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City poised to sell 102 Morris to downtown's Scott Harmon; pizzeria, bakery eyed for site

This Thursday's City Council work session agenda reveals that the long process of finding new ownership to own and renovate 102 Morris St. may be at an end.

The early 1900s commercial structure is a long survivor through the ages in downtown's Five Points, though in recent years the Downtown Durham Inc. window dressings in the one-time home of a Kenyan restaurant have been the most prominent visage of the structure. A barber shop, convenience store, classroom supply non-profit and Scott's Tailors also occupy retail spaces in the structure.


A story in the Herald-Sun last year by former business reporter Monica Chen singled out downtown architect, PAC5 leader and Mangum 506 developer Scott Harmon as the lead target eyeing the property, though noting the presence of other respondents to a City RFP for the purchase and rehab of the building.

But it looks like Harmon -- and his humorously-named Re:Vamp Durham corporate shell -- is poised to take over control of the municipally-owned surplus property.

And based on the agenda memo, it looks like the opportunity to grab a slice of pizza downtown may have finally arrived. A "gourmet pizzeria" and bakery are listed as tenants that Harmon and his partners have lined up for the property.

Harmon and Re:Vamp Durham were recommended by a City panel that included representatives from the Durham Chamber, Self-Help and DDI in addition to municipal representatives.

The property itself, a nearly 13,000 sq. ft. structure, occupies a prominent space in one of downtown's busier retail districts, one which has been singled out in the updated downtown master plan as a key site to attract additional street-leve retail.

The City would sell the property, which requires significant rehabilitation, for just under $225,000 to Re:Vamp Durham. The sale would include a pass-through to Preservation Durham, which would receive a signed rehab agreement from Harmon's team ensuring that interior renovation would confirm to Federal standards for historic renovation.

Harmon and business partner David Arneson would move Center Studio Architecture from its perch near Toast and Beyu Caffe to the Chapel Hill St. side of the structure; a second retail storefront of nearly 1,800 sq. ft. would be available for office or retail space.

Meantime, the Morris St. side that's recently houses Scott Tailors and (before its move) the Selam Convenience Store would become renovated retail spaces.

A bakery would take nearly 1,100 sq. ft. in the building's corner, below the clock face, while a 2,300 sq. ft. space on the ground floor along Morris St. would become a gourmet pizza restaurant. Upper floor spaces would become office condos. The agenda memo notes that Harmon and his team have signed letters of intent with their prospects.

Mind you, that clock face wouldn't be staying there, with a neon "Five Points" sign taking its place:

For 107 E Chapel Hill Street, Re:Vamp Durham plans to restore existing storefronts and transoms; repair and paint existing exterior masonry and wood trim; add new exterior façade lighting, new roof insulation, membrane, and parapet coping; restore interior plaster walls and the pressed tin ceilings; and install new electrical, plumbing, and HVAC systems. Redevelopment would also include adding new skylights at the existing sky wells, solar panels for domestic hot water and space heating, and photovoltaic panels for electrical generation.

For 102 Morris Street, Re:Vamp Durham plans to perform similar work to what would be done at 107 E Chapel Hill Street. Re:Vamp Durham also plans to remove the arched clock on the corner and to replace it with a neon “Five Points” sign buttressed on metal supports.

Assuming they receive City Council approval for the sale, Re:Vamp Durham plans to close on the purchase in September and to complete construction by April 2012.

The City appraised the site for $575,000 back in 2009, but the condition of the property and the need for asbestos removal have driven the proposed lower sales price, the agenda memo notes; so does the municipality's desire to see a renovation that confirms to historic preservation standards.

The City has had more than forty repair requests at the building since 2006, including leaky roofs impacting tenant spaces and repairs to electrical and HVAC systems.

(Photo courtesy Endangered Durham)



I very thankful that the city is getting out of the slumlord business downtown. The way the tenants of this building have been treated for years is disgraceful.

Go Scott for coming up with a plan to bring this building back!!

Question: What about the Excelsior?


Please no cheesy signs in our town. Please. Is is really necessary to permanently advertise your intersection, Scott?

Kevin Davis

@Jason -- I hear where you are coming from, though I have to say the success (to me) of the Old Bull sign gives me greater comfort on this idea.

Durham Socialite

Scott Tailors has signs posted stating that they will be moved out by the end of the month. Apparently they will be relocating to 201 West Main across from the Hill Building.

Seth Vidal

Scott, please, reconsider keeping the clock or putting some other clock there. It'll be nice to sit outside at toast in the summer and not have to deal with neon glare.

I don't think a neon sign labeling the area is going to look good there.




The Bells of St. Mary's


Please, please make it a GOOD pizza place. Maybe you could recruit someone from a place that knows how to make pizza? Surely there must be someone in, say, New Haven, who would be interested in bringing good pizza to Durham.


How about a digital billboard with the time in one corner and Five Points in the other and live shots of the plaza in the middle?

Seriously...This corner is an important anchor on the west side of downtown. There is a nexus of activity occurring in the Five Points area and I wish Scott much luck in his endeavor.

The sign is not the most challenging aspect of this redevelopment so I'm sure Scott will figure out how he wants to differentiate his property. I hope it is a little different from the other signs downtown or we risk looking like a more eclectic Cary.



do you really not think pop's backdoor is good pizza?


This pizzeria and bakery is obviously good news (however, not to the relocating businesses). But we're pretty well represented in those categories already, it would be nice to have a little variety.

Rob Gillespie

I agree entirely on the pizza. For some reason, it seems that half the restaurants in town are Italian.

I'd love to see more Asian and other ethnic varieties downtown.


