'Historic and contemporary meet' in downtown Durham
To accommodate growing demand for convention space in Durham, downtown will see the launch of four new hotels in 2015.
In total, more than 450 new rooms will be added through the construction process—joining the existent 187 rooms in the Marriott City Center, which is the only hotel in downtown Durham. Though various hotel plans have been in the works for several years, the economic turndown made securing funding difficult and caused delays.
“We are feeling bullish,” said Shelly Green, CEO of the Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau. “The Marriott City Center is so full with its corporate business that they can’t give big enough room blocks. This will allow us to be able to get more convention business in downtown Durham.”
The wave of new openings will include a variety of different hotels. Among the four hotels will be a boutique hotel, Hotel Durham; two local chains, a 21c Museum Hotel and an Aloft Hotel; and a national chain, Residence Inn by Marriott.
The 21c Museum Hotel—which is anticipated to open in March—will occupy the historic Hill Building at the intersection of Corcoran and Main Streets. The building's design will preserve the features of the original structure, which was built in 1935, said Stephanie Greene, 21c Hotels director of public relations.
"This is a place where the historic and contemporary meet,” she said.
Designed by the same firm responsible for the Empire State Building, the Hill Building housed various Durham banks for 70 years. It has sat vacant since 2006.
The hotel will feature a free contemporary art museum open to the public around the clock, a spa and a restaurant that will use North Carolina ingredients. The project received financial assistance through a loan from Durham’s Self-Help Credit Union and incentives from the Durham City Council and Board of County Commissioners.
The Aloft Hotel—which is to be located adjacent to the Durham Performing Arts Center—is also set to open in March. It will add 134 rooms to the downtown area and include meeting spaces, a pool and a lounge that will be shared with Durham Performing Arts Center's president’s club. The Durham City Council will provide the developer with a monthly rental payment for the new lounge.
A boutique hotel to be known as Hotel Durham is also slated to open on E. Chapel Hill Street later this spring. Like the 21c Museum Hotel, it received city and county incentives. It will include a restaurant and a rooftop lounge.
The new Residence Inn by Marriott is anticipated to open next summer. The extended-stay hotel, which will have 145 rooms, is being constructed close to Duke’s East Campus, on the western side of downtown.
The new hotel is being built on the site of the former McPherson Hospital, and some community members expressed concerns about how the older structure would be preserved in designs.
Green explained that that the 1926 structure had "degraded greatly" and would have been too expensive for the developer to preserve in its entirety. The design of the Residence Inn, however, will incorporate the hospital's original façade.
Green said it's a "big question" whether there will be enough demand to match the rapid influx of new rooms.
"I always say that all these rooms come empty," Green said. "When you open a new hotel, you need marketing and demand generators to fill them.”
The coming year will also see the opening of two Durham hotels outside of downtown— a 103-room Homes 2 Suites by Hilton, off of Highway 15-501, and a 65-room expansion to the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School-affiliated Rizzo Conference Center.