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Durham Station groundbreaking set for Friday; City shops part of site to developers

Last time we talked about Durham Station -- the long-funded, long-delayed replacement for the abysmal public transit station on the downtown loop -- the city was set to perform some early site work on the replacement site at the corner of Chapel Hill & Pettigrew, one-time home to the old Heart of Durham hotel.

The plan was, complete the grading and environmental discovery activities along with letting the structural steel contracts for bidding in order to make sure that this project (which has already seen its cost balloon several times) could be completed with funds available.

Well, the results so far have been very good and the Council approved moving forward with the construction manager at risk contract for the remainder of the project, so the big groundbreaking is now set for 10 am tomorrow at the construction site (317 W. Pettigrew St.).

The Durham Station is intended to provide a single site to accommodate DATA, TTA, Greyhound, and private taxi services; it's funded by $12.5 million in Federal/state grants and $5.2 million in 1996 general obligation bonds. (Did I mention this project was long-delayed?)

Still, there's a $1.2 million shortfall in the project funding that's led to an intriguing piece to the whole project: the City's plan to sell off one-third of the Durham Station site to a developer who'd be willing to build a small mixed-use development on the site. From the City's press release:

In addition to the Durham Station’s contribution to the redevelopment of downtown Durham, developers interested in purchasing and developing a parcel of land adjacent to the Durham Station site can now submit a Request for Proposal (RFP) to the City’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD). The purpose of this RFP is to facilitate private development near the Durham Station to include ground-level retail, office and residential space. For more information about this opportunity, developers should contact Joy Mickle, downtown development coordinator with the City’s OEWD, at (919) 560-4965, extension 227 or via e-mail at joy.mickle@durhamnc.gov.

Originally, it turns out, the City was planning to build retail spaces into the Durham Station to be leased to private companies to operate storefront businesses, a common site in many cities' transit stations. In the case of the Durham Station, rising construction costs made this a less attractive option, since it requires the City to front the cost of building a larger station to accommodate later retail lease revenue.

So instead, the City's looking to sell off a chunk of the station land for an estimated $900,000, according to the memo submitted to Council back in October. (The remaining $300,000 for the Station comes from Capitol Broadcasting's fixed-price purchase of the rest of the old DATA facility that had been located by the performing arts center/new ballpark.)

Will developers be interested in this site? You bet they will. An unconfirmed rumor circulating in the downtown development community a couple of months ago claimed Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse, Capitol Broadcasting's partner on the current phase of American Tobacco, was supposedly interested in some design changes to the Durham Station to accommodate neighboring private development. We wouldn't be shocked to see SBER at the front of the line to bid on this parcel through the City.

After all, American Tobacco -- still ground zero for the most successful downtown redevelopment to date, and to which adjacency is still highly desirable -- is expanding now to its eastern terminus already of Mangum Street; to the west, University Ford seems likely to hold out on their land as long as they can to get the best price, and Greenfire's acquiring property to the northwest side in the form of Legacy Tower. Meanwhile, DB Durham LLC, which appears to be a holding company tied to the mortgage company that loaned Frank Wittenberg the funds for the seemingly-aborted Duke Studio Condos project, still holds the old Crown Plaza hotel on Willard.

Meaning that this little $900,000 piece of land is one of the last likely targets for redevelopment over the next few years, and is immediately adjacent to both American Tobacco and Five Points to boot. We'll keep an eye on this over the coming months.

One item unaccounted for in the City's financial projections, of course, is the presumed eventual sale of the DATA bus station at the Downtown Loop. One could only imagine that West Village would be the most natural bidder, since it gives them eastern expansion opportunities on what is today a parking lot. No estimate yet on how much cash the City expects this one to fetch.

Comments

orulz

Any idea what part of the site is being offered for development? The PDF says that the plan leaves 1/3 of the site vacant after construction (construction staging area perhaps). I would guess this is the part right next to the AmTob parking deck along Pettigrew. But I'm not sure.

Matt

Having been on the Durham city buses a little more often as of late, it'd be nice if there were also some distributed transfer stations outside of downtown.

What about Amtrak? Will they remain across the street in the Amshack?

Michael Bacon

Amtrak had the chance to be part of the multi-modal station, but backed out. Then, they were going to be on the other side of the tracks as part of West Village II, but the state cut the budget for the station.

Right now, it's looking like they're going to add a trailer to the AmShack.

The whole thing is absurd.

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