With the vote by City Council on March 21 to sell the city-owned building at the corner of Chapel Hill St. and Morris St. to downtown architect/developer Scott Harmon, plans for the renovation of the historic-but-tired structure are moving forward.
Harmon announced on Tuesday that four businesses have committed to the renovation project, which we featured here several weeks ago -- including an "artisanal pizza" shop planned by a once and future Durhamite, and a brick-and-mortar location for a formerly itinerant cupcake business.
The former, a business set to launch as All City Pizza, marks a homecoming for Gray Brooks, who'll debut the restaurant with wife and fellow foodie-vet Cara Stacy. Brooks is a Durham native who's worked for about thirteen years in the Pacific Northwest as a chef for Seattle serial restaurateur and James Beard Award winner Tom Douglas, most recently as the executive chef for Douglas' pizza concept restaurant, Serious Pie.
Serious Pie earns rave reviews from everyone from the mainstream media to social media food sites like Yelp to (I'm not making this up) national pizza blogs. (And given that Douglas appears to have the hype-machine bug in the PNW just like a certain guy whose name rhymes with tax-i-shaw does around here, that's refreshing to see.)
Brooks promises to align his pizza business with -- what else? -- the "farm-to-table culture of Durham." The 2,300 sq. ft. space will have visibility on both Morris and Chapel Hill Sts.
Meanwhile, the project is also promising a new bakery in downtown, this one focused on the apparent craze for cupcakes. "The Cupcake Bar" is the brainchild of Anna Branly and her sister, Katie Braam.
Branly's name will be familiar to many as a staff member at Greenfire Development during their early growth days, and from her husband Mark's work as the owner of web development firm Neural 9.
But since 2008, Branly and Braam have sold their treats by the dozen, and purveyed individual cupcakes via local coffee-shops, though they have never tried a retail storefront before. According to Harmon:
The Cupcake Bar will sit at the corner of the Five Points building, its entrance under today's clock tower -- which, as the photo above shows, is still slated to become a neon sign if Harmon's team gets its way.
The project also has space purchase commitments from David Scarborough -- founder of downtown tech companies NetFriends and SciMed, and from Harmon and David Arneson's own firm, Center Studio Architecture.
Two first-floor retail spaces and a 2,300 sq. ft. second-floor office space remain for lease. Self-Help and KeySource Bank are supporting project funding via an SBA 504 loan structure.