Thanks for posting this. I too was frustrated by the fact that things had gone silent for a while. Great to hear a clear response from the city on it. Nice work. Any chance for a similar update on the Ellerbe Creek wetland park at Duke st. and Trinity ave.? Thank you!
In reply to this post by Dave @ Building Bull City
Thanks for running this down Dave. Really glad to hear that things are on track. This has the potential to be such an important component of the landscape of downtown with the addition of much needed green space and connectivity between parts of the city.
In reply to this post by Dave @ Building Bull City
Wish they could find a way to expedite things a bit. The South End area of Charlotte has absolutely blown up around their rail trail, and while I realize the dynamics are different (it parallels their light rail), I would expect Durham to see similar results.
I realize this posting was suppose to be somewhat reassuring that after nearly two decades of promises from the city, that something was finally getting accomplished.
However: "The “base trail” as described in the Belt Line Master Plan is about 64% funded. The gap is anticipated to be closed with state transportation funds," kind of concerns me.
For those who have followed this since the early aughts, "funds" have been set aside before, only to be reallocated to other projects in other parts of the city. This happened in 2013 and about 2005. Until they announce a signed contract with a construction/landscape engineering firm with a definite timetable, I won't buy that any progress has been made. The timeline gets pushed back every two years.
It would seem that actually acquiring the land is a big inflection point. The investment there is fairly significant and they have to know that there’s no real resale value. Would seem that they’d want to be fairly confident in fully funding the project before purchasing the land. But perhaps I’m giving the city too much credit.
It may have only be somewhat recently that Durham acquired this land, but this has been "planned" for decades now. There was even a chance to buy the land for less in the early 2000s with a Federal earmark to help, but Durham turned down the first offer and the price just went up as bad feelings developed b/w the Norfolk Southern and the city. And of course, that earmark long ago expired. Funds were lost again in the early teens as a earmark attached to the Hwy 55 project was re-purposed for infrastructure in SW Durham.
It has been extremely frustrating for those in the East North-East of Durham that have wanted this or another connections to downtown for so long. (Promises to make Roxboro and Mangum more passable are even older).
Many of the people in the effected neighborhoods who petitioned for this, have since moved away. And that brings me to my biggest concern. There is a growing perception that the Belt Line Trail will only be built in and for "gentrifies" in these neighborhoods. My personal feelings on gentrification in the area are mixed and I don't necessarily think it is always bad. However, when the city only invests in infrastructure in areas with expensive real estate, then it feeds a bad narrative. This was supposed to happen a long time ago so families cut off from downtown revitalization could be connected, have a safe place for their kids to ride bikes, get to parks. Now the perception is growing that this will only happen when expensive condos have been built along the corridor. For a city leadership that is supposedly progressive, they have a reputation for playing favorites with neighborhoods in the SW or around Duke. This belt line was a missed opportunity.
Cross-posting from the other thread. The city website now lists the status of this project as “ON HOLD pending NCDOT funding authorization” so it looks like the budget concerns were valid. Hard to understand how this wasn’t resolved a year ago. Hopefully the required approvals and funding allocations can be obtained soon.
This project was imminent just prior to the Great Recession in 2008, too. It was put on hold at that time until Durham could adjust to the new economic situation. In short, there are no plans to do this until the last remaining original residents of the effected neighborhoods are pushed out. It has never been a priority, sadly, because it could have been a good thing.
It would be an amazing opportunity to build market rate and affordable housing that overlooks the belt line park with some retail on the ground floor as well (probably have living rooms face the park for privacy if that is a concern).
I don't think that was a part of the plan, though. The one difference I see this time around is site control. They actually own the site. I do believe it will get done, but this news means that it might be another good long while before we see shovels.
That said, perhaps the delay will result in a reconfigured plan, years down the line, that includes good, urbanist housing and affordable housing along the belt line.
I did reach out to the project manager and got a non-response, pasted below:
The project is in part funded by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and those funds flow through the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT). NCDOT must authorize the City’s design and construction contracts which utilize the FHWA funds. Currently that department has been experiencing some funding issues (exacerbated by COVID-19) and they are holding on allowing local governments to encumber some of the funds they administer. This is affecting a number of City projects as well as projects around the state. I’m optimistic this situation will turn around soon so we can begin technical design of the Belt Line.
We will update the project website once we have some news.