Durham Central Park Names New Executive Director

Durham Central Park, the five-acre downtown Durham oasis on Foster Street that helped launch the revitalization of a neighborhood that bears its name, has hired a new Executive Director: Erin Kauffman. Kauffman is a familiar face at Durham Central Park, as a former DCP board member and Durham Farmers’ Market long-time Market Manager.

Durham Central Park’s former Executive Director, Ann Alexander, is retiring after six years of service but will serve on the board of directors. “I am thrilled that Erin Kauffman will be the new Executive Director for DCP. Her experience as the manager of the Durham Farmers’ Market and her enthusiasm for DCP in general make her a perfect choice for the job.  I look forward to working with Erin in my position as a DCP board member in the years to come. DCP is lucky to have her on board” says Alexander.

Kauffman, a resident of Durham, grew up in small town Maryland.  She holds a B.A. in Environmental Studies and Geology from Guilford College. “I would like to see Durham Central Park to flourish as a destination for all the residents of Durham and beyond” says Kauffman.  “I see this job as an opportunity to build a sense of community through hosting great events and to encourage people to feel a sense of ownership of the park.” She’s already hit the ground running by arranging Pavilion rentals and preparing for the upcoming events at the Park including the Father’s Day Food Truck Rodeo, the Children’s Independence Day Parade, and the Warehouse Blues Series.

 

 

Durham Central Park is a city park, developed and maintained by Durham Central Park, Inc., a 501(c)(3) organization.

 

Indyweek celebrates two of Durham’s urban visionaries: Curt Eshelman and Allen Wilcox

Indyweek puts DCP in the headlines and celebrates two of Durham’s urban visionaries: Curt Eshelman and Allen Wilcox. 

 

A walk through Durham Central Park, before the condos arrive

Where condos do not fear to tread: the former Liberty Warehouse on Rigsbee Avenue

Photo by Lisa Sorg

Where condos do not fear to tread: the former Liberty Warehouse on Rigsbee Avenue

There’s a saying among urban planners: You can’t really know a place until you walk it. On a recent afternoon, nearly 60 people gathered to do precisely that for Durham’s first Jane Walk, named after urban activist Jane Jacobs.

The walk celebrates Jacobs as well as two of Durham’s own urban visionaries, Curt Eshelman and Allen Wilcox, boyhood friends who grew up to be doctors and live in Trinity Park. In the early ’90s, they walked around downtown’s old tobacco district. They saw abandoned buildings, weedy lots, defunct gas stations; the only restaurant was a hot dog joint. Downtown was where people went to “meet a lawyer, go to court, or maybe pay a utility bill,” says Eshelman. “There was no vibrancy to it.”

A few years later, Eshelman donated money to build a public park in the heart of the area. He chose an ambitious name: Durham Central Park, in reference to New York’s Central Park. It was his nod to “the contrast between what was there and what could be.”

Now the park thrives as kids play, teenagers skate, and farmers peddle organic produce twice a week. It’s here, under the park’s pavilion, where longtime locals and relative newcomers convene for the walk—among them architects, urban planners, city council members and others curious about where the neighborhood has been and where it’s headed.

Our guides are Matt Gladdek, director of government affairs forDowntown Durham, Inc. and county commissioner Ellen Reckhow, who were independently inspired to start a local Jane’s Walk after reading Jeff Speck’s book, Walkable City.

For the next two hours, the group meanders along a tour of Durham’s favorite touchstones, including Ellen Cassilly Architect, Cocoa Cinnamon, The Pit, Fullsteam, Organic Transit, and finally the Durham Central Park Co-Housing Community. Along the way, they pick up scraps of history and imagine how the area will look in the future. “The idea is that you want to create that same love of a place that you have, and show why it’s special to other people,” Gladdek says.

Each stop includes a mini-lesson on what Jacobs thought made for a healthy community: mixed-use development, buildings of different ages, structures built to human scale, and buildings that mingle with the sidewalks (via porches, plazas, windows and balconies) to help people keep “eyes on the street” and promote safety.

One of the first stops is the windowless structure marked 539 MUZE. Once a warehouse for printing military hat labels, the building will be torn down and replaced by a 100-unit condominium complex in the next year or so. We have a clear view of the construction site across the street, the old Liberty Warehouse spot, where ground is being cleared for a similar complex.

“This particular street is going to feel very different once these two projects are done,” says Lisa Miller, a senior planner for the Durham City-County Planning Department. She forecasts that this stretch of Foster Street will eventually feel like an “outdoor room.” The buildings will be stepped down at the street level, and the sidewalks will be widened to cater to pedestrians.

Jacobs thought sidewalks were a kind of litmus test for the health and safety of a community. “A lively sidewalk is like an intricate ballet,” says Reckhow. More than just walkways, sidewalks “need to be places where people are willing to linger. As we plan, we need to think about that intricate ballet and fostering a way for people to feel safe.”

