The Russians are Coming

The Downtown Durham Rotary is partnering with Sister Cities of Durham (http://www.sistercities-durham.org/) and the Open World Program (http://www.openworld.gov/about/overview.php?sub=2&lang=1)   to bring six Russian leaders from Kostroma City to Durham for a week.  The delegates are leaders in private enterprise and government service and include the Mayor of Kostroma City.  They will make a presentation to our club on Monday, February 6th.
Kostroma was founded in 1152 and is located 211 miles northeast of Moscow, with a population of about 270,000.  It is one of the historic cities of the “Golden Ring”, and abounds with magnificent examples of churches, wooden buildings, and 18th century architechture.  Kostroma was the home of Mikhael Romanov in 1612 when he was called to become the first tsar of his dynasty.
Please come welcome our guests at a reception on Saturday, February 4, 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.. St. Philip’s Parish Hall, 403 East Main Street, Durham.  Click here for the full invitation. Please RSVP by February 1st with number attending to sistercitiesdurham@gmail.com.
You are also invited to join in a reception/dinner at Dos Peros on Monday, February 6th from 5:30 p.m . – 7:00 p.m.  Cost is $18/person.  Please RSVP to ereckhow@gmail.com by Friday, February 3rd.
Finally, come to the City Council Meeting on Monday, February 6th at 7:00 p.m.  The Russian Delegates will be presented formally to the City and Mayor Bell will give his annual “State of the City” address.


Matt Dees from Durham Magazine

President Arthur introduced the Matt Dees the editor of Durham Magazine and a potential member. Mr. Dees had a little bit of a hard time describing how the 13,000 mailed copies that are published every other month are distributed. I’m not surprised because I get a copy in my mailbox maybe once or twice a year and no more, which is not frequently enough for me to miss it. I suspect it is because the neighborhood I live in might be just under the line from the demographics that lifestyle magazines hope to attract for their advertisers. And yes, I’m a little bit of a low-brow snob whose favorite beverage is PBR and who doesn’t aspire much to a more glamorous lifestyle.

Mr. Dees confessed that his prepared remarks were brief and he was true to his word. Nevertheless, it was an interesting peek into what must go on behind the scenes to get a niche magazine like this out the door every couple of months.
He talked about the difficulty of straddling the line between being positive but not fluff. He described the difference between their Chapel Hill magazine and theDurhammagazine in an interesting way.Chapel Hillseemed to embrace their magazine as an “entitlement” as in “of course we’re a fabulous wine and cheese community.” Durham on the other hand conveyed an attitude of gratitude, like a poor kid invited to the country club party.

He described the content they sought to produce forDurhamas aspirational. Food and restaurant coverage is a big deal as you might expect. As a Realtor I was interested that a regular feature is “Great Homes inDurham.”Durhamtruly does have some great homes and they could use the publicity because the market for them has been dead here for at least 5 years. He also described how they constantly debated taking a more in-depth look at controversial topics and didn’t want to get caught with their head in the sand. He also described how they like to get pictures and the names of people in the magazine obviously because everybody likes to see their names in print, especially as part of a hip crowd. [Read more…]

Christmas Program by the Chamber Ensemble of the Durham School of the Arts

For a number of years Mary Casey, the Director of K-12 Art Education for the Durham Public Schools has worked with Rotarian Malcolm White and our Executive Secretary Bernadette Jones to present a musical program for our Christmas program.

These programs are always special and many spouses and other family members make a point of coming as guests. This year was special too but a little different. Many years the performers are younger children and a big part of the musical experience is all wrapped up in enthusiasm with a bow of cuteness that evokes wide smiles as surely as eggnog.  A lot of the fun is observing the intensity, boredom, silliness, distraction and kids being kids especially between pieces.

What was different this year was that we got the first team, the all stars, the top performers which placed the emphasis on the music. Ms. Casey turned the program over toDurhamSchoolof the Arts principal David Hawks who in turn introduced Sean Grier who directed the DSA Chamber Ensemble. The Chamber Ensemble is an advanced level vocal music group at DSA that consists of junior and senior students.

