Angier-Driver streetscape project culminates in ribbon-cutting celebration

Music emanated from Samuel and Sons Barbershop across the street from the Angier Baptist Church parking lot in the morning on Oct. 11, where community members gathered to celebrate the unveiling of the Angier-Driver Streetscape Project.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony marked the completion of the $4.8 million construction project that began in April 2013. The project was completed on time and on budget, according to Durham Mayor William “Bill” Bell.

Mayor Bill Bell, surrounded by business owners and community leaders, cut the ribbon in front of the new Angier-Driver streetscape to celebrate the culmination of the 16-month-long project. (Staff photo by Mary Alta Feddeman)

Mayor Bill Bell, surrounded by business owners and community leaders, cut the ribbon in front of the new Angier-Driver streetscape to celebrate the culmination of the 16-month-long project. (Staff photo by Mary Alta Feddeman)

The mayor, Deputy City Manager Keith Chadwell, and three local business owners—Joe’s Diner owner Joseph Bushfan, Samuel and Sons Barbershop owner Samuel Jenkins and Signature Kutz Barbershop owner Jeffrey Warren—spoke at the ceremony.

Mayor Bell discussed the potential for growth in Northeast Central Durham and the hope he has that this streetscape improvement project will bring further economic development to the area.

“I know that many persons have had some doubts about where the city is in terms of its investment in Northeast Central Durham,” Mayor Bell said to the crowd, “and I would hope that having seen this project, those doubts would be dispelled.”

“We are here to stay, and we are here to stay with the residents in this community. And we need the residents to participate, to tell us when we’re going right and when we’re going wrong,” he continued. “We don’t always get it right, but we do try to listen.”

Mayor Bell also noted that at least two members of the community in East Durham were hired to work with the contractor on the project.

“And not only that, but they’re still working,” Bell said.

Chadwell thanked the Angier Baptist Church for its cooperation, as well as the business leaders and investors who helped guide the process.

He thanked them for acting “like headlights and not tail lights, so that we could see the opportunities ahead and not dwell on what has happened in the past.”

The project included historic-style streetlights, concrete sidewalks, curbs and crosswalks, street resurfacing, and decorative landscaping. There is also a new sign on a red brick wall on the corner that reads “Old East Durham” in large, white letters.

Bushfan began by addressing the crowd with words of relief.

“It’s been a long time coming,” he said. “I can’t even tell you what we’ve gone through up here, and I guess it’s like the song says: ‘We started from the bottom, now we here,’” he laughed, quoting a Drake song.

Bushfan thanked a whole collection of folks, including “…everybody who’s participated in this area to make this a community—a loving community and an inviting community.”

“And we’re not going to stop there,” he continued. “We’re going to make this a safe neighborhood for our children to be able to come up here. We’re going to break a lot of cycles that have to be broken in this area.”

Jenkins expressed the pride he feels for his community of 17 years and for the work the city put into improving the Angier-Driver streetscape.

“I’ve watched this neighborhood go through a big transition,” Jenkins said. “It sometimes brings chills to know what you used to see and what you see now.”

Warren discussed his decision to take his business out of the neighborhood and his decision to return several years later when he heard about the positive changes happening in the area.

“Everybody works as a community and that’s the part that I liked,” he said. “And I’m so glad that I’m here in that community and hope to stay here for a long time.”

Raphael Yon, a local resident and pastor of Church at the Park, said he used to be an insurance agent in the neighborhood, traveling door to door.

“I used to drive through here years ago, and I used to cringe when I came through here,” he said.

He very briefly described the work that has been put into the Angier-Driver Streetscape Project.

“One word: fabulous,” he said with a smile.

Neighborhood resident April Johnson was excited by the concept of improving the neighborhood’s visual appeal.

“It’s been exciting for me. I really enjoy the concept of making neighborhoods look attractive and improving the aesthetics of the community,” Johnson said.

“So, I think improving the streetscape, making the sidewalks presentable, those little things just add to the value of the neighborhood.”

The event was a true community celebration of progress. As the mayor cut the ribbon, everyone cheered. Then, community members hugged, chatted and enjoyed themselves back in the church parking lot, where breakfast was provided by Joe’s Diner.

“This is just the beginning,” Mayor Bell assured the crowd.

“It’s not the end, but it’s a good beginning.”