One walker, Peter Katz, tries to focus on the landscape in front of him, but his mind keeps drifting to the future. A statistical programmer in the Duke economics department, he and his wife moved to Durham from Los Angeles eight years ago. Today he’s brought his 2-and-a-half-year-old son, Lucas. He tries to imagine what the Jane’s Walk will look like when Lucas turns 5, and even later when he turns 25.

“It’s definitely bittersweet to see all of this, because four or five years ago, the place was the surface of the moon,” Katz says. So far, the area has been colonized by community-minded business owners, but he wonders if Durham will retain that feeling of “local ambitiousness” he’s come to love so much. Or in the words of Cocoa Cinnamon’s Leon Grodski de Barrera, “Don’t let it be Anywhere, U.S.A.”

Durham “used to be this well-kept secret, and it’s not a secret anymore,” Katz adds. “It almost feels like we’re at this inflection point, and I don’t know if our political leadership is going to be quick enough to respond to it in time.”

How the city will adapt to massive growth seems to weigh on other minds, too. At the Liberty warehouse site, one woman asks who’s going to live in all the new units. Gladdek answers that according to projections, close to 100,000 people will move to Durham over the next 20 years. “They’re coming to work at Duke, they’re coming for the tech jobs, and they want to live in an urban environment, not the suburbs,” he says.

Gladdek, who has a street map of Buffalo, New York, tattooed on his right bicep, later offers a piece of wisdom from an old boss. “As a planner, it’s gonna rain; you know it’s going to rain. You can choose to put up the gutters and the storm drains, or you can let it just rain down and wash you away.”

For Gladdek and Reckhow, the point of the walk was to stir conversations about how Durham can grow gracefully, and to convince residents that their opinions can translate into reality, just as Eshelman and Wilcox’s did. “I hope that people know that they can have a voice in planning stuff,” says Gladdek, “but they have to take it.”

This article appeared in print with the headline “Don’t let it be Anywhere U.S.A.”

5% Day for DCP at Whole Foods May 19!

Durham Central Park applied for Whole Foods Market Durham‘s 5% Day program, and won! On Tuesday, May 19, 5% of all market and cafe sales will be given to Durham Central Park. STORE HOURS ARE 7 AM-9 PM. Buy some groceries, have breakfast, lunch or dinner. Treat grandma to coffee and dessert, host a farm to table dinner with friends, get some take away, stock up on bulk items or wine–5% of everything goes to DCP, a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization. Thank you! http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/durham

Job opening: DCP Executive Director

(APPLICATION PERIOD IS NOW CLOSED) Executive Director Job Description

Job Summary

The Executive Director (ED) assists the Board of Directors of Durham Central Park, Inc. (DCP) in carrying out its mission of creating a unique, 5-acre urban park that offers a venue for a variety of cultural activities that engage the diverse Durham community in activities focusing on the arts, recreation, natural beauty and community building.

As key staff person for this dynamic non-profit organization, the ED is involved to some degree in every facet of operations and activities.  The ED works closely with an active Board, its Executive Committee and other project-oriented committees to achieve organizational goals. Although the board and hired staff might help accomplish some of the duties described below, the ED is responsible for getting the job done.  The ED reports to the Board of Directors, with day-to-day supervision from the Board’s Executive Committee.

Prefer to have ED live in Durham and have personal knowledge of the Durham community, business experience as well as experience working with non-profits.

 

Primary Job Responsibilities:

  • Financial and organizational management
  • Fundraising development
  • Community engagement
  • Event Planning and volunteer recruitment
  • Property management
  • Branding, Publicizing and Social Media

 

Skills/experience  needed:

  • Proven track record of independent management
  • Business background
  • Flexible time sometimes with weekend duties
  • Proficient computer skills
  • Excellent communication and writing skills
  • Sense of humor, good team player and maturity
  • Interest in DCP and community building

 

Hours and Salary:

Flexible hours.  Salary commensurate with experience.

We are hoping to hire someone no later than May 15 and could do so earlier if need be.

Please send resumes to Durham Central Park, Inc., PO Box 1526, Durham, NC 27702 or email to [email protected]

Mt. Merrill featured on WRAL’s GoAskMom

Each Friday, WRAL’s GoAskMom features a family-friendly destination.  Today, they stop at Mt. Merrill, Durham Central Park’s new ADA accessible “play mound”. GoAskMom played a big role last year in spreading the word about DCP’s Kickstarter campaign that helped build the playground. For video footage click here.

 

Go Ask Mom

Destination: Durham Central Park’s Mount Merrill

Durham Central Park already packs in the crowds with its regular farmers’ markets and popular food truck rodeos, which pull in thousands.

Now there’s even more to do on this five acre patch of green space in the midst of downtown Durham. As I wrote last year, the nonprofit that manages the park and the activities there opened Mount Merrill, a play mound that features slides and boulders for kids to scramble around and play. A few weeks ago on a very cold day, I checked in with the park’s Tess Mangum Ocana for a quick tour.

