Places in Peril 2014: Central Park District
Central Park District
Why it's important:
The Central Park District just north of downtown has recently emerged as a hub for recreation in Durham, thanks entirely to home-grown businesses, bars, restaurants, and non-profits. The creation of Durham Central Park, a significant public/private partnership, spurred by citizens and made possible by the city, created an important anchor at one end of the district and the 2006 erection of a pavilion for the Durham Farmer’s Market brought people back to this area in droves.
At the north end of the district, businesses and non-profit arts organizations have located in the rehabilitated historic buildings, and a roughly seven-block area was recently listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Foster and West Geer Streets Historic District. Local institutions such as the Durham Athletic Park, King's Sandwich Shop, and Stone Bros. & Byrd have been joined in the past five years by Motorco and Cocoa Cinnamon. The area illustrates Durham's post-World War II commercial and light-industrial growth and includes an architecturally significant collection of Streamline Moderne and Mid-Century Modern commercial buildings.
Why it's imperiled:
Development pressure is intense in this area, given its location between downtown and popular residential neighborhoods to the north. Some key buildings are slated for demolition so that the land can be redeveloped with larger structures that could radically change the unique character of the district. New infill on vacant lots could steer the district away from its distinctive, industrial feel and toward a generic mediocrity.
Historic structures that define the area should be preserved, using rehabilitation tax credits, with new development filling the numerous vacant lots. New structures need to respond to the character and architectural qualities of the neighborhood. The National Register district listing provides access to tax credit incentives that can help maintain the historic character of individual buildings, but it does not provide for a mechanism to review or control new design in the area. Preservation Durham intends to works with developers, property and business owners in the district, as well as local architects, to discuss and share examples of contextual design that relates to and complements the area’s architectural character.
More Information on Open Durham: