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Durham Tour by Spencer Rasmussen

Location 1: Cole Mill Rd. and Stoneybrook

This area contained some of the nicest houses that I visited, but it also had great disparity in the houses depending upon which side of Cole Mill Rd. the houses were on.  The houses that were on the side of Cole Mill Rd. with the golf house were very nice and sat on large properties.  In addition, these houses had very well kept lawns, had ornamental stone decorations, and the driveways had some of the nicer brands of cars.  I am not sure if the houses sitting on the golf course made up members of a country club, but I could very easily see this as being the case.  On the opposite side of Cole Mill Rd. the houses were part of a small development called Stoney Brook Cottages.  These houses were substantially smaller than the ones that sat on the golf course, but they were still nice houses with much smaller lots and considerably smaller lawns. The majority of houses on both sides of the street were two-story houses.

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Location 2: Northgate Mall

From my own previous experience I know that Northgate Mall is not nearly as nice as Southpoint Mall, which I will talk about later.  When visiting the mall it was clear that there are many vacant storefronts throughout the mall, which shows that it is not getting nearly the foot traffic that it was originally expected.  The mall does contain a fairly nice movie theater that always seems to be crowded.  In the parking lots the cars that I noticed tended to be older models and not nearly as nice as ones seen at Southpoint.  In addition, I found the layout of the mall to be a little odd, with very limited views of the actual mall because of parking structures and more recently built buildings.  On the backside of the mall there is also a strip mall that shares the parking lot with Northgate.  This building also seems to be a little worn-down.

Location 3: Old North Durham neighborhood

Old North Durham was a pretty interesting mixture of decrepit one-story houses and some newer, nicer two-story houses.  Some of the really bad houses were clearly vacant as they had their doors and windows boarded up.  This area also seemed to have nicer cars relative to the houses: I saw two BMWs, two brand new Lexus’ and multiple customized trucks and low-riders.  Also when I examined the local convenience store I noticed that it had bars on all of the windows and had a sign hanging outside that said that it accepted food stamps.  From this single observation it was easy to tell that this area had undergone some economic hardships. One interesting aspect of this area was that there were a few churches all within a couple blocks of each other.  The area also housed a Trosa building, which is a residential option for substance recovering abusers.  There was also a community garden in the area, which could mean that the area had a larger sense of community than others.

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Location 4: Maple from E Main to Liberty; then Spruce from Liberty to Juniper

This area reminded me slightly of the Old North Durham Neighborhood; it had a few houses that were boarded up with no trespassing signs on the fronts, had customized trucks and cars, and contained mostly one-story houses.  Although some of the houses were abandoned and the lots that the houses were on were quite small, people still seemed to keep their lawns very well kept.  There was also very little spacing between neighboring houses and also houses and the street.  Most of the divisions between houses were just chain-linked fences that were a little taller than waist high.  I also saw two different people walking around drinking from bottles concealed within brown paper bags at about 1:00 pm.  There were also two schools that were relatively close by one another (presumably a middle and high school) that looked to be old but still well maintained.

 Location 5: Junction Rd., from Holloway to Geer

This was one of the worst locations to live in my opinion because all of the houses on the street were directly across the street from train tracks and on the other side of the train tracks there were multiple industrial buildings.  With all of the traffic and noise that these two locations produced the land value of these properties has to be on the lower end.  Most of the houses in this neighborhood were single story houses with a couple of nicer two storied ones sprinkled in.  Lots of the houses had multiple personal items in the front yard: lawn chairs, children’s toys, jet skis and even a bench press.  The presence of the jet skis in two different peoples lots perplexed me, because it shows that people living in this area do have a significant amount of disposable income.  Almost all of the houses that had driveways were not paved, but rather gravel drives.  Further down the street there was an apartment complex that seemed a bit out of place in the otherwise single story house area.  The further down the street you go the more undeveloped the area got and there was even a rather sizeable forest at one end that had yet to be touched.

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Location 6: Bivins St (entirety)

Bivins Street had a large amount of disparity amongst the houses.  One end had smaller houses that were primarily single storied, but these houses were all located within a short walk of a fairly large park, which was located at one end of Bivins St.  Towards the middle of the street I noticed quite a few modern houses, which is one of the only areas in Durham where I have noticed modern architecture in houses.  This modern architecture makes me think that these houses were built rather recently, and that the owner hired a specialized architect to design the houses.  In addition, at this middle point of Bivins there were also a lot of overcrowded front yards that contained many different personal items, not too different from the items seen at Location 5.  Then at the end of Bivins Street furthest from the park there was a really nice neighborhood that was probably the nicest or second nicest group of houses (other was E. Forest Hills Blvd.).   At this end of the street there was one of the only signs of a new house getting built that I saw on my tour of Durham, and from the looks of it the house that was getting built was going to be quite sizeable.

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Location 7: Fayetteville and NC 54 (three blocks in all directions)

To me this was the most interesting place that I visited on the list because it combined so many of the different things that I saw at all of the other locations: a mall, apartment buildings, businesses, shopping centers, houses, and housing developments.  Not to mention that it was the intersection of a freeway and one of the larger roads in Durham.

The shopping centers: In this area we have the nicest mall in Durham, Southpoint mall, whose parking lot is full of cars covering the whole pricing spectrum.  When driving through their parking lot I saw many top of the line car brands (BMW, Lexus, Audi, etc.), but I also saw lots of cars that have clearly been heavily used and were a little beat up.  Across the street from Southpoint there is a very nice shopping center that has some of the typical mainstream eating places (Buffalo Wild Wings and PF Changs).  This shopping center has much nicer shops than the shopping center that shared a parking lot with Northgate Mall.  On the other side of 54 the shopping center is a little less nice, but the buildings are all relatively new and very well kept.  There was also quite a bit of construction going on further down the road, adding even more commercial storefronts.  With Southpoint being so close, and the heavy use of NC 54, I think that this would be the ideal area to open up a new business.

