During downtown's bad old days, the availability of cheap vacant land that resulted from the bad old days of "urban renewal" made Durham's center city a great choice for that terrible use of urban land, the car dealership.
Hey, we've got nothing wrong with car dealerships. They work great on 15-501 or somewhere like the Southpoint Auto Mall. But downtowns need density, not Dodges.
Scientific Properties managed to snag the Johnson Automotive parcel on Jackie Robinson next to American Tobacco, and has it planned as the future site of their Van Alen skyscraper project -- its name itself a reference to the architect of the Chrysler Building in NYC.
Yet Rick Hendrick Chevrolet still sells the occasional Chevrolet from their 1990s-vintage dealership near Johnson.
And now (via the N&O) comes news that University Ford, the third member of the Downtown Three, is actually adding to its stable of auto brands, and growing, not shrinking, its presence right next to American Tobacco.
It's actually a matter of some interest to downtown watchers. The Goodmons, in fact, have been quoted in the local press as saying that not gaining airtight site control over University Ford before the Ambacco project got under way was perhaps the biggest mistake made in their downtown redevelopment effort, since after the eventual build-out of Diamond View III and residential units near the DPAC, Capitol Broadcasting has nowhere to go but westward.
So along comes news in today's N&O that Johnson Kia's been sold off, a sign that Johnson Automotive continues to mosey along out of its downtown digs.
The buyer? Tony Fisher -- of University Ford, who's planning to rechristen the shop University Kia and co-locate it with, you guessed it, University Ford downtown.
While we here at BCR never wish ill on the local economy, the current economic travails in the auto industry couldn't help but leave us wishing that perhaps downtown's Ford dealership might, you know, pick up and move to another home.
Like Fisher's University GM Superstore down on 15-501, a facility vacant after he sold off that franchise to Rick Hendrick last year for consolidation with Hendrick's own GM dealership.
But with the Kia dealership sticking around downtown, one has to surmise that University's hold on an important corner of town isn't going anywhere quickly.