A pair of school issues to watch

A couple of school related odds and ends worth mentioning.

First up: the House has approved a bill that mandates elementary school kids be taught cursive and multiplication tables. This will almost surely be signed into law given its broad support in the House and the fact that the folks in Raleigh are in some kind of race to pass as much legislation as possible.

I’ve always thought that cursive was pretty stupid, dating back to my own days in elementary school where it was used as some kind of torture device; thankfully, it’s something that barely even exists in the real world, so you can safely erase all memory of it if you don’t mind looking illiterate by using “X” as your signature. The rationale behind this move is hilariously grumpy-old-man; I can’t find the exact quote now but (paraphrasing WUNC) apparently a lawmaker received a letter from a child in his district and was distraught that it was written in print. Um.

Multiplication tables, though? I can dig that. Being able to multiply things is maybe a good idea, at least until everybody gets Google glass.

The other issue is that there’s growing frustration with the hilarious school calendar restriction law which limits the ability for school districts to set start dates for class. The law was originally passed largely due to lobbying from tourism advocacy groups from the Eastern part of the state (where I guess their Internets are trapped in like 1995 or something) to extend the lucrative family beach summer season as long as possible. Sure, I guess maximizing tourism spending is as good a reason as any to dictate how we educate our kids. It’s not like there’s any problem here, right?

Except that there kind of is. This all happened despite the protests of actual educators and local school administrators, since the law means school years are now split at winter break in non-half, thus leaving schools with uneven semesters (or a semester that has to finish its last two weeks after a week of winter break).

We’ll see whether McCrory ends up touching this one. On the one hand, tourism protectionism is cha-ching. On the other, McCrory has billed himself as the “education guy,” and at some point maybe he’ll want to do something not completely terrible, so I propose that he starts here.

Apartment complex near DPDHQ moves forward; “Urban Merchant Center” is no more

The Herald Sun provides some new details on Education Realty Trust’s plans for the old Holiday Inn / “Urban Merchant Center” / school bus graveyard / murder scene / ???. The site had previously been owned by the estate of the late Ronnie Sturdivant who, as you may recall, also owned the “we want Oprah” building downtown.

Sturdivan’ts Urban Merchant Center in all its glory

EdR swooped in and grabbed the property in an auction last year, and given the structure’s state of disrepair it was no surprise when they indicated they would raze it and build something new. They also displaced the two quazi-legit businesses operating on the WCH corners of the block (a gas station and an… old car… thing), although I’m not sure they were in the same parcel as the Holiday Inn proper.

Anyway, to the delight of pretty much everyone (except perhaps the fabled urban merchants themselves), the UMC is now gone:

(if I had time to go over there, there’d be a picture of the vacant lot at this point, but since I don’t you’ll need to use your imagination)

EdR’s prior projects could be considered “boutique” or “upscale” student housing, and this one looks to be targeting a similar demographic of grad students who somehow have enough money to not live in abject squalor. The stated plan is 386 beds, with a mix of single and double bedroom apartments, and by my count there are five stories in the concept rendering.

My take? This looks incredibly promising, and not a soul is going to miss what it’s replacing. This is a primo location that might also be attractive to young professionals working at the ATC or downtown, so it seems to me that it would be smart to not focus exclusively on students.

Also, I’m sure Bill Fields will be ecstatic, since the property he’s been barely holding together directly across the road is going to look a lot more attractive now. Well, in a metaphorical sense; when using your eyes, it looks pretty terrible:

We love you too, Bill!

Local butcher launches kickstarter campaign

Rose’s Meat Market and Sweet Shop has put together a kickstarter campaign!

I’m pretty stoked about this one; Durham’s kind of lacking in the butcher department, and this project looks really promising (especially with the addition of prepared foods / sweets to diversify a bit). Three days in and they’re already at about 15% of the $25000 goal, so I guess I’m not the only excited by the project; get in fast if you want to snag one of the limited tiers.

Edible rewards start with a single meal at the $25 tier and go up from there. They’ve pegged 121 North Gregson as the location, next to Shooters II at the back corner of the block that includes the Fed and James Joyce. Best of luck, guys!

NC House lawmakers propose adopting state religion; I propose that they are morons

I am totally not making this up. The Indy has a take on it as well.

This is of course non-binding in the legal sense, since NC hasn’t seceded from the Union (well, not recently). It is however binding in the sense that people living in non-flyover states are bound to start thinking of NC as one of those kind-of-funny-but-mostly-just-depressing southern states which seems to exist solely to feed material to the likes of Jon Stewart. I’m sure Mississippi and South Carolina are quaking in their boots from the competition.

This is hot on the heels of the legislature deciding that it’s too easy for people living in terrible marriages to get away from each other, so now we’re going for a two year waiting period for divorces. Thus solving the problem forever! Wait, what was the problem again?

You know, I never liked that Bev Perdue, but good lord. If Southern Democrats are actually Republicans, what are Southern Republicans?

That’s not a joke, I’d like to know.


We already made popehat!

Edit again:

Perhaps we are reaching a tipping point of embarrassment!

Downtown skyscraper plans inch forward

The Herald Sun has some details on the progress of a proposed skyscraper next to the Suntrust building downtown.

This is a site that’s been vacant for a while, and even back before the crash there were grumblings of doing something here but (obviously) none of that ever materialized.

This is one to watch, mainly because of the adjacent Greenfire owned Hill / Suntrust building which is in a kind of redevelopment limbo. The proposed new tower would be mixed use commercial and residential, and it would be 296 feet tall – just about the maximum allowed under Durham zoning regulations, and taller than its iconic neighbor.

I’m a wee bit surprised to see this project going forward now, since as far as I know there’s still a lot of vacant space downtown.

DCM / Self Help pursue site on West Chapel Hill St.

The Durham Central Market, a planned food co-op which intends to serve downtown Durham (ala Chapel Hill’s famous Weaver Street Market), has posted its intention to partner with Self Help to develop a site on West Chapel Hill St. Self Help acquired the property some months ago, and DCM had been reaching out to neighbors and the council to push for some zoning changes since then.

I live nearby, and boy, let me tell you: I couldn’t have even dreamed of such a positive outcome when I moved to the area 7 years ago. The corner in question, at the intersection of WCH and Kent, marks the endcap of a dismal and underutilized retail corridor which has historically been host to such notable attractions as “crime” and “vacancy.” The possibility of an honest-to-god grocery store here is quite frankly kind of staggering; this follows last year’s addition of The Cookery “culinary incubator” at the site of the old Durham Food Co-Op, and it seems like we’re really close to seeing this strip finally recover.

Some neighbors have expressed concerns that this project is somehow not going far enough to help poor people or something, which is, quite frankly, bullshit. You’ve got to bring out a microscope to find any kind of dark lining on this silver cloud. Self Help has a pretty amazing track record, and DCM has huge potential; if a member-owned food co-op isn’t good enough for you, maybe there’s nothing else in the world that would be either.