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Durham gets ready to replace 12,000 feet of water mains in Ninth Street area

Durham is moving forward with a massive water and sewer replacement project in the Ninth Street area and surrounding neighborhoods. Dubbed the “West Blvd. Corridor Utility Rehabilitation project,” the plans call for replacing 12,000 feet of water mains, as well as replacing hydrants, and replacing and repairing sewer lines. It’s the biggest project of this type in the Ninth Street area in memory, according to the city. The project work would go from the Barnes Supply Co. store to West Club Boulevard, including Oval Park, and running down Carolina Avenue, Oakland Avenue, and Englewood Avenue going to Broad Street. The length of West Club Boulevard from Ninth Street to Hillandale Road is also included. (The city’s plans are here. For more details on the work as well as properties to be impacted, click here.) In addition to the 12,000 feet of water mains to be replaced, 11,000 feet of sewer lines and 5,000 feet of storm sewer pipe will also be replaced. “These mains are well beyond their service life,” said Water Department spokeswoman Jennifer …

Durham’s Lake Michie expansion project continues

Durham City has added another 20.2 acres to the properties it now owns around Lake Michie, as part of the city’s ongoing project to acquire land for the lake’s possible expansion. The city paid $200,000 for a tract along Pat Tilley Road. At the May 7 city council meeting, Mayor Steve Schewel expressed unusual enthusiasm about the purchase. “Awesome,” he said. “Still my favorite program in history.” But Durham’s Department of Water Management says there is no current plan to expand Lake Michie and that the purchases are just a “passive” program to protect water quality. “These are buffer properties, and this is an entirely passive program,” said spokeswoman Jennifer Smart. “Beyond source water protection, this also would give the city the option of expanding the lake if such a project were needed to enlarge the water supply – but this would be decades in the future.” The “Lake Michie expansion project” goes back to 1988. Lake Michie along with Little River are the primary water supplies for Durham. Since the program started, the city …

Save RDU Forest issue: What happened with the “sunset clause”?

In the contentious fight between Umstead Coalition and activists, Wake Stone Corp. and Raleigh-Durham International Airport, one major point of argument has been over the “sunset clause.” That is the clause in the permit for the existing Wake Stone mine that states how long the mine can operate. That mine, located off Harrison Avenue, has been operating since 1981. The gaps in the trees can be seen from Interstate 40, and fly rocks have leaped over the buffers. It was expected to close at the end of its 50 years, at the latest. But in March 2018, Morrisville-based Wake Stone and the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality made an administrative change to the wording on the permit, from 50 years or 10 years after mining stops, whichever comes “sooner,” to 50 years or “later.” This change has raised alarm bells at the Umstead Coalition, the nonprofit that preserves the 5,600-acre William B. Umstead Park, located just north of the mine. The coalition has been embroiled in a fight with Wake Stone and RDU over a …

Save RDU Forest issue: RDU gets $49.5 million in coronavirus relief funding. Public hearing on quarry set for June 23

Raleigh-Durham International Airport has received $49.5 million in federal funding for the coronavirus crisis. Airport CEO Michael Landguth said in a news release that the money will help the airport stay afloat. “The CARES Act provides relief to airports at a time when revenue has dropped to unsustainable levels,” Landguth said. “The federal funding combined with our ‘survival budget’ will help RDU keep the lights on and financially stable during this unprecedented time in our industry.” RDU’s board approved the funding from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) on May 1. The boost comes to RDU as the proposed quarry on the 105-acre Odd Fellows tract by William B. Umstead Park goes to public comment. In March 2019, over the protests of local residents and the Umstead Coalition, the nonprofit that preserves the park, RDU leased the property to Morrisville-based Wake Stone Corp. to mine for $24 million in royalties over 35 years. On April 8, Wake Stone applied for a mining permit on the tract. Park supporters have said …

The Durham City Council has been busy during the lockdown! Part 3: Affordable housing gets $4.5 million

The Durham City Council is earmarking $4.5 million to help fund three projects on affordable housing, with one major development in the downtown area. That is a new apartment building proposed by Self-Help Credit Union called Ashton Place Apartments, estimated to cost $10 million. Planned for 310 Jackson St., adjacent to the Durham Station, Ashton Place will have 51 apartments available to residents who are at or above 55 years old, with income at or below 60 percent of area median income, according to Self-Help. The project is being co-developed by Self-Help and Raleigh-based DHIC Inc., or Downtown Housing Improvement Corporation. The two organizations are also co-developing the Willard Street Apartments, which will have 82 affordable apartments when it is slated to open in 2021. Jenny Shields, spokeswoman for Self-Help, said in an e-mail this week that the project is dependent on the award of the low-income housing tax credit by the N.C. Housing Finance Agency. “While the Durham City Council has approved $1.8 million to support this project, those funds will only be expended …

The Durham City Council has been busy during the lockdown! Part 2: Council approves $7.7 million in road improvement projects

Durham is moving ahead with about $7.7 million in road improvement projects, including $3 million for work on manholes. That includes an additional $1.1 million for the West Club Boulevard utility project that will cover the Ninth Street area up to West Club Boulevard, increasing the project to a total of $1.9 million. The council also approved $1.6 million for street repairs and repaving in 2020, and a combined $3 million for a comprehensive Manhole Rehabilitation Project. The city council approved these projects at their April to May meetings. According to Jennifer Smart, spokeswoman for the Department of Water Management, the Manhole Rehabilitation project will cover 1,550 manholes throughout the city. Workers will spray a cement liner to the inside of the manholes to provide structural support and seal up leaky spots. The comprehensive project is split into north and south portions. Work is slated to begin in June and is expected to wrap up in seven months for the north portion, and one year for south. Smart said in an e-mail this week that …

Chapel Hill’s Design Commission petitioning Town Council for more control over downtown changes

Starting in February, passersby on Franklin Street might have noticed a new structure going up on the roof of the building that houses Sutton’s Drug Store. That is a nightclub. According to plans filed with Chapel Hill town planners, it will be called “StillLife Nightclub.” The owner of the building, 144 Properties LLC, wants to build an open-air bar overlooking Franklin Street. Site plans were approved in May 2019. Although Sutton’s Drug Store has been open since 1923, and the two-story Strowd Building at 159 E. Franklin St. is on the National Register of Historic Places, the plans did not have to go through the Historic District Commission or the Community Design Commission, or get a special use permit. So Chapel Hill’s Community Design Commission is petitioning the town council for better control over the changes that happen in downtown. The commission discussed the first draft of the petition at its April 27 meeting. “Nobody is reviewing buildings,” said Design Commission member Susan Lyons at the meeting. Lyons drafted the petition along with member Chris …

Parkour club making jumps at N.C. State

By Matt Goad Asked if he’s ever hurt himself, Tegan Kelleher, president of the N.C. State Parkour, Freerunning and Tricking team, and he says, “Oh yeah. Right there.” Kelleher points toward a brick wall with a ledge about a foot height maybe 10 feet away. He tried to jump from the ledge to the top of the wall, but it was too far. “I head butted a brick rail,” he said. But luckily no concussion was involved. At the time, Kelleher, now a sophomore studying philosophy, was not even in college but was a high school student in Raleigh training with the State club, and didn’t have a lot of parkour experience. Kelleher and Alec Hobbs, the club’s secretary gave The Spring Magazine a demonstration of what they can do, bouncing and flipping around the State campus on Monday. The club has about 15 members, both State students and others, but many have gone home for the coronavirus closure. Kelleher and Hobbs, though, are both from Raleigh. That fear of getting hurt is always there, …