Fantastic News! Way to go Re:Vamp! I wish you MUCH success with this property.


This is great news. I wouldn't worry about the neon, Scott has excellent taste and will do downtown right, I'm sure.

Re: pizza, Pop's backdoor is outstanding, and the soon-to-be food truck Pie Pushers is going to blow some minds, based on the piece of their pizza I had last weekend.


pop's, pie pushers, mellow mushroom, broad street and klausies (which is often here) are all fantastic!

Scott Harmon

Thanks, everyone, for all the comments.

Both Excelsior Barber Shop and Scott Tailors were given a right-of-first-refusal to have spaces in the project, but have decided it's better to relocate since they have to move anyway during the renovations.

Don't sweat the sign :) Check out the billboard that used to be on top of the building at Endangered Durham. Look under the Five Points category.

I think the historic neon sign on the Bull Building at American Tobacco is amazing. And if you can't have neon color at the busiest intersection of your downtown...where can you have it? Just my opinion, but I appreciate all the comments...please keep them coming.

Scott Harmon

I forgot to mention that there are two spaces left in the project for owner-occupied businesses. There is a 716 sf storefront on Morris Street, and 2,300 sf of office on the 2nd floor. These are not for lease, but for purchase in partnership with ourselves and the other independent small businesses that are joining forces on the project. Contact me for more information, and thanks!


Awesome news!

Way to go Scott and team!

And, FWIW I think the neon sign is going to be great.


I agree about Pops Backdoor. The broccoli rabe pizza is one of my favorites.


Would it be too much to hope for a book store or arcade to come into one of the retail spaces (something other than a bar for downtown where you can get comfortable for a while)? And here's hoping that the pizza place will be open later to accommodate the post-Whiskey food urge.

Seth Vidal

I think the answer is you don't have neon at all.

I searched through endangered durham and came up with:

I wouldn't want the 'vacation homes' billboard back there, either.

Seriously a clock is functional. Functional matters.

Tanner Lovelace

Seth, either get yourself a watch, or look at your cell phone. Seriously, there are lots of ways to get time than a clock on the building that, for me personally, I'd never even noticed was there.


Yea that clock is hard to see during the day, impossible at night and looks like a knock off from Michael Graves for Target designs.

Erik Landfried

I think if the neon sign is done is a similar style to the Old Bull sign, that would actually be pretty cool. This is supposed to be THE intersection in Durham - a little pizzazz never hurt anybody. Now if we could only convince someone to build two flatiron buildings on either side of the intersection like there used to be...

Scott, what is the status on the mini-roundabout request? Still alive and well?


i'm guessing scott was referencing the Coman Lumber company sign (http://endangereddurham.blogspot.com/search/label/Five%20Points). PLEASE bring that one back! Mabye you could get fairway to pay for it.

Michael Bacon

Where the heck is Barry on this? He's finally getting pizza by the slice downtown.


I vote for neon. I think Whiskey's neon sign is awesome.

Joshua Allen

That clock sucks. Go neon sign!

clocks can be neon

How long til the 3 year old vinyl signs in the windows comes down?

Clearly a neon clock that pulsed five beats on, long pause, five beats on, repeat would be something fun.

will be great to see the corner evolve. Are the Safari restaurant folks still in town? can we get them back?


How about remaking the "DURHAM RENOWNED THE WORLD AROUND" sign? It's so enchanting!

Cindy Lewis

I'm with pro-citylights, at least on the "DURHAM RENOWNED THE WORLD AROUND" sign. Get Cree to pony up some LEDs and it would be rocking!


I would love to see the "Durham Renowned" sign back and the LEDs from Cree idea is terrific!

No problem with a neon sign instead of the clock either. I'm looking forward to seeing this development happen.


I think the "DURHAM RENOWNED..." sign would be fantastic, especially if we used Cree LEDs and further supported Durham innovation.

As for the bakery though, right now we have 9th St. Bakery, Scratch, and Daisy Cakes is about to open up a spot somewhere between downtown and Central Park. Not to mention you can get terrific baked goods at Rue Cler, Beyu, Blue Coffee, and the bakery in Bright Leaf Square.

What if Farmhand Foods opened up a butcher shop? Then we'd have our boulangeries & patisseries, our fromagerie (Reliable Cheese Co. opening soon on Chapel Hill St.), and then we could have a charcuterie & boucherie. I'd also love to see Wine Authorities open up a small satellite store in downtown. Just some small space to buy good wine within walking distance of downtown (Parker & Otis is great for wine too).

Joanne Andrews

NEON! yes! I used to live directly across from the Citgo sign in Kenmore Sq when I was 19. It LIT up the front room of my 5th floor apt. Loved it, Love Neon! Bring it on! Just not on the highway. Neon not digital.
Hooray for pizza downtown also. Go Scott!

Ellen C

How about a neon clock? Wouldn't that make everyone happy?
I love the idea of a small independent bookstore, or music/instrument shop, or perhaps even a "black box" kind of performance space. Not everyone can play the DAC or the Carolina....and a PERFORMANCE SPACE, please, not another music club/bar/place for bands. Common Ground Theater has a nice space of that sort but it's not very conveniently located. Maybe they'd be interested in managing a "satellite" space downtown?

Andrew Edmonds

"Then we'd have our boulangeries & patisseries, our fromagerie (Reliable Cheese Co. opening soon on Chapel Hill St.), and then we could have a charcuterie & boucherie."

Why stop there? I say we go full-in on the French and have an open-air abattoir! Let's see the bull in the Bull City!

Matt Dudek

The abbattoir would certainly add an "air" of authenticity.

Scott Harmon



Thank you

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