Dependable Erection

Monday, March 12, 2007

Duke Park bathhouse

I'll be speaking to City Council tonight at an informal session called "Coffee with Council." I'll try to cram as much of the recent history of the Duke Park bathhouse into the few minutes that i'll be allotted, so i've gone ahead and made some visual aids to accompany my little talk.

Here's a condensed version of the recent history. If needed, i'll post a more detailed account later in the week.

In 1993 following irremediable maintenance issues, the city shut down the old Duke Park pool. Since the bathhouse served the pool, it too was shut down. Duke Park neighbors could not reach consensus on whether or not the pool should re-open, and the city didn't have the money to renovate it anyway, so it was left in a state of decay and disrepair for years.

Durham voters approved a park renovation bond in 1996. Durham Parks and Rec folks began meeting with DPNA and other neighbors in 97/98, in a series of charettes, to discuss what the nature of renovations in Duke Park might look like. During those meetings, a tentative budget of $850k was mentioned.

In early 2001, DP&R met with the neighborhood to unveil a very ambitious, $1.6M park renovation design. At the same meeting, they also announced that the final budget for the renovations would be $425k. Duke Park residents were asked to prioritze which of the renovations we'd like to see first.

The renovation design called for razing the bathhouse, and replacing it with a formal, but useless, park entrance structure. Neighbors decided the bathhouse was not worth tearing down. Eventually, what got done in Duke Park was a state of the art playground to replace much (but not all) of the existing 1950s era swings and slides. This structure was completed in 2005, and has become enormously popular with the under 10 crowd.

After a very lengthy process, we eventually managed to get the city to remove the decrepit and hazardous swimming pool, but the bathhouse always seemed like a structure worth saving. In 2005, a DP&R representative let us know that they would not be averse to renting the bathhouse to the neighborhood association, if DPNA would be willing to maintain it. In March 2006, we came very close to signing a lease with the city to do so. The last sticking point to be negotiated was whic party woudl retain the option to renew the lease.

Alas, in the year since we reached that point, negotiations have been fruitless; it appears that the person we originally spoke with had no authority to sign a lease, and city legal people are not at all sure that the bathhouse is worth saving. We've had a couple of engineers and architects look at the building ourselves, and their opinions have consistently been that it is worth it.

In the meantime, the City of Durham has allowed a 3,000 square foot structure to deteriorate for fourteen years, while a community groups has not been allowed to try to save it. Numerous arts and cutural groups have expressed interest in using the bathhouse space for performance, exhibition, and educational activities. The city? Well, who knows what the city's plans for this structure are.

Anyway, below are jpegs of the 4 page handout i'm presenting tonight. Click on an image to see a larger, more legible version.I'd love to hear some feedback from anyone who has worked with the city on anything similar in the recent past.

UPDATE: Had a nice chat with Kevin of Bull City Rising after the meeting tonight. And he got quite the shout-out from Councilperson Woodard about putting out the best blog in Durham. We'll see how much love Mr. Woodard gets in these pages in the future.

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