the end of 2018.
Downtown Durham’s skyline is changing rapidly. The most noticeable new building is One City Center, the tallest building pictured here. It’s one of several projects under construction, several that will be complete by the end of 2018. Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan

As the Bull City has become the “it” city, leaders are trying to manage 20-plus people moving here each day while making sure those already here aren’t left behind. Development and transit are two big topics for the coming year, which will also feature an election.

Development

While some big construction projects like One City Center and County Administration Building II finished in 2018, others have months or more than a year to go.

In 2019, construction projects will remain part of the downtown skyline as work continues on the 11-story mixed office and retail building 555 Mangum and adjacent 400-unit Van Alen apartment building, the Foster on the Park apartment building beside Durham Central Park and the major renovation of the Durham County Main Library.

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A new city parking garage at Mangum and Morgan streets will open in 2019, with plans for commercial space on the ground floor. It will also have public art in the form of colorful banners designed by Gabriel Eng-Goetz, a founder of Runaway apparel. The company behind “Durm” merchandise will close in January.

Also In 2019, new developments will break ground, like Willard Street Apartments, the affordable housing project formerly called Jackson/Pettigrew for its location. A luxury apartment development being built farther down the street on Willard will be called Broadstone.

The city’s Expanding Housing Choices plan will get closer to implementation, as planners get more council and public feedback on proposals to loosen zoning restrictions to help meet housing demand.

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The city will also be looking at how to grow the number of minority-owned businesses downtown, currently less than 4 percent.

Scooters and light rail

While the Raleigh City Council took months to figure out regulations for electric scooters after they arrived, Durham got ahead of the scooters and finalized its rules in the fall. Scooters will start to show up on Durham streets in early 2019, with both Lime and Bird interested.

The Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit project is in the engineering phase, and GoTriangle will submit its proposal for federal funding in the spring. Yet to be ironed out is exactly how the light-rail trains will move through downtown. A last-minute submission to the Federal Transit Administration asked for a tunnel under Blackwell Street by the American Tobacco Campus, after some downtown leaders balked at GoTriangle’s plan to close the road to cars.

An idea of a bicycle and pedestrian bridge that would be a “signature civic space” was on the table before a stakeholders meeting decided a tunnel was the pitch they wanted to make to FTA. GoTriangle is planning to hold public input meetings in January.

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Elections

Four Durham City Council seats, including the mayor’s, will be up for election in fall 2019, which is the majority of the seven-member council.

Mayor Steve Schewel’s term is just two years. Mayor Pro Tem Jillian Johnson and council member Charlie Reece are ending their four-year terms. Council member Javiera Caballero was appointed to finish Schewel’s former at-large council seat term, which ends in the fall.

Candidate filing in the municipal election starts July 5.

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