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April 22, 2011



never have i seen a more beautiful building needing 2 million in improvements.
for me, a keystone in downtown. don't know about the need for elevators, but
the visual impact and unique provision of an exterior fire escape and wrought iron balcony would make a lasting statement.


Any comments from the BOCC or Mr. Ruffin about the merits of historic preservation should be taken with a huge grain of salt.

This building in in such sorry condition primarily because Durham County essentially abandoned it in the early '90s and didn't bother to put in on the market until 2007.

Will Elliott

I'm not advocating another burger-centric restuarant in Durham but I was in NYC a few weeks ago and had dinner at Five Napkins. The entire time I was there I kept thinking how perfect the space would be for downtown Durham. The walls were subway tiles and the ceiling had this antique railing and hooks with exposed light bulbs that reminded of a butcher shop. I'm not doing it justice but I just remember thinking if I were going to open something in Durham it would be something like this. Looks like it would be a good fit for 300 East Main.


Bummer. Downtown really needs affordable living space. I don't see long term viability to downtown retail sector without people who actually live there. Aside from a Friday or Saturday night downtown is a ghost town after 9pm. Go to downtown Raleigh and you will see a marked difference in the number of pedestrians on the street.

John Martin

@Patrick If by "affordable living space" downtown, you mean literally on top of the Main St. restaurants, then, yes, the downtown living space is very expensive. But both the Cleveland-Holloway and Golden Belt neighborhoods have plenty of cool, affordable, downtown housing. Come see for yourself. The Golden Belt Neighborhood Association is sponsoring a home tour, Sunday, May 1, from 1-5 p.m. Advance tickets are available at the Regulator Book Shop, Labour Love Gallery, and Bikram Yoga Durham. More information is available here:

matt dudek

@Patrick:There are also lots of condos planned to go online in Central Park. And I think Greenfire also has more condos planned.


Lets get a Korean restaurant downtown.

Steve Graff

And good Chinese, Indian and Thai while were at it.

Paul Dudenhefer

Nice article, Matthew. Thanks so much.


If you're interested in the history of this property, here is the relevant Endangered Durham post:

Matthew E. Milliken

Hi, folks, thanks a ton for reading! I've got responses to some of your comments:

* Toby, thank you for sharing that link. I unsuccessfully searched Endangered Durham for a page about 300 E. Main St. Unfortunately, I didn't realize that the structure used to be called the eligibility building! It's very interesting to see how the first floor windows and also entrance ways have changed over the years.

* Paul, thanks so much for your compliment!

* Steve, I agree that central Durham lacks a good Chinese, Indian or Thai restaurant.

* John, you're right that there are some affordable center-city living options if you're willing to look a little bit beyond the Loop and American Tobacco. I suspect that over the next 5-15 years, Golden Belt and East Durham and some other areas of the city will enjoy a tremendous renaissance.

* Patrick, that's an interesting point, and you could be right. Remember that the city government has been working for years (with, shall we say, very limited success) to rehabilitate the Southside/Rolling Hills neighborhoods. That's a short walk to DBAP and American Tobacco, and not that much farther from downtown.

* Matt, I believe you're right about both of your points. And remember that more residential units are scheduled to go into the Chesterfield Building and the Erwin Square area off of Ninth Street. While certainly not all of those apartments will be affordable, it looks as if in a few years there will be significantly more opportunities to live close to the heart of the city than there are now.


@Matt -

No problem. I find the Endangered Durham map to be very useful in finding things there:

Unfortunately, Gary has apparently not had time to keep the map updated with every post on ED. Maybe that'll be something we can contribute to on the new open-source ED!


@clif Pretty sure there may be some ADA requirements for an elevator.

John Davis

The City should not spend a $ of taxpayer money on this building. IF they have no need for the propery auction it off to the highest bidder.

John Smith

Retail? On Main St.? Seriously?

As a prominent Triangle retailer, I can definitely say that downtown Durham is the worst possible location for retail. There's no way any kind of retail will work in downtown Durham for quite a while... at least until some people begin to live in or around downtown Durham with any kind of disposable income.

Trying to reinvent Durham into a copy of Chapel Hill, Carrboro, or even the new downtown Raleigh is just tilting at windmills. The demographics are just not there for any kind of retail other than bodegas in the populated (poor) areas of town.

Even with rock bottom rent, retailers are not pounding down the doors to get in downtown Durham. If anything, we're seeing a continued exodus from Durham by retailers, as evidenced most recently by The Bicycle Chain moving out most recently.


golly, i wish i was a prominent Triangle retailer.


@John Smith: honestly, you're a "prominent Triangle retailer"? If you really are and you believe even half of what your comment said, then you're horribly misinformed about the market in Durham. There is plenty of disposable income to be found in the downtown and near-downtown neighborhoods, and The Bicycle Chain's recent move had nothing to do with a lack of business. You might want to do some research before posting on here, since the readers of this blog will call you out on statements that just can't be backed up by facts.

Bull City Rising

I know I shouldn't engage in the game, but to Lee's point, I can't resist pointing out a couple of facts to our inimitable prominent Triangle retailer.

If it is indeed the case the downtown Durham is a terrible market for retailer, and taking the original poster' assertion of the Ninth St. area as part of downtown, which I don't disagree with in spirit:

- Bicycle Chain didn't leave voluntarily but was pushed out by Whole Foods' expansion into more of the building. If the market for retail is bad and limited to bodegas, why is one of the nation's priciest groceries expanding in situ?

- Similarly, why is Harris Teeter likely to abandon a just-north of I-85 location (Loehmann's Plaza) next to the Croasdaile development to open a store off Ninth St. instead?

- And, if downtown's so terrible for retail and the like, why are there dozens of sit-down restaurants in the area, while North Durham has far fewer outside of fast-food north of Carver?

Inquiring minds and all that....

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