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Hotel projects continue to pop up in central Durham

The market for commercial and residential real estate development is generally lousy nationwide right now. Still, somehow, there's significant continued interest in hotel development around the Bull City's core.

Of course, that shouldn't necessarily be surprising, given that downtown is relatively underserved by hotels. Downtown Durham features just the Marriott, while the I-85 corridor has a Hilton and three chain hotels (Holiday Inn Express, Courtyard by Marriott, and Comfort Inn) along with a number of less pricey options. Add in the Old North Durham, Morehead Manor, and Blooming Garden Inn B&Bs and you've got the most popular overnight options for Durham in a nutshell.

Given the drawing power of Duke and the growing interest in downtown -- not to mention this little performing arts center on the verge of opening -- a concomitant growth in lodging projects shouldn't be much of surprise. Here's updates (of what we know, at least) on four such Bull City projects in the works.

First off, and one we've covered in some depth here before, is the Kings Daughters Inn B&B, set to open at the corner of Gloria and Buchanan in southwest Trinity Park in 2009. Owners Colin and Deanna Crossman are mere inches and days away from closing on the historic old-age home and Durham institution; interior demolition and abatement work are set to begin on July 1, so expect to see work crews getting active there very soon.

The dormitory-style accomodations will be converted to slightly more spacious rooms, including many two-room suites. The Crossmans hope to have the property open in time for next spring's college graduation season.

Just to the south of the KDI sits the McPherson Hospital project, a Concord Hospitality effort set to become another Courtyard by Marriott through a mix of renovation to the old structure and new construction. Concord has been quiet on the project in recent weeks, though construction fencing is up on the lot and crews were on-site today. As noted in The Durham News recently, Concord's been under the gun to kick-off construction so as to not allow the two-year window on their site plan approval to run out. We'll bring more updates on this project as we have them.

Another chain eyeing a space a little further west on W. Main St. is Hilton Garden Inn, slated to be developed along the street between the Wachovia tower and the old Erwin Mills. A stumbling block for the project -- which has been under discussion with the Watts-Hillandale and Old West Durham neighborhoods for some time -- has been the height of the structure. The zoning for the site under the Unified Development Ordinance was originally limited to 50 feet, below the height needed for what was originally conceived of as a 7-story hotel.

The developers, OWDNA and WHHNA reached a compromise on the project, though, as W-H uber-zoning-guy Tom Miller noted in his report to the neighborhood:


At its June 16 meeting, the city council approved a change to the zoning code that would allow hotel uses in the light industrial (IL) zone at Erwin Square to go as high as 80 ft. by right and to 95 ft. with a special use permit from the board of adjustment. The amendment will also allow office uses in the IL zone to go as high as 60 ft. by right and to 75 ft. with a special use permit.

The neighborhood association board supported the change, which will make way for the new Hilton Garden hotel proposed for the Main Street end of the grassy field at Erwin Square. The neighborhood association had strongly opposed an earlier version of the amendment that would have raised the height limit from 50 ft. to 110 ft. by right and 145 ft. with a special use permit for all uses in the IL zone at Erwin Square.

Think that's all there is to report on chain hoteliers in the Bull City? Not so fast! Durham's faithful friends at Northgate are still working to turn shopping "inside out" (the original Pennsylvania Turnpike was built faster than the mall's outdoor plaza renovation -- no joke), but have also turned their attention to the mall-controlled parcel between Duke and Gregson just north of Club Blvd.

The proposal? A five-to-six story Hampton Inn just north of Tripps, on the parcel sloping down towards I-85. According to the minutes from the May 2008 Trinity Park Neighborhood Association meeting, Northgate's Ginny Bowman and developer Daly Seven -- a Danville, Va. company that also operates the Guess Rd. Holiday Inn Express -- intend to pursue the rezoning needed to change the Duke St. portion of the site from residential to a land use classification more suited to a lodging purpose.

The TPNA agreed in May to form a subcommittee chaired by a northern TP resident to work with the developer team and bring thoughts and concerns back to TPNA's Urban Planning Committee and the association board. There's no timetable at this point for the project.



As a volunteer and attendee of Full Frame all of these locations would really help the Festival. One of the biggest complaints we get from Film Makers and Festival goers is the lack of Hotel options in Durham.

Joshua Allen

Also, don't forget about the hotel going into CCB/Suntrust/Hill building. I assume that's still on too. I just hope the design of these new hotels are fitting for urban neighborhoods and don't look like the chain's motels along the interstate.


I just cannot picture a Hilton Garden Inn on that site; in fact it makes me very sad. I lived in the Erwin lofts (fronting 9th street) for a year in undergrad and I now live in Station 9 (what can I say, Duke converted me into a Durhamite). That field is one of the nicest parts of this strip and one of the reasons I live where I live. With the giant Duke gravel parking lot across the way (personally I think it's an eyesore, but I understand that nurses need to park somewhere or else we wouldn't have a hospital) and the future looking like lots more asphalt, it's kind of depressing. Kind of like pre-Southpoint (trees, trees, and more trees in that whole stretch, look at it today). I'm not saying I don't agree that Durham needs more hotels/motels/places to stay, I just wish that the field wasn't one of them (and yes, I know, this is very much a "but not in my backyard" type rant, but so be it). If they're planning on a 7 story hotel, won't that mean they need *parking* for those people? So are they building a 7-story parking garage as well?

And what about construction? Yikes, those Erwin lofts have huge rows of windows that face that field. . .luckily for me, it's back to Cambridge for grad school in a few weeks but I think I'm going to be depressed by what I see in a few years in the site.

John Schelp

Thanks for your post, ela.

