Who We Are


Downtown is the diverse, unique and thriving heart of Durham, and is welcoming to all.


To enhance the environment, economy and vitality of downtown Durham, while preserving and enriching its distinctive culture and strong sense of community.


Downtown Durham, Inc. (DDI) is a 501(c) 6 organization, formed in 1993 to serve as a catalyst for downtown revitalization.

With almost $2 billion invested over the past 20 years, downtown is now a thriving climate able to support additional business, retail and housing growth. Since 1993 Downtown has grown from just 160 residents to more than 4,500, added more than 300 new businesses, increased its annual visitors by more than 1 million and added more than 2 million square feet of new office space

In 2012, DDI became the entity responsible for the downtown Durham Business Improvement District, a .8 mile area where property owners are assessed a small additional tax to create a cleaner, safer and more vibrant downtown community. The tax is used by the BID to fund the Ambassadors program, which provides maintenance services that supplement those offered by the city, as well as to develop and fund district-wide placemaking and marketing initiatives that support businesses located in the district.

Diversity Statement


  • Diversity is the foundation of Durham’s vitality and creativity.
  • Downtown is the heart of Durham. It is welcoming to everyone and must reflect and honor Durham’s diversity.
  • Diversity includes shared success in the form of access to ownership of businesses and property in downtown and adjacent corridors.


Photograph of Nicole Thompson

Nicole J. Thompson

President & CEO

Nicole began her career in economic development while working for the Institute of Minority Economic Development in downtown Durham in the early 90s. Since then, she has worked in economic and community development on the state government, local government and nonprofit/community levels in North Carolina, Virginia and Colorado. She has experience in leading economic development efforts and growth in both rural and urban areas. Prior to coming to Durham, Nicole spent four years in Colorado, where she was the Executive Director of the Leadville-Lake County Economic Development Corporation. While in this position, she worked tirelessly to advocate for responsible and strategic economic growth and development in Lake County. Nicole graduated from the University of Richmond with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Urban Studies and received a Master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 


Tiffany Bashore

Director of Business Engagement

Tiffany is the primary contact for new, existing and potential street-level retail, restaurant and service businesses in the downtown area.

Her most recent position was as Director of Member Relations at the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce, where she played a pivotal role in member retention and engagement through personal outreach, events and programming to serve both members and community partners. She brings her extensive experience working with businesses, her knowledge of the community and her love of Durham to this critical position in our organization. She has 19+ years of community and business engagement experience and is well-known and beloved in the Durham community as a key player, organizer and advocate for local businesses. 

Tiffany has deep roots in the Triangle. She is a graduate of Jordan High School and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

Alexandra Benson Headshot

Alexandra Benson

Placekeeping & Events Manager

Alexandra focuses on placekeeping initiatives, public activations and event strategies for the organization. Placekeeping – sometimes known as placemaking – is about transforming public spaces to strengthen the connections between people and these places.

Alexanda brings a wealth of experience to the role. Prior to joining DDI, she worked with the City of Durham's Cultural and Public Art Program to support equitable public art processes, evolving cultural policy, capacity building for artists, and a festival and special event grant funding program. Her portfolio of work includes municipal-led cultural and public art programming, community-informed placekeeping, grassroots arts advancement and reflecting on power and privilege as it relates to the creative sector.  

Alexandra graduated from Salem College with a Bachelor of Arts in Arts Management and Communication, and from North Carolina State University with a Master's of Public Administration (MPA).

Photograph of Anna Branly

Anna Branly

Director of Administration & Finance

Anna oversees internal operations, Human Resources and accounting for the organization.

She has spent her career in marketing, public relations, and small business management. While with a regional marketing firm, Anna supervised agency operations, including staffing, financials and client accounts, and she negotiated client media buys. She transitioned to the client side with a Durham-based real estate development company, where she was responsible for internal and external communications, government relations, event planning, media relations and branding. Most recently, Anna owned and oversaw the day-to-day operations for a specialty retail bakery in downtown Durham’s Five Points area.

Anna graduated from Elon College (now Elon University) with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications.

Photograph of Erik Nystrom

Erik Nystrom

Clean & Safe
Operations Manager

Erik is the face of the Clean & Safe Ambassador Program for DDI. Since 2015, Erik has been the Ambassador Operations Manager, responsible for a team of ten full-time Ambassadors.

Erik has spent his career in natural resource management, landscaping and hospitality. After several years of managing operations in the landscape maintenance and design field, he transitioned to the hospitality industry, where he managed a platinum golf club, overseeing both landscaping and food and beverage operations. Immediately prior to joining DDI, Erik managed food and beverage operations and guest services for a large conference center.  

Erik graduated from The Evergreen State College with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Ecology and Natural History.

Photograph of Gina Rozier

Gina Rozier

Director of Marketing,
Communication & Placekeeping

As the Director of Marketing, Communication & Placekeeping, Gina's most important role is telling the compelling story of downtown's businesses, organizations, residents and visitors in order to build on the success of this thriving and uniquely Durham community. Gina is responsible for branding, marketing, internal and external communications. She also leads the planning for many of the organization's major events.

Gina has spent her career working with nonprofit and governmental organizations, which has allowed her to follow her passion of serving and educating communities. In her most recent positions prior to joining Downtown Durham, Inc., she led marketing and communications teams at the UNC-Chapel Hill Department of Computer Science and Durham County Library. 

Gina graduated from Wayne State University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications, and from North Carolina Central University with a Master of Library Science degree.

Kenny Valenzuela photo

Kenny Valenzuela

Director of Clean & Safe

Kenny is the Director of Clean & Safe for DDI. In this role, he ensures a welcoming and positive experience for the visitors, businesses and residents of downtown Durham. Prior to joining DDI, Kenny spent his career in tourism and hospitality. Most recently he managed multiple convention centers, where he was responsible for contract negotiations, sales, marketing, event planning and finance. He is passionate about serving and creating memorable experiences for the downtown Durham community.

Kenny moved to Durham in 2019 from New Mexico, where he studied Education at New Mexico State University.

Board of Directors

Zena Howard

Board Chair
Perkins & Will

Tucker Bartlett

Self-Help Credit Union

Dorian Bolden

Beyu Caffé

Rebecca Bolton

Durham Convention Center

Jennings Brody

Parker and Otis

Susan Fierros

The Durham Hotel

Jeff Furman

Northwood Ravin

Gary Garber


Carey Greene

SVN | Real Estate Associates

Shannon Healy

Alley Twenty Six

 Brenda A. Howerton

Durham County Board of Commissioners

Akua Johnson Matherson

North Carolina Central University

Nish LeBlanc

Lennox and Grae

Shelley McPhatter


Mark-Anthony Middleton

Durham City Council

Jeff Paine

Duda Paine Architects

Kevin Price

The Institute

Travis Rouse

M&F Bank

Justin Sacco

LRC Properties

Anthony Scott

Durham Housing Authority

Scott Selig

Duke University Capital Assets

Lynn Solomon


Fasil Tesfaye


Iona Thomas


Larry Tilley

Acme Plumbing

Lucy Wert


Yvette West



DDI Office Location

307 W. Main St. Suite 102
Durham, NC 27701
Phone: 919-682-2800

[email protected]


Tell Us About It

What’s great about downtown Durham, and what could be better? Your thoughts are always welcome.


Find press releases, President & CEO bio, media contacts and more.


Downtown Durham, Inc. is currently hiring. Find the job descriptions and application information at our Careers at DDI page.