An upcoming downtown development project will represent a fusion between historic and modern.
The City Center project will be anchored by a 26-story, 300-foot skyscraper at the corner of Corcoran and Main streets—but the $70 million endeavor also includes the renovation of surrounding storefronts that are decades old. The project additionally marks a continuation of Duke's involvement in downtown development, with the University claiming 55,000 square feet of office space within the tower.
“It’s a multi-use building that will reclaim historic storefronts on Parrish and Main," said Geoff Durham, president and CEO of Downtown Durham, Inc., a group that supports downtown revitalization projects. "A retail wrap that goes around the base will help out tremendously with the walkability and connectivity of town.”
Ground is set to break on the skyscraper later this year. The building will include 25,000 square feet of new retail spaces on street level, with the four levels above the ground floor containing 110,000 square feet of office space. The remaining 21 floors will consist of 130 residential units.
Scheduled to be completed by the end of 2016, the modern tower will serve as a complement to the extensive re-use efforts the city has made in the last decade, Durham said.
Throughout the early 2000s, Durham focused heavily on repurposing its historic structures, particularly old tobacco warehouses, Durham said. The most prevalent of these restorations is the American Tobacco Campus—the largest adaptive re-use project in the Southeast—which will commemorate its 10th anniversary with a series of celebrations this weekend.
Construction such as the skyscraper represents a new form of expansion for Durham—building its future, rather than renovating its past.
Duke has already secured half of the available office space in the new building, another step in the University's expansion into downtown.
In 2005, Duke had 70,000 square feet of downtown office space. Now it has close to 1,000,000, Scott Selig, associate vice president of capital assets and real estate, previously told The Chronicle.
Durham City Council member Eugene Brown applauded Duke on its continued involvement in Durham.
“We’ve seen a much closer relationship between Duke and Durham. I think President [Richard] Brodhead and [Executive Vice President] Tallman Trask have been instrumental in that," Brown said, noting that Duke's involvement alone was enough to get certain projects off the ground. "When Duke stepped up to the plate on American Tobacco and said that they would rent a certain amount of space, it meant the developer could go to the bank.”
The office space provided by the new tower is significant, Durham said, noting that downtown office space is becoming increasingly limited as the city continues to develop.
“Office space is an inventory we need to add to," he said. "Over 93 percent of downtown office space is filled. [The city] needs to be able to provide for its workforce and expanding businesses."
The high-rise is being developed by national firm Austin-Lawrence Partners, founded and led by Greg Hills, Trinity '76.
“More people working and perhaps living in downtown Durham is a real plus, because where we prefer to develop is where we already have infrastructure in place,” Brown said. “In the last decade, the premise was the city of Durham cannot end up being the hole in the donut—a lagging center core surrounded by fairly affluent surrounding neighborhoods, and we needed to do what we could to save the core city of downtown.”
The new residences will include 101 apartments, 31 condominiums and a penthouse. The price for a two-bedroom apartment is approximately $3,200, while the price for a single-room apartment is nearly half that. The condos are projected to begin around $300,000, and the penthouse will top out at over $1.5 million.
The prices place the residences squarely in the upper range of Durham real estate, but a city undergoing as much development as Durham is bound to include projects in a variety of markets, Durham said—some higher-end and others will that tap into lower-cost markets.
“Affordability across the board for office or retail or residential is always a critical concern to make sure you have the right balance,” Durham added.
Amid the repurposed tobacco warehouses and other historic buildings that many associate with Durham, the new City Center will provide downtown with growth, development and investment, Brown said.
“We are very excited about the development in downtown Durham," Brown said. [The tower] will alter the skyline in a positive way.”