Keep in mind that the choice is not between the grassy field and a Hilton. It's more like a choice between a strip shopping center and a Hilton.

Rent in the Erwin Square building was the highest per-square foot rent in the Triangle. Higher than North Raleigh, higher than Cary, higher than RTP (N&O article from several years ago).

The land is going to be developed; the question is how.

The neighborhood association prefers a hotel to a shopping strip. (The neighborhood association also preferred the Station 9 apartments to a shopping strip.) :)

We feel the impact of a hotel will be less than a shopping center -- and we believe the hotel will support Ninth Street businesses. And, yes, we've asked for beaucoup shade trees.

For the earlier comment about how the hotel will look... yes, how the hotel will look and how it will fit into the area is critical. For one thing, Hilton has agreed to place the hotel close to West Main Street (not out in the middle of a parking lot).

We've also been working hard to create a 4.2 acre urban oasis at the South Ellerbe Creek green-space, just north of the Duke parking lot you mention. (FYI, Duke leases 688 parking spaces between Greystone Baptist and Blu Seafood. The admin promised to reduce the off-campus parking burden in that area and, instead, added another large parking lot at Hillsborough & LaSalle.)

Thought you'd enjoy these photographs and maps of the green-space we're trying to protect. An email of support, even from Cambridge, would be most appreciated...

Finally, here's our history of Erwin Mills (where you lived as a Dukie)...

have a safe trip,



I'm familiar with your work, so to speak (I'll email you to explain who I am, but I've talked with you before). If the choice is between strip mall and hotel, I see why the hotel seems like a better choice for the neighborhood, both in the long term and in terms of stimulating 9th Street. I love Durham and particularly OWD and will be sad to go. In addition to living in the converted Erwin lofts (I'm familiar with their history - so it was really cool to be able to imagine what went on where I slept!) and now Station 9, I have also lived in the 1000th block of Clarendon (a neighborhood that seemed to be in Walltown, Old West Durham, and Trinity "Heights" all at once, depending who you asked!). And no, I'm not some migrant or something, but I've lived in Durham for over 6 years now so I guess I've moved around a bit.

In any event, the neighborhood is so lucky to have you!


Meanwhile, the Marriott downtown is in the midst of significant turnover of management staff:

Since mid-May, they have lost:
General Manager
HR Manager
Restaurant Manager
Convention Services Manager
Revenue Manager
Front Desk Manager

Makes you wonder what's going on, and how the Civic Center is doing these days with all the apparent turmoil at the attached Marriott...

Myers Sugg

Anybody got any ideas of what will become of & what happened to the Duke Studio/Ramada Inn/Best Western, whatever beside the Ford dealership near ATC? I know it was somehow affiliated with business tycoon Wittenberg, but it seems the well is dry or something. Oh how it would be great to see it and Ford disappear, and something attractive go there....wishful thinking.....



Any idea if there are plans for developing the property across Hillsborough Road from the proposed Hilton Garden Inn? If I am not mistaken there are about 7 acres between Hillsborough and Greens streets that are owned by the same folks that are proposing the hotel.

John Schelp

Thanks for your note, Shelley, and for your interest.

The Hilton Garden Inn is proposed for the West Main Street end of the parcel (closer to the RR tracks). You're right that the same folks own the land to the north of the hotel -- all the way to Green Street.

The Friends of South Ellerbe Creek, E.K. Powe PTA, the Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association, Ninth Street merchants group, the Neuse River Foundation, the Old West Durham Neighborhood Association (and other neighborhoods like Watts-Hillandale and Trinity Park), Club Boulevard Elementary, the Eno River Association and others have supported a 4.2 acre green space in the area between Hillsborough Rd and EK Powe Elementary (ie. along Green Street -- roughly between Ninth and Carolina).

South Ellerbe Creek is a tributary of the Neuse River. To help protect the stream, the green space will remain as a natural area. The roots, branches and twigs that hang over the creek, and grow in its surrounding areas, fall into the creek and provide a habitat for life in the creek and farther down river. Eventually, there are plans for a short nature trail and small footbridge (replacing the existing footbridge) that would connect nearby residential areas with Ninth Street and public transportation. Preserving the site as a natural area will help protect the creek and could serve as a model for other neglected urban streams in the Triangle. For this reason, the Neuse River Foundation supported our efforts to protect this stretch of South Ellerbe.

The three benefits to Durham are:

Community: the green space would serve as the quiet heart of a neighborhood that has lost two parks to road construction. Many organizations, far beyond the Ninth Street area, have written letters of support for the open space. A green space here might also help attract customers to the Ninth Street shopping district.

Schools: generations of E.K. Powe students have used the green space next door as an outdoor biology classroom. Preserving this open space is an opportunity to ensure that future students benefit from their lessons along the creek, adjoining wetlands and other natural areas. The stretch of South Ellerbe along Green Street offers a variety of flora and fauna including: wild rose bushes, blackberry bushes, wild pear trees, cat tails, thrush grasses and other wetland plants, large bull frogs, rabbits, and raccoons. Several varieties of birds also live near the green space -- including a nesting pair of red tail hawks, several other hawks, male indigo buntings, rufous-sided towhees, purple finches, and several types of woodpeckers.

Environment: with its 303D status, the Ellerbe Creek watershed is listed as Durham's most polluted stream system. Protecting the natural areas along this section of South Ellerbe Creek would reflect the Durham City Council's earlier decision to hold "protecting natural areas" as one of its top priorities. Science teachers at EK Powe were especially excited to see an intact wetlands area just to the south of the creek -- near the school. Thanks to the Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association, this green space is now an important component of the local Watershed Plan for the Ellerbe basin.

Click here for more information, photographs and maps...

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