Archive for November, 2010

Durham Program hopes to cut energy costs

The first of a potential 700 Durham residents who applied for the Neighborhood Energy Retrofit Program(NERP) will soon begin saving money on their energy bills.  The program seeks to increase energy efficiency by at least 20 percent through home upgrades, which will reduce homeowners energy bills and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.   Upgrades will include sealing air leaks in ductwork, installing programmable thermostats, and adding insulation.

” Once we have those 700 homes completed, the program will ultimately result in reduction of more than 2,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, making a significant impact on Durham’s environment, ”  Tobin Fried, manager of the Durham City-County Sustainability Office, said in a news release.

Neighborhoods participating in the program so far include:  Colonial Village, Duke Park, East Durham, Fisher Heights, Frenchmans’ Creek, Hillside Park, Lakewood, Lochhaven Hills, Morehead Hill, Newhal Village, Northgate Park, Parkwood, Spring Valley, Trinity Park, Tuscaloosa Lakewood, Watts Hillandale, and West End

In addition to the retrofits, residents will receive education on do-it-yourself energy efficient projects as well as how to pay for more upgrades through grants, rebates and tax credits.  “This program is designed to get neighbors talking to each other about energy efficiency and helping one another to reduce energy use even after the grant money is gone,” Freid said.

Currently, over 375 homeowners have applied for the program. Applications are still being accepted for homes that meet the program criteria in the identified neighborhoods.  To be eligible, the homes must be single-story, 2,000 square feet or less,, and be free of unvented combustion appliances, such as some gas hot water heaters, stoves or furnaces that could leak carbon dioxide back into the home.  Residents who are interested can apply online at or call (919)560-7699.


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You Can Make A Difference!

By:  Mary Rae Hunter

As many of you know, in my former life I was an elementary school teacher in both the Durham and Chapel Hill Public School Systems.  As an elementary school educator, I was constantly trying to figure out ways to get valuable resources directed towards my classroom. Each month, I would spend a great deal of my  personal paycheck to provide the children with materials and experiences that would last a lifetime.  It was very difficult on the small school budget that I was provided to supply the resources needed so as to create an exciting, challenging, and inspiring classroom for eager, bright, young minds.

That is why I got so excited about providing books for the Durham Public School (DPS) children in the BookMark program.  At UDR, we were able to provide hundreds of books to children in the DPS System.  We now have another opportunity to help get resources to one of the Durham Public High Schools.  Jordan High School is participating in a competition to win a $50,000 grant from Pepsi.  Project Refresh Jordan (PRJ) is a collaborative fundraising effort of students, teachers, parents, alumni and staff working to improve the learning environment at C. E. Jordan High School (JHS).  Since Augst 2010, they have raised over $6,000 through direct donations and sales of PRJ rubber bracelets.

If they are successful at receiving this substantial Pepsi grant, they will be able to provide the school with the following: $11,000 for 20 Science Tablets, $24,000 for 67 12X4 White Boards, $13,000 for 100 student desks, and $2,000 for labor and installation of the materials

The application has now been successfully submitted!  Everyone in the Durham County Community needs to “VOTE” everyday to get this grant awarded to JHS.  Voting will run from December 1st through December 31st.  The instructions for voting will be easily accessible on the following facebook page.  Instructions will soon follow…..

Everyone please support this cause and get online to vote!  This is a terrific opportunity for our community’s teachers and young students at Jordan High School.

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To Decorate or Not to Decorate a Listing over the Holidays….

By Susan Herst
Bring some holiday cheer to your listings this season…
Nobody wants to be the Grinch who stole Christmas but when you’re trying to sell a home, too much holiday spirit can turnoff some potential buyers. Buyers are there to look at the house and all of its wonderful features, not squint to see the roof over the nine reindeer poised upon it.

Some real estate and staging professionals say home owners can still add a few decorations for the holidays when selling a home and buyers will appreciate it too. Holiday decor can lighten moods and warm up interiors, so you don’t have to swear it off completely because you’re afraid of offending those who don’t celebrate, they say.

Opening the front door and see lights and the Christmas music playing with some cinnamon smells, all of this says “welcome, come in and stay awhile.”

6 Principles to Holiday Staging

The key to holiday decorating is to keep the decor high quality and color-coordinated.  So if you plan on staging a home for the holidays, here are some important things to keep in mind.

1. Don’t overdo the holiday cheer.

When Santas start to outnumber the rooms in the house, you may want to start being more selective in what you display.  “If it is ‘cute,’ it stays packed,” says Joanne O’Donnell.

