Durham Central Park
Due to the snow storm, our January 24 Winter Food Truck Rodeo has been postponed to January 31. Please help us spread the word–see you there! https://durhamcentralpark.org/events/food-truck-rodeo-info/
It’s been another great year for Durham Central Park and our year-end Cardinal Campaign is in full swing.
DCP, Inc. is a non-profit organization that develops, maintains and sustains this 5 acre urban park in the heart of downtown Durham. Though the land is owned by the city, we receive no public funds from the city or county. Our efforts are financially supported in three ways: rental fees, fundraising events such as Meals from the Market & Food Truck Rodeos, and donations through the Cardinal Campaign!
We are committed to maintaining a beautiful, welcoming green space for the entire Durham community and the city’s many visitors to enjoy. In order to do so, we use our funds to maintain the Pavilion and the gardens, pay our staff, host events that are free and open to the public, add features and upgrade facilities.
This year, we celebrated Mt. Merrill’s first anniversary! We have added shades to help keep the slides form getting too hot in the summer. In the coming weeks, we will be installing a new fence over the creek and benches designed by local artist, Al Frega. There are some major Park improvements in the works for 2016, including a walkway to connect Rigsbee Ave and Foster St., additional seating and shade, art installations, and a water fountain near Mt. Merrill.
To keep up this momentum, we need your support. Please consider making a year-end gift to DCP in one of the following ways:
- Donate to the Cardinal Campaign through our website durhamcentralpark.org/donate or by mailing a check to PO Box 1526, Durham NC 27702
- Donate through the Indy Give!Guide (give.indyweek.com) and get some great incentives from Beer Durham and Cocoa Cinnamon
- Donate stocks, mutual funds, or securities to DCP by referencing the following info: Send to: Charles Schwab, DCT #0164, Acct#5986 5806
See you at the Park!
ONLINE application now available for our Nov. 1 Food Truck Rodeo! Durham Central Park has been hosting Food Truck Rodeos since 2010.
We hold 5 rodeos a year that feature over 50 local food trucks and draw in thousands of eaters from all over the area. Our rodeos highlight local food vendors from the Triangle that are MOBILE… ALL vendors must prepare the foods themselves and serve it out of a truck, trailer, minivan, cart, trike or bike!
We just put tickets on sale for our biggest fundraiser event of the year: the 10th annual Meals from the Market. https://durhamcentralpark.org/events/meals-from-the-market/2015-meals/ Let meals like the Oktoberfest themed “The Best of the Wurst” and “Gluten Free and Me” spice up your routine while you help Durham Central Park.
Meals from the Market is a series of meals from August to November that Durham Central Park enthusiasts offer to host at their home, restaurant or other venue. Meals have different themes and numbers of attendees but are huge fun. All the meals are donated by the hosts and the proceeds from ticket sales go straight to Durham Central Park, Inc.
8/31: Biker Bar NC Meal
9/19: Best of the Wurst
9/20: Tea and Tunes at the Escher Amphitheater
9/21: Pasta, Pizza, Lambrusco and Gelato
9/26: Gluten Free and Me
9/27: Trucks From The Market!
9/27: Carrots, Carats, Karats: Sustainable Food, Sustainable Jewelry
9/30: Esperanza’s Mexican Mole and More!
10/3: Sunset at the Kress – Local and Coastal Splendor
10/3: Cranford Crawl
10/4: An Italian Feast to Warm the Heart
10/4: Shut Up and Dance!
10/8: A San Sebastian Evening in Downtown Durham
10/18: Owner’s Suite Brunch atop the 21c Museum and Hotel
10/22: Local Vocal
10/24: Summer Dinner in the Community
10/29: Selections from the Seven Seas at Five Points
11/5: An Evening with Shana Tucker at Cassilhaus
Trucks from the Market, September 27, is similar to DCP’s wildly successful Food Truck Rodeos, but with only 125 tickets available, it is a much more intimate experience. Tickets are $50 and sharing a ticket between 2 or more people is highly encouraged.
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
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
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.”
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.
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.
Kroger’s new “Community Rewards” program is a way to turn your regular shopping (everything but stamps, lottery, etc.) into an instant donation to Durham Central Park. Sign up today at https://www.kroger.com/communityrewards and be sure to use your Rewards card when you shop. We are non-profit #92915. Thank you!
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. https://durhamcentralpark.org/events/meals-from-the-market/meals-2014/