Affordable housing, the City Councils makeup, downtown development, the East Durham Childrens Initiative and N.C. Central Universitys chancellor search loom large as Durham faces a new year.
Those are The Durham Newss choices as our Stories to Watch in 2013.
Each time we report a new development in a Story To Watch, you will see it marked with the logo to the left.
You'll also find a capsule recap of the story so far and what we think is likely to come next.
We hope this will help you see the big picture, as well as the twists and turns in the stories on our list and any others we may add as the year develops.Affordable Housing
The case of Lincoln Apartments, when around 100 families faced eviction when their landlord decided to go out of business, put human faces, and an exclamation point, on the hardships low-income Durham citizens face in finding, and keeping, a place to live.
Mayor Bill Bell made low-cost housing a city priority this year, leading to a penny for housing property-tax rise to create a dedicated funding stream to address what has been a public issue for decades. Toward the same end, inclusion of low-cost dwellings is receiving increased emphasis as new developments, and public incentive grants for them, are considered.
Durhams density bonus allowing a developer to build more units on a site than zoning would normally allow in exchange for reserving a percentage for low-income tenants or buyers has proven notably ineffective in producing low-cost units. Pressured both by residents of depressed and reviving neighborhoods and by federal policy to break up concentrations of affordable housing, officials have started asking themselves and each other what they can do to make low-cost housing an attractive option for the home-building industry.East Durham Childrens Initiative
It has been three years since Durham undertook the East Durham Childrens Initiative, an ambitious long-term project to improve the lives and prospects of youngsters in a 120-block section of depressed Northeast Central Durham. As 2012 wound down, the projects leaders were taking stock of just how far theyve come.
EDCI has reached out through Durham Connects, a program that sends nurses into homes with newborns. During the 2011-12 school year, EDCI began tutoring, summer camps and helped residents build a playground built behind the United Methodist Church in The Shepherd's House on Driver Street. More than 300 volunteers pitched in to help construct it. A PTA that had one member two years ago has had more than 40 at meetings last fall, and elementary-school student achievement has vastly improved.
Fourteen youngsters, along with EDCI Director David Reese, got to spend 30 minutes with First Lady Michelle Obama when she made a campaign tour in North Carolina.
Following the model of the well-respected Harlem Childrens Zone, the Childrens Initiative has engaged more than 20 public and private social-service institutions as partners to engage with children and their parents from birth through high school. The idea is to create a pipeline of health-care, tutoring and enrichment services the sorts of support middle-class families may well take for granted to bring children to adulthood prepared to thrive as citizens in the workday world.
Its no small task. Despite city and nonprofit efforts and an influx of middle-class homeowners attracted by the areas historic homes and the opportunity to be part of its revival, Northeast Central Durham remains a zone of boarded-up houses, high crime and poverty where 80 percent of the homes are rental and 90 percent of the elementary students qualify for free and reduced-price school meals.
In 2011, EDCI received a $300,000 grant from the Hirsch Family Foundation, which stated that the program has the potential to create lasting, generational change. Currently, EDCI is trying to raise $100,000 in matching funds for a one-to-one grant from the Stewards Fund, a Raleigh foundation. Its deadline is Jan. 31. City Council Election
The City Councils three ward seats, and that of Mayor Bill Bell, are up for election in 2013 and it is already certain there will be a new roster. With Ward 3 Councilman Mike Woodards resignation to take his new-won place in the state Senate, his remaining colleagues have 60 days to name a replacement to serve out the 11 months remaining in his term.
Whoever the new council member is, she or he will have to win election in November to keep the job. Meanwhile, Ward 2 Councilman Howard Clements health has caused him to miss all but a handful of meetings for more than a year. Clement, a council member since 1983, has made no comment on his plans, but given his health issues it appears unlikely he will seek another term.
Mayor Pro Tem Cora Cole-McFadden is the third council member whose term expires next year, and has said she intends to run for re-election to a fourth term. Retiring Downtown Durham Inc. CEO Bill Kalkhof lives in Ward 3 and has said he is interested in running for political office. Former County Commissioner Pam Karriker, who ran against Woodard for the Ward 3 seat in 2003, is another possible candidate.
Dates for the municipal primary and general election are tentatively set for Oct. 8 and Nov,. 5, 2013, according to City Attorney Patrick Baker. Downtown Development
Expectations raised in 2012 should begin taking concrete form in 2013. Gentian Group LLC must start construction by March 1 to convert the former Mutual Community Savings Bank into a 54-room hotel in order to qualify for $1.2 million in city and county incentives. June 30 is deadline for 21c Museum Hotels to start its makeover of the 17-story Hill Building (a.k.a. SunTrust Building) into a 125-room luxury hotel with its own museum of contemporary art.
Work is already under way at the Durham Central Park Cohousing condominiums on Hunt Street, which are expected to open by summer. Late this year developers bought the run-down Urban Merchant Center on Chapel Hill Street and Parrish Street property including the former Woolworth site with plans for new mixed-use projects at both locations.
Downtown's revival will be going on without its promoter in chief, though. Longtime Downtown Durham Inc. CEO Bill Kalkhof is retiring at the end of April, leaving the organization to consider its own mission as it seeks to find a new leader.NCCU Chancellor Search
Integrity. Strong management instincts. A knack for community outreach and fundraising.
UNC system President Tom Ross presented a wish list last fall for what he wants in the next chancellor at N.C. Central University.
The next leader will replace Charlie Nelms, who abruptly retired after five years on the job in 2012. Nelms had focused on toughening academic standards for students in an effort to improve graduation rates.
Ross gave his advice to the search committee that recently launched its quest for NCCU's next leader. Ross advised the committee to find someone who can push NCCU to greater heights while also remaining true to its role as a community leader in Durham.
He asked the group to bring him the names of three unranked finalists; he will choose one to recommend to the UNC Board of Governors for final approval.
The process could take four to six months, and search committee members signed confidentiality agreements to keep candidates' names secret.
While some universities have released the names of finalists toward the end of the search process, that kind of openness was discouraged by UNC system officials. It can scare away candidates, they cautioned.
"You know the old cliché about 'What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas?'" said Ann Lemmon, associate vice president for human resources in the UNC system. "Without the gambling, you're supposed to think of every search committee meeting as Vegas."
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