The same staging principles apply during the holidays: Don’t overwhelm the space with clutter.  “For every holiday decor item put on display, temporarily pack something you keep out all the time. That way you can avoid over-decorating,” says a staging pro.

Instead of a large Christmas tree dominating the living room, you might opt to have a smaller tree display on a table top — particularly if the space is small. Your decor doesn’t have to be super-sized or scattered everywhere: Mix in small centerpieces on dining room tables, bookcases, bathroom sinks or end tables — simple touches such as pine cones or ornaments in a glass bowl.

You also might want to have home owners rethink hanging those Christmas stockings from the fireplace too, since when you are selling a home, you want buyers to notice and appreciate the permanent features of the home and if your fireplace is almost impossible to see because your stockings are blocking the view, then buyers will not appreciate this focal point for what it is.

2. Add splashes of holiday colors.

How about some holiday red? Psychology research on color responses has shown that warm colors, such as red, can increase excitement and energy in those viewing it. Pops of seasonal colors — such as red or green — add festive cheer to a home too and can be as simple as just adding a red everyday throw to the sofa or adding poinsettias throughout the home.

It doesn’t have to be bold holiday statements: Add greenery to fireplace mantels or as a base for the dining room table centerpieces. Or another holiday favorite: Bows and ribbons can add splashes of color — tie them around candles, wreaths, and basket handles throughout the house for extra pops of color. Don’t underestimate the power of neutral palettes too in your holiday decor, such as silvers and classic whites.

Try repeating colors from room to room and using similar ribbons, ornaments, patterns or decorative items that can add to the consistency of your holiday look. But when bringing in holiday colors, be careful not to clash with your home’s current color scheme. For example, if turquoise is the room’s dominant color, you might want to hold off on adding bold holiday reds; try silver instead.

3. Stage for the senses.

Christmas music — mixed with holiday scents — has been shown to boost people’s attitudes in retail stores and increase their likelihood of wanting to visit them.  For scents, pros recommend adding a pot of mulling spices or cider.  But if you’re going to include a holiday scent just don’t forget the music.

4. Keep the tree simple, yet elegant.

The Christmas tree will likely be your biggest decor piece so it needs to make a statement. Use a string of 100 lights for every foot of tree. In other words, if you have a 7-foot tree, use at least 700 lights (she prefers the white twinkling ones).

5. Give a holiday impression from the curb.

You needn’t be able to view your outdoor holiday lights from space, Clark Griswold, to show your holiday spirit. Twinkling clear, white lights (preferably non-blinking) tend to be the favorite among staging and real estate professionals for classy holiday curb appeal that adds a glow to your listings at night.

6. Remove decor after the holidays.

Christmas in July isn’t for everyone, so in general, wait to decorate for the holidays until after Thanksgiving and be sure your home owners remove all holiday decor promptly by New Year’s.

With gratitude from Melissa Dittmann Tracey

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Cleveland-Holloway Home Tour

by Jessica Sadler

Saturday was a great day for Durham with the usual Farmer’s Market, the Troika Festival with its concerts and craft show, and perhaps most inspiring: the Cleveland-Holloway home tour. My husband and I walked over to the tour after a stop at Daisycakes and had a fantastic time. We were able to see the home that B. Wallace designed for Charles Davies. Were peaked in on Adrian & Keith’s progress and saw the beautiful renovation that Ken & Erin Gasch made. We also said hello to Lou Perron as he held open the home that his clients recently bought. From the looks of it the turnout was fantastic and it was great to see all the progress in the neighborhood over the last year. Thanks to the organizers and the great hosts.

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Voting on Street Bond Referendum Today

By: Mariana Byrd

Today, Tuesday, November 2, 2010, is the day to get out and vote.  The 20 million dollar street bond referendum is up for a vote today.  The city of Durham would like to borrow $20 million to repave 150 miles of streets.  The $20 million would come in the form of a property tax increase to a total  0.76 cents per $100 property valuation.

Supporters of the referendum say now is the time to borrow the money as construction costs are lower and the worst streets need to be repaved now before they get in worse shape and cost more money to repair in the future.  In addition, City Hall says that this will be the last time Durham asks to borrow money for street repairs (as published by Jim Wise, staff writer of on 10/2/10).  Only time will tell if that statement is true.

Those who oppose the street bond wonder why the city has to (a) borrow money to fund basic infrastructure, and (b) borrow more money when Durham is already in debt.  Others question whether the 20 million dollars can be better used elsewhere.

If you would like to find out which streets are on the proposed bond before voting check out this link:  There is also more information on the referendum on Durham City’s website.

All of these decisions, ballots, and referendums affect us and the city that we love, so make sure to get out and vote today.

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