By: Courtney James
An article in the Triangle Business Journal last week highlighted a recent study ranking 43 cities on a “Green City Index”. The index takes into account 20 indicators of a city’s “greenness”. Some examples of criteria reviewed are travel delays, commuters who drive alone, adoption of green technologies, water and air quality, and suburban sprawl. Durham was not ranked in this study, but the Raleigh-Cary MSA was included. Overall, Raleigh-Cary ranked 25th on the Green City Index, with Portland being the most “green” at #1 and Greensboro-High Point MSA being the biggest offender at #43 (although the study noted that there was some information that was unavailable for Greensboro). Of the 20 indicators, Raleigh ranked worst in water quality, lack of public transportation, and sprawl. In fact, in regards to sprawl they were ranked almost dead last (41 out of 43), behind cities like Atlanta and Washington D.C.
As a real estate broker, it continues to amaze me how the city of Durham can be so close to Raleigh and Cary from a physical proximity, but yet so distant from the two in terms of city vibe. There have been a few times in my career when I succumbed to pressure to show homes in both Raleigh and Cary. I distinctly remember feeling completely overwhelmed at the sheer number of subdivisions that stretched from one into the other. Needless to say, I quickly made the decision that I would rather pass that business to others that are more knowledgeable about those areas. It is challenging when homebuyers moving here from out of town want to see homes in the each of the various cities of the Triangle. Often times, it takes one trip to the distinct corners of the area for the buyer to make an adamant decision on where they want to be. It is infrequent for a person to struggle between a home in Durham and a home in Cary. They either want to be in Durham or they want to be in Cary – but typically not both.
In any case, Durham has its share of new suburbs, and, as evidenced by what’s going on in East Durham, is also gaining foot in the sprawl department. But I am quite pleased with our relatively small and dense city. In my opinion, the values that are at the core of this city are very much in line with what made Portland, Oregon a top ranking “Green City”. According to the Durham Convention and Visitor’s Center, these values include being collaborative, community-spirited, creative and innovative, engaging, entrepreneurial, environmentally conscious, open and welcoming, unpretentious, and well-educated. While I feel we are on the right track, we still have a lot more work to do. As a city, we need to continue to provide incentives for high-density developments, public transportation, water and air quality protection, and other environmentally-friendly policies.