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)