Durham News

Durham City Council wants statistics on black presence downtown

The Durham City Council asked Downtown Durham Inc. on Monday night to start collecting information about African-American businesses and residents in downtown.

“I am interested in the diversity of downtown,” City Councilwoman Cora Cole-McFadden said.

The discussion came as the council approved a contract for DDI to continue serving the Business Improvement District (BID). Property owners in the district pay an additional 7 cents per $100 valuation tax to fund downtown services such as cleaning sidewalks, marketing, special-events administration and economic development.

In June, the City Council approved the 7-cent tax rate and $768,397 budget ($614,676 from BID tax revenue and $250,000 from the city’s general fund) when it approved the budget.

The Business Improvement District has been in place since 2012, but the city needed to take additional steps to address 2015 revisions to state law, including a request for proposal process and public hearings.

Cole-McFadden, along with other members of the council, asked DDI to include in its quarterly reports information about the number of black-owned businesses and residents in downtown, and the number of black-owned businesses coming and leaving.

Interim DDI CEO Lew Myers said it would be difficult since DDI doesn’t collect that information or recruit businesses. It would also be a challenge to track businesses that are housed within larger buildings, he said.

But Cole-McFadden and others said it’s important that DDI figure it out.

“It would appear to me that some effort ... to at least look at why black businesses, if you will, are leaving downtown,” would be worthwhile, Cole-McFadden said. “So perhaps in the future we can take a look at that and do something to encourage them, some sort of incentive to keep them downtown.”

Virginia Bridges: 919-829-8924, @virginiabridges