As you probably know, the new Durham Police Department headquarters is under construction at 600 E Main St, just east of Fayetteville St. When this huge, $71 million project is complete in late summer 2018, the old headquarters at 505 W Chapel Hill St will be available for repurposing. The City of Durham will be holding several public meetings and will also be taking online submissions for suggestions from us, the public. The City wants to know what we’d like to see happen to the 7-story (plus basement), 72 thousand square-foot building.
If you have some ideas, or would like to see what other Durhamites come up with, feel free to attend one or all of the public meetings. They’re all drop-in sessions called “Workshop on Future of Current Durham Police Headquarters Site,” where you can pop in, breeze through, share ideas, and move on if you like:
If you can’t attend any of these pop-up meetings, you can share your ideas by clicking here and filling out a survey.
Even though I plan to attend at least tow of these sessions, I used the survey to submit my suggestions. I’ll post them here in hopes that you’ll make the same request. What I’m asking for is a large-scale business incubator. It’s all explained below, in a copy of what I submitted online:
I would like for the old police headquarters to be transformed into a business incubator. The Durham Tech Small Business Center could be relocated there and offer entrepreneurial classes to the budding business owners. Minority business owners (and shoppers) are being priced out of downtown, and now black people in particular are getting “what are you doing here” type looks from the newcomers. Minority shoppers/business
owners did a good job keeping the downtown business district viable until the developers swooped in and repurposed it for a higher-income market. I feel that Durham’s historic entrepreneurial spirit should be encouraged for blacks, Hispanics, whites, Asians—everyone—who can develop good business ideas, grow their businesses, and eventually try their hand at flourishing at storefront and mall locations.
Durham’s genius has always been realized through innovation and opportunity, and an attractive, public-oriented, creative space will encourage interactivity and communication among both friends and strangers. I have seen such collaborative exchanges of ideas in public spaces like Go Durham and other transit buses, and I believe they should be further encouraged.
I honestly don’t know whether it’s better to repurpose the building or construct a new one. I just know that a business incubator with an educational focus (such as the Durham Tech Small Business Center) is much needed, and a downtown location would be beneficial for people of all races, and both low-income and Duke-affiliated folks who use the Bull City Connector. Close proximity to the Durham Station is also ideal for those who rely on the Go Durham bus transit system.
Recent hard times and the downturn of the American economy forced the hand of many displaced workers. Many of them considered becoming entrepreneurs for the first time of their lives. On a side note, I feel that it would be wonderful if a sector could be set aside for teen entrepreneurs. There are lots of smart, clever kids out here who could use the space, training, and encouragement to try out their ideas.
I have had this idea ever since I moved here from Chicago. I’ve seen it work with my own eyes. In Chicago, a large building formerly used by the phone company was repurposed in exactly the way I described, and an organization similar to our Durham Tech Small Business Program teaches classes and works with the budding entrepreneurs. In fact, one of my advertisers (a married couple from an extremely low-wealth community) ran a retail store in this incubator and eventually “graduated” to a storefront location, where they found great success. I think a downtown business incubator would be a huge success.