October/November 2023: The Downtown Issue

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The only constant in life is change, right? It certainly presents itself as a consistent theme when it comes to our annual downtown issue. This year, our development map (page 48) features nearly 50 projects in various stages of completion; we check in on the state of downtown office and retail spaces as well as why companies big and small continue to set up shop in this community (page 106); and we look a bit farther west at the growth and transitions along Ninth Street (page 32).

The latter story is particularly special to me, as nearly 11 years ago I wrote a similar article, “99 Reasons to Love Ninth Street,” in which I attempted to capture the essence of the historic district and what made it so remarkable. The avenue would become my second home soon after, when I moved into a duplex in Old West Durham. If I wasn’t eating a hummus pita wrap and seasoned fries (sans ketchup, of course) at International Delights or picking up a gift at Bull City Fair Trade (then One World Market), I was bellying up to my spot at the bar at Dain’s Place or getting my caffeine fix – and a gelato – at Francesca’s. Our cover stars, Justin Laidlaw and Eliza Mathew, concur: “Bahn’s Cuisine and Cosmic Cantina on Ninth Street are classic institutions of Durham. They held it down before downtown Durham got cool.”

But downtown did, indeed, get cool. Cities, like life itself, are never static. They evolve, grow, and adapt with the ebb and flow of time. As Durham continues on its unstoppable march into the future, we invite you to seek out hidden gems in various corners of downtown, waiting to be uncovered on page 26. We also showcase the artistic identity that thrives in our city by exploring the new home of an improv theater group at Golden Belt. And for those looking for budget-friendly downtown date recs, turn to page 31.

There will always be challenges mixed with opportunities as our city grows and shifts. But at the heart of every transformation lies the enduring spirit of our community. The stories, memories and experiences that have shaped Durham are also the threads that bind us together – let’s use this collective tapestry as a guide toward the future. – Executive Editor Amanda MacLaren


12 The Big Picture
The allure of the Durham Farmers Market is hard to resist

26 Hidden Gems
Unearth some of the Bull City’s best-kept secrets

31 Budget-Friendly Bliss
10 free downtown date ideas

32 Ninth Street’s New Era
This bustling and vibrant thoroughfare enters its next chapter

42 Funny Business
Mettlesome improv group finds a home at Golden Belt

48 On the Rise
The latest downtown development news


54 Grand Designs
The Rubinsteins found a diamond in the rough with this century-old Roxboro Street residence

64 A Magic Carpet Ride
Reflections on The Persian Carpet’s journey as its owners prepare to close the showroom and pivot their business


70 Guiding Lights
A roundtable discussion on the importance of mentoring youth

74 Linked In
Durham Academy’s girls golf team defends its first NCISAA championship title this season

76 Book Buddies
Two young authors use the power of literature to help their peers

82 A Foundation For the Future
Northern High School is Durham’s newest in 30 years

84 Directory of Independent, Regional Boarding, Charter and Application Program Schools


102 Hot Shot: Tim Gabel
We chat with RTI International’s newest president and CEO

106 The State of Downtown Office and Retail Space
A closer look at the current growth and movement in the City Center and how its businesses and shops continue to foster a live-work- play lifestyle for employees and customers alike


4 Letter from the Editor

8 Go.See.Do.
Chill out with these fantastic fall events

20 Noted.
What we’ve heard around our city …

110 Engagement & Wedding


14 Durham Magazine’s Best of Durham Party

16 Duke Energy’s Day of Champions


38 Downtown Durham
Explore retail, dining, arts and more …

96 Health Care
Meet local dentists and providers

59 Adopt a Pet
Meet a cat and dog looking for their loving forever homes!

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