Durham skyline on brink of major change

New Durham development

Durham’s skyline could be getting a major facelift, with at least two new high rises coming in.

Two old car lots could be the driving force in Durham’s next big boom.

“We look at things that look all flat and rubbled right now and to imagine that at some point tall glass towers and restaurants and shops,” said Geoff Durham, executive director of Downtown Durham Inc.

“This is a tremendous opportunity and really some of the last developable space in the downtown area.”

Durham said two different developers recently bought these neighboring properties.

A 12-acre lot vacated recently by Hendrick Auto will be developed by Citisculpt.
A 6-acre site between the Courthouse and Durham Freeway will be developed by Northwood Ravin.

Roxboro Street divides the two properties, which total 18 acres right beside the Durham Freeway. The area is walking distance from government buildings and entertainment.

But, Durham said, the space “lacks connectivity. We’re really, really confident that both of the development teams are going to be able to take a vision of this to really make sure that we look outward and don’t turn our back on any component of the downtown.”

Dee McDougal, who works downtown, said, “I think having more development in downtown durham is just going to bring more people, more businesses, more restaurants.”

Geoff Durham said the city has become a magnet for talented people.

“That talent that wants to be here is sort of what’s driving this next wave of development,” he said.

Previous waves focused on re-developing historic buildings and and helped build the economy to get to this point of new construction.

“That’s really what established downtown Durham as a place, really put it on a map,” he said.

Right now, 93 percent of the office space in downtown Durham is occupied.

But, Geoff Durham said, “Having only a 7 percent vacancy rate is actually an unhealthy figure because you assume when site selection committees are looking at areas, they’re usually doing it in bigger blocks. They’re looking at something in the neighborhood of 100,000 plus square feet. We just don’t have that right now.”

Two new high rises – 12 to 20 stories each – could change that here.

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