Friday, March 02, 2007

RTP to Become More Like the Rest of Durham

When I moved to Durham in 1989, an elderly gentleman who has since passed on gave me a tour of the community. I remember two things he prophesied: (1) Durham would become more like RTP and (2) South Square was the new Downtown.

Prophesy is a dangerous business, but I recalled this conversation recently while reading a futurist document identifying themes that will impact RTP’s future. It appears that dedicated research parks may become a thing of the past, and they will evolve into mixed-use developments with lifestyle amenities clustered around lab facilities. Hmmm… sounds to me like what’s already happening four miles away in Downtown Durham.

South Square never did become Durham’s Downtown. The mall was torn down to make way for another type of shopping center, and Downtown is in a spectacular renaissance. But as part of that renaissance, a couple of developers have lab space mixed right in next to restaurants and living spaces and shopping. Similar things are planned for Erwin along Duke University to the Ninth Street District and in a mixed-use development planned adjacent to the Park.

So we can see the future today, but it’s the RTP part of Durham that will evolve to look more like other parts of Durham. It all ties in nicely with Richard Florida’s findings after studying the correlation between economic development and the creative class. Researchers are members of that group, and it also makes sense then that the Durham, NC, MSA ranks first in proportion of workforce composed of creative class workers.

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