Places in Peril 2011

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[toggle title=”500-600 Block of Holloway Street”]

Dating from the 1880s to the 1910s, this neighborhood has some of the best examples of Victorian architecture in Durham. Unfortunately, like much of downtown, the area fell into decline in the 1960s. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984 and became Durham’s first local historic district in 1987. While the streets immediately to the north have seen a resurgence of owner-occupants and significant re-investment, vacancies continue to plague this historic corridor.

What’s Needed: Several homes in the 500 block have sold recently and Preservation Durham would like to see the remaining vacant homes on these blocks revitalized and occupied as single-family homes. Infill construction that is complimentary to the neighborhood’s unique scale and architectural detail would benefit the neighborhood, along with extension of downtown streetscaping.

UPDATE: While the 500 block of Holloway continues to see investment and revitalization – such that we might venture to call it “saved,” the 600 block has not been so lucky. In early 2011, Preservation North Carolina secured an option on the yellow frame house and the adjacent brick commercial building (611 and 613 Holloway) seen in the image above, but the level of rehab required to save these buildings has thus far proved cost prohibitive for anyone to take them on. In addition, the rear elevation of 613 collapsed in the wake of the August 2011 earthquake. Neighborhood Improvement Services is keeping a watchful eye on these properties, so, despite successes on the 500 block, this remains a place in peril.


[toggle title=”Eligibility Building”]

Main Street at Roxboro Street

Designed by Milburn & Heister as a Freemasons Lodge in 1924, the building was acquired by Durham County during the Great Depression. It has been vacant since 1992, and deterioration of the roof has resulted in significant water damage, especially to the top floor. The Eligibility Building and the vacant site to its east were purchased in 2007 but the status of any renovation project remains uncertain.

What’s Needed: Preservation Durham supports the redevelopment of the building and infill development on the adjoining lot. Ideally, the development would encourage uses that re-engage the street level and re-open the once gracious storefronts. Until a full renovation can be completed, the building should be secured and stabilized, starting with repairs to the roof and building envelope to prevent further deterioration. Preservation Durham also offers our assistance in identifying funding sources such as state and federal grants and tax credit programs that might help kick start the project.

UPDATE: As of late 2011, the owner and developer had secured an agreement with The Image Collections to occupy much of the building, converting it to Durham’s newest event space called 300 East Main. It was slated to open in Spring of 2012, but this date has been pushed back to late Summer. The proposed design is meant to compliment the historic features and presence of the building while also infusing it with the hip, big-city presence that inspired its use as an event space.


[toggle title=”Downtown Mid-Century Modern”]

Chapel Hill Street Corridor

Durham’s best examples of Mid-Century Modern commercial design include the 1963 Jack Tar Motel, the 1968 Mutual Community Savings Bank, the 1960 Holiday Inn, and the 1966 North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company. Once seen as ‘futuristic’, many people now see these buildings as dated. However, they remain valuable pieces of the Bull City revitalization puzzle.

What’s Needed: The Mutual Community Savings Bank and the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Building remain in use as office space, with future plans for the Mutual Community Savings Bank to include a ground-floor restaurant or design firm. We hope that these buildings can be a stronghold for citizens to embrace the recent past. The Holiday Inn and Jack Tar Motels have fallen into disrepair as hotels, but they have great potential as office space or affordable studio and artist space. Overall, Preservation Durham will work to broaden public perceptions of ‘historic’ buildings to include these mid-century structures. The Modern buildings along the Chapel Hill Street corridor represent a distinct period in Durham’s history. While each was built on the site of a building that we now mourn, we must be careful to not make the same mistake again.

UPDATE: In March of 2012, APAC met with developer Roger Perry to hear his plans for a major mixed-use development on the site of the Jack Tar Hotel and the adjoining property – including the dilapidated public parking garage. Preservation Durham subsequently sent a letter urging him to ask his architect, Elkus Manfredi Architects, to endeavor to find a creative way to incorporate the Mid-Century Modern hotel into his plans, but no reply has been received to date.


[toggle title=”Northwood Apartments”]

North and Geer Streets

These two-story brick buildings are Durham’s only representative example of post-war superblock apartments, excellent examples of a Mid-Century building boom typified by Levittown-style planned developments. The new owner of 13 of the 17 apartment buildings has boarded up the empty properties and made necessary structural repairs and put them back on the market.

What’s Needed: Preservation Durham supports the rehabilitation of the buildings as residences. Pursuing National Register status for the group of buildings, which is near the burgeoning Central Park area, would allow the use of historic tax credits to finance their rehabilitation. Further, to alleviate the stark look of the property, streetscaping, landscaping, and improvements to the inner courtyards would benefit the superblock as a whole.

UPDATE: In April of 2012, Preservation Durham met with developer Rob Moser to hear his plans for redevelopment of these mostly-vacant apartments. From a preservation perspective, some aspects of the plan are less-than-desirable (including the addition of front porches and the replacement of the historic windows), but, overall, the project will preserve the campus component and will revive these long underutilized buildings.


[toggle title=”South Gregson Street Corridor”]

South Gregson Street

The South Gregson Street corridor between the railroad overpass and West Chapel Hill Street is a vastly underutilized resource. The most prominent building here is this mid 1950’s, low-slung modern commercial building with distinctive cantilevered canopies. The Medical Arts Building has been vacant since the mid 1990’s and there are no known plans for the building or adjacent parcels.

What’s Needed: The site presents a unique opportunity: a sound mid-century building and substantial amount of vacant land in close proximity to Brightleaf Square, Peabody Place, West Village, and Chapel Hill Street. Preservation Durham supports a comprehensive redevelopment plan that preserves and renovates the Medical Arts Building and the other structures and adds new appropriately scaled mixed-use infill buildings to increase density. Investment in public infrastructure, including shade trees, improved lighting, and other streetscape improvements should be made to increase pedestrian connectivity and safety, and to spur private investment.

UPDATE: There is currently no indication that any efforts will be undertaken any time soon to revitalize the existing buildings or to make use of the vacant land in this area.


[toggle title=”West End and the Pauli Murray House”]

Intersection of Chapel Hill and Kent Streets and
South on Chapel Hill Street to Morehead Avenue

The most notable property in this historically African-American working class community is the Robert Fitzgerald House, where Pauli Murray, the nationally known lawyer, civil- and human- rights activist, author, poet, and teacher, was raised. The neighborhood has declined since the 1960s, and, although several local community development corporations have stepped in to help revitalize the neighborhood, efforts have included demolition or major alterations to houses.

What’s Needed: Preservation Durham encourages community development efforts that focus on the rehabilitation of existing building stock. Listing the neighborhood on the National Register of Historic Places secures eligibility for historic rehabilitation tax credits that would greatly enhance the efforts to rehabilitate the existing housing stock. The Pauli Murray House itself is currently receiving attention from several groups who are trying to raise funds for the adaptive use. Preservation Durham supports their efforts and has offered technical assistance.

UPDATE: In November 2011, a NC historic highway marker honoring Pauli Murray and her many achievements was placed at the corner of Carroll and West Chapel Hill Streets, and November 20th was declared Pauli Murray Day in Durham. Efforts to raise money for the rehabilitation and conversion of the Pauli Murray House into a community center for educational programs are ongoing. Unfortunately, an attempt to add the West End/Lyon Park neighborhoods to the Study List for the National Register was not successful, which precludes the possibility of the historic rehab tax credit incentive being made available to residents.