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University buys off-East houses

The University purchased 15 rental properties near East Campus Monday from Guy Solie, Trinity '67, the owner of several student-occupied houses.

John Burness, senior vice president for public affairs and government relations, said the University plans to turn the rental properties into owner-occupied residences, effectively ending the long tradition of students' renting Solie's properties.

Burness said the University plans to make some repairs to the residences and sell them to people who agree to invest in renovations and live in the houses.

Duke paid Solie's company, Trinity Properties, $3.7 million for 12 houses and three lots in Trinity Park, Trinity Heights and Burch Avenue neighborhoods.

All but one of the houses are currently being rented, and Duke students live in most of them.

Many of the houses have served for years as locations for student parties, which often draw complaints from neighbors.

The purchase was made through Durham Realty, a piece of the real estate arm of the University. Because Duke owns Durham Realty, students who live in the houses will now essentially pay rent to the University.

Currently, many rising seniors are looking for off-campus housing for next year. Some students, like junior Nicole Shabtai, are worried about how lease contracts with Trinity Properties will carry over to Duke.

"In the event that I don't have my leased signed and I lose my house... it would be unfortunate, but I am currently living off campus, so I would, I guess, have to talk to the office at West Village where I live," Shabtai said.

Burness said Durham Realty will adhere to all current lease contracts but will not make new ones with students.

"We will honor all existing leases but not ones that are not existing," he said.

Solie sent a letter Monday to the residents of the houses. "Today we sold your house to Durham Realty," Solie wrote in the letter. "We greatly appreciate your renting from us this past year. It's been a pleasure working with you, and we wish you best in your future endeavors."

Burness said the University is not trying to buy up all of the student-rented houses in Trinity Park. He explained that Solie approached the University "some time ago" with a desire to sell his properties.

"It took a very long time to put it all together," he said.

Other potential buyers also expressed interest in Solie's properties in the past.

Hoping to address the raucous off-campus partying situation, about a dozen Trinity Park residents approached Solie in February 2005 about buying several of his homes to sell them to owner-occupants. Although the deal did not go through, Solie told The Chronicle at the time that he was hoping to sell at least nine or 10 houses.

Solie said Monday that the sale of the 15 properties should not come as a surprise. "Those homes have been on sale for a long time," he said.

He declined further comment.

Eugene Brown, a member of the Durham City Council and a resident of Trinity Park, said he is pleased with the sale.

"Our neighborhood will become more residential, Duke will have fewer town-gown problems, and the city will increase its tax base when these houses are purchased and renovated by new home owners," Brown said in a statement.

Several students who live in Solie's houses, however, expressed concern about the possible social implications of Durham Realty's purchase.

"That definitely throws a monkey wrench into the whole thing," said senior Bryan Cappelli, who currently lives in 704 N. Buchanan, one of the sold houses. "It's definitely disappointing. It's definitely a staple of the social scene. It would be a mistake to give it to someone else."

In the sale, Duke purchased properties at 203 Watts St., 508 N. Buchanan Blvd., 601 Watts St./1102 Monmouth Ave., 610 N. Buchanan Blvd., 702 N. Buchanan Blvd., 704 N. Buchanan Blvd., 708 N. Buchanan Blvd., 710 N. Buchanan Blvd., 814 Lancaster St., 1103/1105 Urban Ave., 1107 Urban Ave., 1111 Urban Ave., 700 Maplewood Dr., 913 Wilkerson Ave. and 921 1/2 Wilkerson Ave.

Three vacant lots on Burch Avenue will remain undeveloped. They will continue to function as buffer spaces around the perimeter of campus.


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