In December 2017 Durham became the first city within the United States to be recognised as a 4-STAR community for national excellence in sustainability, a feat that accredits the city as being one to which others can aspire to. Through the standardized STAR rating system, Durham was evaluated across eight goal areas related to economic, social, and environmental sustainability, giving validation to the opinion that Durham is indeed a splendid place to work, rest, and play.
In the 1970s, since large parts of its architectural heritage were destroyed as a result of the civil rights movement, the City of Durham has undergone a process of preservation and rebuilding. Historic tobacco companies were once a prevalent component of the city’s industry. However, since their departure, old factories have been transformed into offices, condominiums, and restaurants, in an attempt to reshape and revitalize downtown Durham.
Where Durham has succeeded is in the way in which the city has attracted entertainment venues and office spaces geared towards hi-tech entrepreneurs, investors, and startup companies. Since then, other tobacco buildings have been converted into a shopping centre and contemporary art museum, exemplifying the success of downtown revitalization and the city’s economic and cultural renaissance.
Economy and Jobs
Downtown revitalization has provided Durham with a well-sewn playing field, yet despite this optimistic setting, a proactive development programme is vital in maintaining Durham’s economic health. The employment base in Durham is strengthened by the presence of burgeoning industries such as healthcare, information technology and biotechnology. Business incubators and a high level of collaboration in the community enable Durham to attract and retain business and support young entrepreneurial companies. Alongside this focus on cutting edge industries, Durham further enhances its forward thinking reputation by investing in environmental and sustainability technology that provide the city with plentiful ‘green jobs’.
Aside from a dynamic economy and fruitful employment, Durham’s culture of innovation brings direct benefits to its residents on a daily basis. Durham’s Open Data Initiative for example, is a resident-centred hub, produced by the City and County of Durham, which increases the accessibility and transparency of public data. On top of this, Bull City Bucks is Durham’s newest and coolest loyalty program that enables community members to earn rewards by supporting local companies by doing things that they enjoy every day, whether that be dining out or partaking in sports. This consumer rewards application is focussed on shopping, eating, and visiting downtown Durham and provides benefits such as discounts for entertainment venues, or even vouchers that can be used for fresh fruit and vegetables at grocery stores.
Another example of Durham’s innovation is its Water For Trees programme that allows customers to come together and fund urban forestry. Inhabitants of Durham are given the opportunity to donate through their water bill in order to facilitate the purchasing of additional trees for the city’s streets, parks, and green spaces. In tandem with Durham’s effort to support urban forestry, the reduction of greenhouse emissions, both in government operations as well as in the community, is of prime feature on the city’s agenda. Since 2009, the city has seen emissions produced in city and county buildings decrease by 24 percent thanks to a 2006 initiative, the Climate Action Plan Advisory Group (CAPAG). This programme ensures that all new and renovated buildings must, by law, incorporate energy efficient materials into their construction.
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