I wish I could say I have confidence in the appearance of the new Durham Police Department headquarters. But at last night’s public input meeting—at which the public was supposed to comment—there were no labels on the streets, the buildings, the green space, the parking deck or the big blue slab that appeared on some of the renderings. What are we supposed to make sense of this?
O’Brien/Atkins Architecture presented the six drawings, sans labels, for the proposed $62 million complex. It will be built on four and a half acres on a lot bordered by East Main, Elizabeth, Hood and Ramseur streets.
At a community visioning session in April the public expressed many concerns about the impact the DPD HQ could have on this neighborhood, described as the “gateway” to East Durham. The 300 through 600 blocks of East Main are largely a Orwellian wasteland of surface parking lots and institutional buildings; the fear is DPD HQ will only further disconnect central downtown from Golden Belt and East Durham.
Under Plan No. 1 (we’ll orient you so the architects don’t have to), the main headquarters would front East Main Street, with the entrance near the corner of Elizabeth. A proposed memorial would be at that corner as well. A parking deck is behind the main building. The blue slab is land that the city could sell for redevelopment.
Under Plans No. 2, the longest part of the building flanks Elizabeth Street, with green space at the corner of Main and Elizabeth. (Several people commented that the green space at this location felt too exposed.) The 911 center and a parking deck sit on the back of the lot. And the historic Carpenter Building, built in 1923, could be saved; it would remain alongside the main building, near the entrance.
The Carpenter Building would also be saved under Plan No. 3.
Plans 4–6 do not save the historic building, and look quite imposing and monolithic. (Although tucking the green space on Elizabeth Street feels cozier, although it would get only morning sun. Plan 5 does not include a redevelopment site.
The original community visioning session is online, with links to the preliminary concepts and a comment sheet. The public can comment through May 20. Email Trish Creta, senior project manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 919-560-4197, Extension 21258.