The Open Durham Indiegogo campaign is almost over

I imagine most of you have encountered Open Durham at some point, but perhaps you aren’t aware that there’s presently an Indiegogo campaign in the works to help the project out. The site, which is the work of Gary Kueber, is used to document the history of structures and parcels throughout Durham county (and, at times, beyond). I’ve linked to it several times here, and it’s a really valuable resource which I call upon weekly (if not more).

Before he started Open Durham, Gary maintained the Endangered Durham blog (which is, at least at present, seemingly defunct), but found the blogging platform too limited for the scope of his work. The bottom line is that Gary does a lot of the content, but he pays people for their work on hosting and development, and there are several remaining features that need to get done. They won’t pay for themselves, apparently, and hence this campaign.

At the time of this writing, you’ve got about 40 hours left if you’d like to contribute. If you chip in $50 or more you can snag some physical rewards (starting with a keychain, with T-shirts at $100), but at any reward tier you get the satisfaction of knowing you contributed to a really crucial project to preserving Durham’s history.

Durham news odds and ends (mega vacation catch-up edition)

I’m a bit behind due to being out of town, so today I’ve got a jumbo version of odds and ends for you:

Phew. Maybe I shouldn’t go on vacation again for a while, eh?

Liberty Warehouse loses landmark status

In a move that should probably not surprise anybody, the Council voted 6-0 last night to strip Liberty Warehouse of its local landmark status.

I’ve mentioned the warehouse before (here and here), but the long and short of it is that current owner Greenfire requested and received the status in 2011 in an attempt to reduce its tax burden. Unfortunately, under Greenfire’s watch, the building suffered a catastrophic roof collapse which was deemed too costly to repair, and Greenfire has been looking for an exit strategy ever since. They subsequently petitioned to remove the landmark status to make the property more attractive to potential buyers.

The structure is the last extant tobacco auction warehouse in Durham, and much of the interior has remained in tact despite the collapse. It’s really a shame that Greenfire allowed this to happen, and it’s quite unfortunate that nobody could find any solution.

The landmark status was a hurdle for Greenfire’s proposed sale of the property to Chapel Hill developer East-West Partners (represented by¬†Roger Perry), whose contract to purchase the structure from Greenfire was contingent upon the removal of the designation. Landmark designation would have placed restrictions on any potential development of the site, and it’s unlikely that the financials would have made sense with it in tact.

The unanimous vote from the council comes after Preservation Durham lent its support to the new development plan, in which East-West Partners and Greenfire have stated an intent to retain as much of the facade as is feasible and create a museum on the site. It is important to note that without local landmark status East-West Partners will not have a legal obligation to these site elements, but it is presumably in their best interest to maintain a good working relationship with the community.

An interesting side show in all of this is that the Council has overridden the “Historic Preservation Commission,” which has the power to modify landmark status itself, but has failed to do so in the case of the Liberty Warehouse. I wouldn’t necessarily read this as a vote of no confidence in the Commission, but it does serve as a reminder that the buck ultimately stops at the council.