The new Performing Arts Center has been debuted, reviewed, lit up — but there's still something about the view.
No, not the view of the county jail right across Mangum Street. The view uptown, across the railroad tracks and the parking lot where the Durham Hosiery Mill used to be and, before that, Julian Shakespeare Carr's fabulous Carrolina Hotel.
Right, where you see the grimy backs and bricked-up windows of the buildings fronting on Main Street, the ones with the long-faded ads for W.A. Slater and Lemon Kola. That just won't do in a hip and trendy town like Dur'm, but Downtown Durham Inc. is out to make it all better.
Not only has DDI arranged to have the old signs restored to something like their original splendor, but it's got the plan for relieving the sight of all that aged red brick.
Another sign: this one reading,
* Find Your Cool *
"The goal of the project was to improve the view when visitors stand in the grand windowed lobbies of the [Performing Arts Center] and look toward the city center," DDI head Bill Kalkhof told the Historic Preservation Commission earlier this month.
Yes, you see, he had to get commission permission to paint "Downtown Find Your Cool" on the back of a building in the downtown historic district.
"It is meant to be a historic-looking message," Kalkhof said.
Actually, the commissioners were more concerned that paint could be applied so as not to compromise the bricks' qualitative historicity. So assured, they gave the seal of approval after only 40 or so minutes' deliberation, some of that concerned with whether the back of a building could be historic if the front had been tampered with.
So at some time in the future — maybe spring, since it takes a spell of relatively warm weather to put the paint on right — theatergoers looking up toward town will be invited to find their cool.
You're right, it doesn't make a lick of sense.
And, that ol' building's just standing there minding its own business and not hurting anybody. Seems kind of a shame to paint "find your cool" up there, but, then, there is the future to consider and the considered opinion of history.
As historic preservation commissioner Eddie Belk said, "Each generation does need to have its own fingerprint or footprint on the downtown. ...
" 'Downtown find your cool,' is not a bad touch, reflecting this time and period in Durham."
Can't argue with that.
But if you're out finding that cool of course, why don't you bring back a couple Lemon Kolas.