Mount Merrill was built thanks to support from across the community. Donations came in – from simple $1 donations to $25,000 checks. An online fundraising campaign helped raise $25,000 toward the $200,000 goal. Park leaders celebrated its grand opening in December.

The play space is named after Merrill Davis, whose family owns the neighborhood nursery and garden store, Stone Brothers & Byrd. Davis, who was one of the park’s biggest supporters, died in a car accident in 2012. His 2009 wedding was one of the first in the park’s pavilion.

The play mound isn’t a traditional playground, really. It’s a mound with a path leading up to the top of the slides. Park goers can take the path or they can climb over boulders to get to the slides. There are two slides – a taller one and a shorter one. The wide path allows for wheelchairs to approach the top of either slide. The nonprofit is working to add tarps to shade the play mound and its metal slides from the sun. There’s also a climbing net for kids to try out.

The mound sits next to The Leaf, a structure that serves as a meeting space, performance space or resting spot at the park … or a spot for kids to play a little hide and seek or tag. And the large cardinal and turtle, popular for climbing on, are just a few steps away.

The mound is a great addition to a destination that already draws so many people. After shopping at the market or picking out your lunch or dinner at the food truck rodeo, families can stay a little bit longer while the kids climb and slide.

Ocana envisions kids transitioning from playing on the cardinal and turtle to Mount Merrill to the park’s skate park, which sits right up the hill, as they grow. Ocana said there are long-term plans to make upgrades to the skate park, including building another set of bathrooms there. Bathrooms, which are open during park events, already exist at the park pavilion.

“This adds more for kids to do,” Ocana said. “It makes Durham Central Park a destination.”

If you go, you’ll find street parking along Foster, Hunt, Rigsbee, Roney and Corporation streets. Visitors also can park at the Durham Centre Deck at 300 Morgan St., which is two blocks away.

The Durham Farmers’ Market takes place from 8 a.m. to noon, Saturdays, from April to November, and 10 a.m. to noon, Saturdays, from December to March. It’s also open on Wednesdays from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. from May to September. Food truck rodeos are held five times a year. The next one is noon to 4 p.m., Sunday, March 8.

Find Durham Central Park at 501 Foster St., downtown Durham.

Keep DCP beautiful through our Cardinal Campaign

Have you seen our red cardinal logo on the new Durham Central Park Pavilion sign, the cardinals at the top of Mt. Merrill’s pole’s or the cardinal sculpture kids love to play on across the park’s bridge? Durham Central Park’s aptly-named annual fundraising campaign, the Cardinal Campaign, is in full swing. Our income sources are simple: 30% from rentals of the Pavilion, 40% from events like Meals from the Market and Food Truck Rodeos and 30% from the Cardinal Campaign. We receive no financial support from the City of Durham. Everything we do to improve and maintain the park comes from community support. Join the fun!!! It’s easy to give, and contributions are tax deductible: http://durhamcentralpark.org/donate/. Thank you.

Meals From The Market Nets $30K for DCP!

DCP Board Chair Lee Ann Tilley has some impressive final stats to share about this year’s Meals From The Market, which netted $3200 more than last year for Durham Central Park:

Dear friends and hosts, I want to share some of the numbers as we close out our Meals from the Market season:

1 only one had to cancel (not unusual)
2 enthusiastic couples hosted for the first time
5 meals successfully sold tickets priced at over $100
6 attended the most intimate wine tasting
restaurants made super generous donations
7 DCP board members hosted
9 invited guests into their private homes
17 food trucks donated their time and delicious fare
18 meals held, including 3 separate cooking classes
21 had a swim before their meal
28 pedaled on the NC Biker Bar
40 filled the upper dining room at Mateo Tapas
50 enjoyed singing at Urban Durham Realty
52 found a seat at Gocciolina
115 attended the Trucks from the Market
388 tickets sold in all
8,800 dollars collected from our business sponsors
$30,000 netted for the benefit of Durham Central Park!
 
We could not have done it without you!  I hope everyone had as much fun as our guests did.

Local business partner spotlight: Fisher Graphic Arts

We’d like to give a shout out to one of our local business partners, Fisher Graphic Arts. Mitch Fitcher does great signs, murals, custom framing, and has done lots of pro bono work for the Park. Where can you see his work? Forest Hills Neighborhood signs and the Durham Farmers’ Market sign, to name a few. Their showroom is in Old West Durham. www.fishergraphicarts.com.

Trucks From The Market: a “mini” Food Truck Rodeo

Do you love our Food Truck Rodeos but crave something a little more intimate, with no long lines? Then give Trucks From The Market a try! It’s a private ticketed affair, (part of the Meals From The Market series) Sunday, September 28, where you sample food from 17 of the Triangle’s best food trucks. You can even SHARE your $50 ticket with a friend or two. http://durhamcentralpark.org/events/meals-from-the-market/meals-2014/

Trucks From The Market poster

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