So it's not a master plan -- not yet, at least. But Greenfire Development is starting to pull the curtains back in dribs and drabs on their plans for their downtown Durham properties.
First on the list: Legacy Tower, the new name NC Mutual Life's eponymous building near American Tobacco on West Chapel Hill Blvd. Interestingly, Greenfire's flyer on the property lists 23,000 sq. ft. (most of the 7th and 8th floors, it seems) as being available effective April 1, though according to Jack Hagel's piece on the sale in the N&O back in December, there was only 3% vacancy out of 220,000 sq. ft. in the whole complex at that time. Greenfire is asking $18.50 before tenant improvement for the space and is hyping the views of the Durham area from the tower.
A big plus to new ownership is the opportunity for renovations. The NC Mutual Life building has often suffered from the architectural errors of its era, presenting a foreboding concrete edifice with a very formal 1960s-era lobby to match that doesn't look particularly welcoming or friendly. Besides the challenges this presents to the space in and of itself, it's a contributing factor in the "pedestrian wasteland" that exists between the vibrant American Tobacco and West Village/Brightleaf districts. One literally never sees anyone outside the NC Mutual Life building, day or night -- all the activity is contained seemingly within the tower and its small parking deck.
Enter Greenfire, and its plan to add more landscaping, seating, and pedestrian features to the rechristened Legacy Tower. Part of the plan involves adding a pedestrian walkway connection between the building's small parking deck and its plaza/fountain area, which fronts the east side of the plaza facing Willard. Currently, tenants exit the garage and walk in a sidewalk "moat" to the building's stairs to ascend up to the plaza; the planned bridge between the two structures, though a seemingly small element, should help to "open up" the tower plaza, which currently has the windswept, barren, uninviting feeling of so many open concrete/brick plazas of the 1960s.
Once visitors and tenants cross the 'bridge,' they'll find additional outdoor seating to the building's plaza, as shown at left. (Note the bridge connecting the plaza to the parking structure at the left side of this rendering.) If the concept works, this will hopefully provide an effective way to bring more office workers out of the building and down to the plaza on nice days, both making the Legacy Tower a more inviting place to work and helping to minimize the tower's contribution to this Durham "dead spot."
The window display in Greenfire's offices on the first floor of the Kress building downtown shows more renderings of the proposed changes (as does this PDF from the Greenfire web site), along with swatches of fabrics, carpets and other materials selected for use during the building's renovation. The lobby, which is currently an imposing all-marble facility with zero seating, is also slated for some minor improvements and new furnishings.