Mr. Grier moved the ensemble through the performance with elegance and humor. The eight song set began with the Carol of the Bells and ended with the Hallelujah Chorus and, after a standing ovation, finished with Auld Lang Syne.  I’m no music critic but when a performance touches me emotionally enough to bring a tear to my eye I realize that they’ve taken me from the moment to another warm and comfortable place.

So, whether it’s the wide smiles evoked by the younger, less polished performers or the quieter joy delivered by talented juniors and seniors, this annual Rotary event never fails to light the Christmas spirit.

The other thing it does is remind us that DPS is slowly but surely becoming the world class system that was envisioned years ago when things really weren’t that great. Many of our Rotary efforts with the schools involve helping in areas that have struggled. It’s nice to see that magnet schools like DSA are part of the effort too and providing all students an opportunity to excel in their own way.
To learn more about the DurhamSchoolof the Arts, they have a very interesting website at  http://www.dsa.dpsnc.net/.

Program – Mixed Use in Durham

Some of the best programs that we have had in the last several years of excellent programs are those that give us a peek into what other people do for a living, what problems the have to solve, what obstacles are in their way and what makes them toss and turn at night.

Rotarian Rob Everett introduced and then wrapped up one of those presentations on Monday. The topic was mixed-use development inDurhamand he was accompanied by Patrick Young of the City/County Planning Department and Dan Jewell, an activist for progressive planning and landscape architect with offices in Downtown Durham, our most visible mixed use triumph.

What this team was doing was campaigning for revisions toDurham’s current mixed use rules.Durhampioneered mixed use in the state in 1996 and improved the tiers in 2006. There are a number of proposed changes that are currently under review by the City/County Planning staff. Mr. Young pointed out that the issues involve appropriate location, the range of uses, parking and overall density.

Mr. Jewell and Mr. Everett then provided a little history of Erwin Terrace, the mixed use development acrossErwin Roadfrom Duke atLaSalle St. This is on property that has been in theEverettfamily for generations. Two of the five planned buildings have been completed and are occupied. The very popular Nosh restaurant and several other eateries are in one and I can attest through experience that parking can be a problem in this kind of development. However, the longer range plans include a parking deck and two additional buildings await a better economic and financing climate. The fifth building is unlikely to be built because of watershed concerns at the back to the development’s site.

Although there are certainly folks that resist the impulse to continually modify and control what gets built and what doesn’t though zoning, the lack of zoning almost guarantees ugly. I chose not to move toDallas thirty some years ago because nice homes were often built literally across the street from chain-linked industrial buildings. [Read more…]

Born to Jason and Stephanie Taylor

Jay Zenner is finally a grandfather

On December 13, 2011, Jay’s daughter Stephanie bore his first granddaughter Madison Taylor in Richmond Va.  “Maddy,” mother and dad all doing fine. Granddad is very proud.

Diane Daniel – Farm Fresh North Carolina

I had the privilege of introducing Diane Daniel for her presentation on Farm Fresh North Carolina which is also the title of her book. This also put me at the “President’s Table” near the podium. Sitting at the front always make me feel like one of those eager beavers in a class room.  I felt even more this way when Diane asked if anyone recognized the animals in one of her early slides and my hand shot up and I shouted out “alpacas!” This was not because I’d already heavily sampled her very interesting book but because my brother inNorthern Virginiahas recently acquired 3 alpacas. Last spring I spent an interesting Saturday with him at a farm wrestled 75 alpacas to the ground to be sheared.

Diane’s book is essentially a travel book and she put over 23,000 miles on her Honda visiting all the farms that she describes in the book. But what I found really interesting about the book were the stories of the people on these working farms that also open their doors to curious tourists eager to learn something about their state.  It’s also a little subversive.  The client of mine whose urban agriculture project I described in my introduction, dismissed me good naturedly as “too set in my ways” to embrace this trend that encompasses concepts of “slow food,” “sustainable farming,” “urban agriculture,” “community supported agriculture” and “farm to table.”  He’s probably right, but Diane’s book reinforces a new impulse to seek out and enjoy fresh organic fruits, vegetables, dairy products and even meat. [Read more…]