Two little green signs have appeared on the former Graybar Electric building in the past few weeks, courtesy of our pals at NIS.
Evidently, your commercial building lacking running water and power is a condemnable offense, but should that not suffice, you can always write in the unassailable and undefinable "Unsafe!"
So, let me run down the chronology here: City of Durham takes possession of this 1930 commercial structure sometime in the early 1990s, neglects building for 10+ years, transfers building to the Triangle Transit Authority for a train station development that is in the deep freeze, and now wants to tear down the building as unsafe.
If you're new to this scene, this might sound a bit, well, inane. If you've been on the Durham scene awhile, you'll recognize it as more of the same.
Let's enumerate the reasons why tearing down this building is - I'll be charitable here - misguided.
1) As much as I'd like one, there is no TTA train, and no funding that I know of for Triangle Transit (as they are now called) to develop this triangle of land (between S. Duke, West Chapel Hill, and the RR tracks) into anything positive. Tear down this building, you have a big vacant lot.
2) News flash: we are in a recession. Despite the fact that it is traditional in Durham to tear down buildings when economic times are tough, it is a bafflingly bad idea. Tear this down and we reduce the available square footage for businesses downtown - who could use inexpensive commercial space now, more than ever.
3) Why do we have a Green Durham / Sustainability Manager if we are going to continue the unsustainable practice of tearing down existing buildings, particularly those close enough to multiple businesses and transit to promote walking and minimize car trips?
4) Historic Tax Credits - though not currently on the National Register, this building certainly would stand a good chance of being listed; 40% of the renovation costs could be returned to a developer who would take this on. See #2 - tax credits are a very good thing to bring in front of your friendly neighborhood lending institution right now.
5) It's Durham's history - I leave the historic reason for last, since it remains such an unpersuasive argument for our public sector. But families in Durham remember places like this - their Mom worked there, or their uncle was the regional sales manager, etc. I received a great email from someone at the national Graybar office who was happy to see the building was still around - he sent me clippings from their files about the branch in Durham. These are the things that make us unique, interesting, and connected to our past and each other.
Building codes are in place in order to ensure that occupied buildings meet a safety standard that we can rely upon, and that the public health isn't threatened by a building that is going to collapse on the sidewalk.
Who is this building unsafe for? It isn't in danger of collapsing on anyone. Why this particular building? Why now?
Find this spot on a Google Map.