Change and growth are happening around Durham Central Park (DCP). Apartments and retail are being constructed where the old Liberty Warehouse once stood and condominiums are proposed at 539 Foster Street – at the north end of the park. Over the next few years, there will be lots of construction adjacent to the Park and there will be some changes within the Park as well. The Park’s new neighbors have committed to make agreed upon improvements within the Park. These changes will include the construction of many features, which have been in DCP’s master plan for a long time, including additional paths, more seating and shade, and nicer entrances to the Park. These elements will enhance the beauty and usability of the Park and it will continue to be an open and welcoming space for all residents of Durham.
However, these improvements will come at a cost. Construction around the Park in the coming months and years will create noise, confusion, and inconvenience. The Durham Farmers’ Market will continue to operate, and DCP will continue to host concerts, movies, and other events. These activities will all take place beside barricades and construction fences. Traffic and parking will be disrupted.
But there is light at the end of the tunnel. Here is a sample of what Durham Central Park lovers will get in return:
- A landscaped berm built up against the side of the 539 condo building, facing the Pavilion adding shade and much needed seating to that area of the Park
- A replanted Sister City Grove
- A new drainage system, which will make the now-soggy play field north of the Pavilion playable.
- An extension of the bike/trail sidewalk from the Grace Garden to Corporation Street.
- Attractive entryways to the Park at Corporation Street and near Broadway Street
- A long-dreamed-of walkway between Rigsbee and Foster Streets
While it is nice that our new neighbors are willing to pitch in money and labor to make these improvements, the Park wouldn’t be what it is now without the hundreds of volunteers who have rolled up their sleeves and gotten their hands dirty to create the Park we see today. Many in our community do not realize that Durham Central Park is not operated by the city. The City of Durham owns the land, but Durham Central Park, Inc, a non-profit, manages the space without funds from the city. The organization is run by a volunteer Board of Directors and is supported by hundreds of volunteers who helped to get the ball rolling years ago to organize the public design meetings that envisioned the park, campaigned to pass the bond for the purchase of land, cleared rocks, planted flowers, built walkways, sought donations and grants to build the Pavilion for the Durham Farmers’ Market, the “Leaf” shade structure, and most recently the “Mount Merrill” play area, and helped to bring the Skate Park to DCP. The non-profit Durham Central Park, Inc. and the City of Durham have partnered to create not just a park, but also a community space that is embraced by thousands.
This past year, as developments along our boundaries have been proposed, the City Manager’s Office has recognized the thousands of hours and many thousands of dollars that Durham community members have contributed to make the Park such an appealing destination. The City Manager asked the DCP volunteer Board to meet with prospective developers to make recommendations for our shared property lines so that the long-range vision of DCP remained intact. Our focus in these discussions has been how best to assimilate the edges of these new buildings with our green space. An art wall on the Liberty Warehouse and terraced seating on 539 Foster will go a long way to blend our neighbor’s projects with our Park. The developers recognize the value of the Park, and they want to help enhance it. We welcome these new partners in our efforts to complete the long-envisioned master plan.
DCP, Inc. board members and volunteers recognize our responsibility as stewards of the Park. The community’s sense of ownership is the Park’s greatest asset. We welcome your input and feedback. (Feel free to contact Erin Kauffman, our Executive Director, or any of our board members, listed on our website.) These new opportunities to improve the Park are exciting, but not without bumps along the way. We pledge to do our best to keep the community informed and the Park functioning, and we look forward to a greatly enhanced Park just a few years down the road.
Erin Kauffman, Executive Director
Morgan Haynes, DCP Board President
Curt Eshelman, DCP Co-Founder