Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Embedding The Importance of Appearance

A few years ago when a former Durham city manager asked my opinion about resurrecting Keep Durham Beautiful my initial reaction was that it couldn't hurt but I also thought to myself “here we go again”… taking an anecdotal or project approach versus a strategic and holistic approach to restoring aesthetics to its rightful status.

Under my breath I may have muttered “why don't we make it beautiful and then we can worry about keeping it beautiful.”  However, one aspect, caught my attention. KDB was resurrected as a hybrid with its staff embedded in City General Services, now so ably headed by Joel Reitzer and the agency most responsible for general upkeep of the community, while working with and at the direction of a public-private Board of Directors and deploying both public and private funds.

To me the resurrected KDB further evolved the genius of the formula that has made Downtown Durham, Inc. a success.  DDI is a nonprofit almost wholly funded by the City and County to then turn around and lobby the City and County to do what has been needed to rehabilitate and revitalize downtown Durham.  One of the most important contributions of DDI was that it incessantly kept Downtown in the focus of every public agency.

DDI was able to help close gaps created by the natural tendency of agencies to become silos, something common as well in large corporations. Being embedded in General Services KDB had the potential to be even more effective at closing gaps and advocating in general for upkeep and beautification across every agency, both City and County.

KDB has now completed the bumpy road every start up must successfully navigate.  It is poised for new leadership for this next phase. While the organization has been successful at a range of anecdotal projects it has also helped close some gaps between agencies and programs and to begin to restore the overall profile of general community appearance within Durham's local governments.

Now, together with allies that also grasp the overarching significance of appearance to a community such as the Durham Appearance Advocacy Group, Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau, Scenic North Carolina, and the Durham Appearance Commission, KDB is poised to help the City and County reestablish a strategic approach to the mutual obligation of scenic preservation, restoration and maintenance.

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