Residential: Depending upon which direction you go you find very different housing options.  There were new apartment buildings that were in the medium range, and there was also a housing development that was a step down from the housing development seen at location 1.  This housing development had cookie-cutter houses that had very small lawns.  The housing development seemed like a cheap version of “Suburbia America.”  Moving in the other direction from the intersection of Fayetteville and NC 54 there are some small run down one-story houses that lay on large properties.  These houses seemed like they could be in a Midwest because of the low elongated architecture that they utilized.  The draw of living here is probably somewhat negated due to the closeness of NC 54 that is only a few hundred yards away from these properties.

Businesses: In this area I saw the only real office building area.  These buildings were designed so that they might easily be mistaken as houses or apartments, but are in fact actual office buildings.  From what I could see from the outside that it looked like most of the offices were occupied by either lawyers or other similar professions.  It seemed like these were high-quality places in a good location, because of all of the traffic that would be attracted by the shopping centers in the immediate area.

Location 8: E. Forest Hills Blvd.

If I had to choose a place to live permanently in Durham, this is the place that I would want to live in.  Not only did all of the houses seem to be placed on top of a little hill, but also they all had nice views of Forest Hills Park.  E. Forest Hills Blvd. is also very nice because the park has multiple tennis courts and lots of walking and running trails.  The nicest thing about this neighborhood was that there were only houses on one side of the street.  In addition to not having houses across the street, the properties that these houses sat on were much larger than the other areas that we visited in Durham.  There was also much care taken to the appearances of both the houses and the lawns of these properties.  In multiple front yards people had added decorative items or statues.  One nice addition that most people had added to these houses were big porches with tables and chairs.

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Location 9: NC Central University and surrounding area

NCCU is located directly within a residential neighborhood.  The houses in this area are by no means the nicest houses I saw on my tour of Durham or the worst.  Most of the houses are single story houses that are located on small plots of land, but like most of the rest of Durham there are a few two-story houses sprinkled in.  The school buildings seem to range in terms of date of construction much like Dukes campus.  It is quite obvious that two of the major dorm buildings (or buildings that look like dorms) do not have central heating or cooling, because every window in the building has a window ac unit (this appearance is somewhat similar to project buildings in NYC).  Also as would be expected there were tons of people walking around the school and surrounding area.  In addition, there were more people hanging out porches in this area of Durham than other areas.  All of the buildings on campus are made out of brick, with the professional schools seeming to be the newer buildings because of the color of the bricks and the architecture.

Location 10: Parkwood neighborhood

Parkwood neighborhood had the most communal feel out of any of the areas that I visited around Durham.  It had a baseball field, church shopping center, and school all named after the neighborhood.  One of the most interesting things is that the Parkwood Neighborhood had a fishing pond that had a sign that said fishing for residents of Parkwood Neighborhood only.  There appeared to be some amount of code that all of the houses had to apply to, because all of the houses were extremely well kept even though they were small mainly one story houses.  The code is likely enforced by some sort of neighborhood association, which probably increases the value of the properties.

 Location 11: South St. from Apex to University Dr.

This area might have been the worst area that I visited.  Almost all of the houses had been boarded up by the Self Help organization and had signs that read no trespassing.  In addition, some of the boards used to close the windows had been spray painted to make it look like the houses had not been boarded up.  This might be a trick used by real-estate companies to increase interest in the area  Other than the boarded up houses there were a few vacant lots that only had the cement foundations of where houses used to be.  There were also large amounts of construction that was occurring on South St. that completely shut down the road.

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1 Comment

  1. Your descriptions of locations that I did not visit I found to be very interesting and the ones I did visit reflected a lot of the same types of things I noticed.

    Northgate: It is very clearly an inferior mall to Southpoint and definitely serves more of a local Durham population rather than a regional population like Southpoint. Other than the unpleasant presentation of the outside (lots of solid stone walls and no storefronts), I also found that the mall had far fewer big name brands than Southpoint.

    Maple- from E Main to Liberty: I also noticed a lot of people loitering around and socializing in the middle of the day in this neighborhood and a few others. It definitely correlated with lower income neighborhoods. I also observed a few neighborhoods with rundown houses and nicer cars and was struggling to understand why this might be. Is it just personal preference placing more importance on their car than their house? Or is there something about the house that makes it nicer than we realize and more in line with the type of car? It is easier to tell a nice car than a nice house in my opinion.

    Junction- from holloway to Geer: In this neighborhood, I noticed that the houses weren’t large and obviously did not have prime location due to the proximity of the commercial buildings and train tracks, but I did notice they sat on larger plots. Maybe some lower income families placed a high importance on having a yard for children or pets to play. Most low income homes in other neighborhoods I saw had next to 0 yard space.

    E Forest Hills- I also noticed a lot of the houses had additions off the side as well as porches. This made me think that people in this area may have had great financial success in the mid 1990’s or 2000’s and upgraded their homes. Definitely the nicest neighborhood in Durham, especially for young families because of the park.

    I found far more new apartment complexes going up than homes being built throughout my Durham tour. I think this reflects a growing population of younger people and temporary residents in Durham. It does not make sense to own or build a home if you are in a period of constant or potential transition in your life.

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