In July 2020, the Walltown Community Association (WCA) organized with other Durham residents to form the Northgate Mall Neighborhood Council (NMNC), which includes a total of 12 residents from across seven neighborhoods: Walltown, Northgate Park, Duke Park, Trinity Park, Trinity Heights, Watts Hospital Hillandale, and Old West Durham. The purpose of the NMNC was to spatialize a collective community vision–centered around Walltown’s strategic goals–for the redevelopment of the mall property by creating a set of potential site plans that could be uses to engage with the property owners and stakeholders (Northwood Investors, Duke University, and the City and County of Durham). We recently accomplished this goal through a design charrette held on September 18-19, 2020, where, assisted by a design team from NC State, we produced three alternative maps of the new Northgate. See the maps below reflecting Wlltown’s visions for the design of the new Northgate.
Contact the Walltown Community Association at walltownnorthgatecmte[at]gmail.com
Since the sale of Northgate Mall in 2018, the Walltown Community Association (WCA) has been hard at work understanding the needs, concerns, and desires of neighborhood residents. During that time, WCA have gathered over 200 surveys from Walltown residents, spoken with people who use and work at the mall, and hosted several community meetings to collectively process the potential changes. DataWorks has provided support in interpreting the survey responses and helping frame this moment with our resources.
WHY A WALLTOWN-DRIVEN VISION?
Walltown was founded in 1906 by George Wall, a formerly enslaved man who moved to Durham to work for Trinity College (eventually Duke University). Since then, the neighborhood has been home to generations of Black working-class families who, in the face of structural racism, have embodied a spirit of self-determination and resilience . When Northgate Mall, under the ownership of the Rand family, sought to encroach upon residential space, residents organized to keep their land. Now that the mall is in a state of transition, Walltown has organized again.
WALLTOWN COMMUNITY SURVEY
Community-developed, resident-populated survey on Northgate Mall development plans → Data collection as activism.
Who are the respondents?
- 62% of community members have lived in Walltown over 10 years
- 24% for over 30 years
- Many for their whole lives, 5% for multiple generations
NORTHGATE MALL SURVEY
Who are the respondents? 50 employees and shoppers at Northgate Mall.
WHAT THEY WANT TO SEE…
52% said “affordable housing”
48% said “affordable retail”
35% said “safe walking/transportation”
34% said “access to healthcare”
WHAT THEY DON’T WANT TO SEE…
71% said “luxury/expensive housing”
59% said “luxury/expensive retail”
49% said “liquor retail”
45% said “tobacco retail
HERE’S WHAT THEY SAY… about the Northgate Mall development
“Gentrification has already taken hold…I don’t know what to be concerned about. ”
“Will key decision-makers adopt the desires of long-time and invested residents of Walltown? How can the residents make their voices heard?”
“It needs to benefit children with a college or trade school that will help the kids who cannot afford scholarships to attend classes to get jobs.”
“Can we think of a way to make money while also doing what’s right for the community?”
“I’m concerned that the developer does not respect or understand the community, and as a result will change the community for the worse.”
“My concerns would be traffic down our residential street and the loss of retail, homes, and shared space used by our community.”
“On the first floor, something like a food hall like what Raleigh has but with diverse restaurants: first-time restaurant entrepreneurs, equally divided minority representation like 10 or 20 Black or Latino restaurants each. There would also be minority individual owned small businesses, since the spaces are so small like in the food court it would be good for new start up businesses. No chain restaurants at all.
On the second floor of the building, it would be a museum of different heritages like showing the history of Walltown from its founding to now; museum/exhibits showing African American leaders in Durham, Black Wall Street, and history of poverty in NC and Durham; plus art shops with local artists. There could also be a fitness center on the 2nd floor as this would help draw a diverse crowd to the museum on that floor. Also, on the property somewhere, maybe near the chow/food hall, there would be a small business resource support center.
Then the third floor could be dedicated to providing various types of help: mental health services, dental clinic, job seeking services, etc. Maybe the larger businesses that come into the space could help provide a small percentage to help fund some of the other areas, like the museum and help services. Some parts of this should be open 24 hours, like the food hall.”
“Memorial of George Wall and history of Black Wall Street; Affordable Retail like a food co-op that’s affordable or affordable grocery story like an ALDI; community garden for after school fun like what they have at SEEDS; a place where people of different backgrounds can come together and share information and skills; A Montessori School that caters to minorities and is affordable.
Then at the top should be affordable housing – there should be more affordable housing on this property than anything else.
The maintenance for the building should be done by hiring local, like the window cleaning, etc. No matter what they do they should look to local hiring first, specifically Walltown. They should keep the movie theater, and have motivational speakers. The building should be eco-friendly, like reuse of the runoff water from the roof or solar panels and other energy efficiency. This would help keep the costs down for the rent for the small businesses who want to use the space.”
“Affordable housing; park and green space; accessible to lower-income and middle income people; it should be something for the people who live here”
SMALL BUSINESS & LOCAL JOBS
“It should stay Northgate Mall – a place to afford to buy clothes for myself and my daughter; a place where I can afford to eat breakfast, like PanPan’s used to be; a place where I can get the things I need without having to drive across town, which is what will happen it leaves”
“Small business incubator, ninja gym, expanded restaurant options, continued theater presence, non-profit incubator, free to low cost community center space venue, food bank distribution site, housing for mid to low income seniors, housing for low income families and helping professionals (i.e. nurses, police, firemen, teachers, social workers)”
AVERAGE WEEKLY WAGES
As of 2017, there were 1132 jobs in the Walltown and Northgate Mall area (see map nearby). Retail Trade accounted for the highest proportion of those (34.7%) with 393 jobs. Accommodation and Food Service is the second-highest source of employment for people coming here to work, with 269 jobs (23.8% of all jobs).
Over the last two decades these essential services have provided essential income for people all over Durham but the buying-power of their wages has been turbulent and – in the case of Food Service – decreased over time.
“A mixed use development with a vernacular that blends with the surrounding neighborhoods. As is currently in place, there is a need for small spaces for small business owners plus mid size stores that will provide employment for many of those that currently work there. Northgate has always created seasonal events for the gathering of many neighbors to enjoy music, walking clubs and senior groups. If possible, include second floor small apartments above commercial units for both security and opportunities to live and work in close proximity.”