The Durham SmART Initiative

The Durham SmART Initiative Vision Plan was created by Mikyoung Kim Design in 2015 for the Durham Arts Council in collaboration with the NC Arts Council. Kim was chosen in a highly competitive national Request for Qualifications process that I oversaw.

Durham is a city in transition with new developments — business, entertainment, technology, university, arts — throughout the downtown. The city embraces the new while wishing to protect what makes Durham a unique spot within the burgeoning Research Triangle. A common slogan is Keep Durham Dirty which is not a call to littering!

Durham embraces the industrial history of the city and honors the historic entrepreneurship of the African American business community that made it home to some of the most successful black-owned businesses in the US during the early 20th century including North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company and Mechanics & Farmers Bank.

Crossing the railroad tracks on the corridor
Crossing the railroad tracks on the corridor

The Durham SmART Initiative began with a series of meetings with stakeholders within the downtown and city. It quickly became clear that the community considered Blackwell-Corcoran-Foster streets, a key vehicular and pedestrian corridor with three names, to be the focus for intervention.This is especially true when it comes to residents and visitors “crossing the tracks” where the tracks, topography, and visual site lines create a barrier both real and intangible.

Interventions at the tracks
Interventions at the tracks
Streetscape_interventions
Potetnial Streetscape Interventions

Kim’s plan focuses on the corridor, its barriers, new developments, historic features, and many artistic and aesthetic interventions to make downtown more walkable, livable, and exciting. Proposed intervention strategies include permanent and temporary public art, enhanced and artistic lighting, ground plane art, aesthetic infrastructure, and north-south gateways.

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