Photo courtesy of Durham County
As recently as two years ago, tumbleweed could have rolled down West Chapel Hill Street. Among the several empty storefronts and bleak parking lots, there was an odd, but endearing jumble of businesses, where you could drop your kid off at day care, get your windows tinted, have your leaky tire inflated or your transmission fixed, then grab a bag of chips at the convenience store. West Chapel Hill Street also represented Durham’s religious diversity. The Tabernacle of Joy, Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, and the Ar-Razzaq Islamic Center shared a three-block stretch of the neighborhood known as the West End.
Then, the city center began its renaissance and several homegrown businesses settled on the downtown’s western frontier in search of cheaper space or land: the Cookery, a Middle Eastern grocery, Taiba Market — and a year ago, Kent Corner, which includes the Durham Co-op and the Center for Child & Family Health.
Now Wendy Woods, co-owner of Nosh and Pipers in the Park — and a resident of the adjacent Burch Avenue neighborhood — plans to renovate and expand a former gas station at 1200 W. Chapel Hill St. for a new restaurant. The building sits diagonally from Kent Corner. A church held services there from 2004-2013, but the 1,288-square-foot building has been vacant since.
Woods’ company, Habitable Space, which has owned the building since 2015, is requesting a $170,000 city Neighborhood Improvement Grant to help fund the project. (Update: A City memo from April 19 has countered with an amount of $100,000 Download 11088_MEMO_HABITABLE_SPACE_LLC_387974_692589.) Woods said Friday that she is still working out some details, and thus couldn’t go into the finer points about the new venture. However, documents filed with city show that in addition to a total gutting and renovation of the building, a 300-square-foot second level would be added for a green roof or garden system. The restaurant would include indoor dining and an outside patio. Download Habitable Space
A Pure gas station was built on this quarter-acre in 1956, but closed in the 1990s. Because of its history, the property was designated as a brownfield by the state Department of Environmental Quality. However, a previous owner removed the underground storage tanks and removed any contaminated soil. DEQ didn’t require any further action, clearing the way for the property to be revived. Download 1200 W. Chapel Hill Brownfields
The restaurant, as yet unnamed in the documents, would “serve reasonably priced, quality food so that neighbors from Burch Avenue, the West End and other neighborhoods” could afford it. It would create 23 full-time jobs that pay $13 to $20 an hour.
The total cost of the project is estimated at $822,000.
The City Council could discuss Woods’ request within the next month.