Typically, plans and visions having to do with downtown involve buildings -- either making them over or building them new. Now, those wonderful folks in city-county planning are thinking downtown in different terms -- open space.
Open space as open space, that is (such as Rotary Park, above), not as potential building sites. And they're inviting the public March 9 to "chat about the way we live, work and play in between our downtown's buildings."
And come up with answers for "lots of different questions," said city-county planner Anne Kramer.
"We don’t have a good idea of what the citizens want for the downtown area," Kramer said.
They don't have a definite idea of just what "open space" means for the middle of town, either.
Durham has plans in place to preserve open space in the New Hope Creek and Little River stream corridors and in eastern Durham County -- "open space" defined (in the Little River plan, p. 2 ) as "undeveloped lands that are mainly natural in character."
"Obviousley," said Kramer, "it doesn't mean the same thing downtown."
The drop-in open house is going to be in the Neighborhood Improvement Services conference room at Golden Belt, 807 E. Main St.
The idea has actually been in City Hall since 2006, when the Open Space and Trails Commission decided that Durham needed a plan for "Urban Open Space."
Three years later, the idea went onto the planning department's to-do list for 2009-10. The planning department is very busy, so it was late 2010 when they got around to planning to do some planning, and testing some survey forms to the point the staff and advisory board decided to re-design them.
Duke University biologist Will Wilson was an early promoter for the project, and some draft excerpts from his forthcoming book "Constructed Climates: A Primer on Urban Environments" are posted at http://www.sciencetime.org/ConstructedClimates.
For further reading, see www.durhamnc.gov/departments/planning/urban_open_space_plan.cfm.