BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for February 4, 2009
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Downtown's Kia dealership moves -- but not far enough

During downtown's bad old days, the availability of cheap vacant land that resulted from the bad old days of "urban renewal" made Durham's center city a great choice for that terrible use of urban land, the car dealership.

Johnson-badger And ultimately, downtown's auto dealers hold some of the most valuable land remaining in the Bull City.

Hey, we've got nothing wrong with car dealerships. They work great on 15-501 or somewhere like the Southpoint Auto Mall. But downtowns need density, not Dodges.

Scientific Properties managed to snag the Johnson Automotive parcel on Jackie Robinson next to American Tobacco, and has it planned as the future site of their Van Alen skyscraper project -- its name itself a reference to the architect of the Chrysler Building in NYC.

Yet Rick Hendrick Chevrolet still sells the occasional Chevrolet from their 1990s-vintage dealership near Johnson.

And now (via the N&O) comes news that University Ford, the third member of the Downtown Three, is actually adding to its stable of auto brands, and growing, not shrinking, its presence right next to American Tobacco.

It's actually a matter of some interest to downtown watchers. The Goodmons, in fact, have been quoted in the local press as saying that not gaining airtight site control over University Ford before the Ambacco project got under way was perhaps the biggest mistake made in their downtown redevelopment effort, since after the eventual build-out of Diamond View III and residential units near the DPAC, Capitol Broadcasting has nowhere to go but westward.

So along comes news in today's N&O that Johnson Kia's been sold off, a sign that Johnson Automotive continues to mosey along out of its downtown digs.

The buyer? Tony Fisher -- of University Ford, who's planning to rechristen the shop University Kia and co-locate it with, you guessed it, University Ford downtown.

While we here at BCR never wish ill on the local economy, the current economic travails in the auto industry couldn't help but leave us wishing that perhaps downtown's Ford dealership might, you know, pick up and move to another home.

Like Fisher's University GM Superstore down on 15-501, a facility vacant after he sold off that franchise to Rick Hendrick last year for consolidation with Hendrick's own GM dealership.

But with the Kia dealership sticking around downtown, one has to surmise that University's hold on an important corner of town isn't going anywhere quickly.


James Martin

I'd agree with you, except I own a Kia and the location of that particular dealership is a huge boon to me. And in this economy, how soon is anything likely to be developed on that land anyway?

Michael Bacon

I still think it will move eventually. My guess is in the economic downturn, University ended up with additional space on the lot and in the repair shop. Relocating I'm sure has a lot of capital expense built in that they don't particularly want to eat right now.

University's property taxes surely went up significantly in the latest revaluation. I'm sure it'll get pushed eventually.

Ben Greene

I agree with the posters above, and I think it's always import to support all local businesses, even those we don't necessarily see in our long-term vision of the area.

The reality is always that businesses are where they are because they serve a need, and businesses are built on adjusting as needs change. This goes as much for University Ford as it does for the bail bondsmen and lawyers that make up the somewhat less-appealing storefronts around the courthouse. Even as we work towards our ideal downtown Durham, we must not forget the people whose lives and livelihood are embodied in the establishments that we view as undesirable.

I for one and pleased to see the Kia dealership be bought out rather than fold, and I hope some of the Kia employees will be able to find jobs at University downtown.


Having recently bought a Kia, its nice that its there, but i havent ever been in the habit of using a dealership regularly.

having said that, I just recently had to order some warranty parts, and the Johnson Kia just flatly told me that their warranty parts guy up and left just after christmas, and that I should try the new Kia on 70.

well i did, and its lovely and sprawling and woefully understaffed. parts and service can only be done on weekdays. come to find out they only just opened, and the service guy is none other than the guy that bolted from Johnson Kia. LOL

it was one of those interesting and gossipy conversations about the downfall of an empire and a Badger...LOL


I would definitely rather see an in-business car dealership there than an empty lot. I don't see that parcel going condo anytime soon. (Eventually, sure, but not this year.)


I brought a Ford from University; The sales team is awesome, but the service side is horrible, Kia drivers will have fun dealing with the A**holes at the service center. The service manager brags he does 6k cars a month, but that means long waits and frustrations. they do have an awesome array of magazines, so you can catch up on your periodicals, no wifi so you can't check your favorite blog: BCR.

But to the credit of this dealership, it is tucked away, and there's not huge signage overlooking the Durham skyline.

Andrew Edmonds

Looks like Mr. Fisher made a tidy little profit playing the waiting game against the Goodmons...


Sold: Land beside Durham's American Tobacco Campus fetches $29M

Amanda Hoyle
Staff Writer
Triangle Business Journal
Oct 17, 2016, 2:57pm

With construction mostly finished on what’s left of the land inside the historic American Tobacco Campus (ATC) in downtown Durham, the owners at Capitol Broadcasting Corp. (CBC) have doubled down and bought the soon-to-be vacated auto dealership lot next door on Willard Street.

What was surprising about the land sale, however, was the $28.8 million price that was paid for the 11.2-acre property, which was about triple the value that the county had assessed for property tax purposes.

Durham County records show the land and buildings at 601 Willard St. for the University Ford Kia auto dealership was valued at $9.5 million for the 2016 property reappraisal.

A deed filed Oct. 7 shows that 601 Willard Street Acquisition LLC, a corporation that has the same address as CBC on Western Boulevard in Raleigh, bought the land for $28.8 million from University Properties of NC LLC of Winston-Salem, which has been leasing the land to the ownership of the University Ford Kia auto dealership. The property is on the west side of ATC and the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.

University Ford Kia owner Tony Fisher confirmed the property sale and says the dealership will be leasing the land from CBC for at least the next 12 to 18 months. That's about how long he estimates it will take to finalize the permitting and construction of a new dealership location planned on U.S. 15-501 in south Durham.

Michael Goodmon, vice president of real estate at CBC, was not immediately available for comment. A CBC spokesman says the company plans to develop its plans for the land while the dealership builds and moves to its new location.

In Durham, the real estate division of CBC has overseen the development, leasing and management of nine historic ATC buildings and construction of three new Diamond View office buildings between 1998 and 2013. The property is also the site of the Durham Performing Arts Center, the Aloft hotel and the Durham Bulls Athletic Park where the Durham Bulls minor league team is based.

CBC is the owner of the Durham Bulls, as well as WRAL-TV, Fox 50 and WILM-TV television stations, the WRAL-FM Mix 101.5 radio station, and a series of digital media and satellite data companies.

Occupancy of the more than 1 million square feet of office space at ATC and the Diamond View buildings was at about 99 percent as of third quarter 2016.

In May and July 2015, two other former auto dealership lots on the east side of the Durham Bulls Athletic Park sold for considerably less. Charlotte developer Northwood Ravin paid $11.7 million, or $1.9 million per acre, for the 6.1-acre Van Alen property, formerly the Elkins Chrysler auto dealership lot. The property is the site of the proposed 555 Mangum project that will have a mix of office, retail and apartment units.

Less than two months after the Van Alen piece sold, another Charlotte developer, CitiSculpt, paid $5 million, or $413,223 per acre, for the 12.1-acre former Hendrick Durham Automall. That site is currently under construction as multifamily housing with future office development planned.

Each of the properties, including ATC, front the N.C. 147 Durham Freeway and are a key gateway into downtown Durham.

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