Development on Durham's Ninth Street worries longtime retailers
Posted December 27, 2013
Durham, N.C. — A Durham neighborhood known for its eclectic charm is getting a multimillion-dollar makeover, and longtime retailers worry about the changes.
A number of mom-and-pop stores on Ninth Street have catered to the Duke University community for years, but developers have $85 million in projects open or underway, including a Harris Teeter supermarket, a hotel and 900 apartments.
"This is our side. This is the old side, and that's the new side," said Ziad Lobbad, owner of Devil's Pizzeria, which has been on Ninth Street for about two decades.
Lobbad said he can't wait for the apartments to be leased and the hotel to start booking visitors.
"When these apartments get filled up and the hotel starts rolling, I think it will be good for Ninth Street," he said. "I think our regular customers will still come and support our side, and across the street will draw a new type of business."
Others, however, worry that the area will become too commercialized.
Chris Widmayer with Regency Centers Development, which owns the Harris Teeter property, said he believes "there is room for everyone to succeed," regardless of whether it's a local shop or a national franchise. Still, he said Regency doesn't want to see Ninth Street lose its charm.
"There is a bohemian nature to Ninth Street that we think is attractive to retailers," Widmayer said. "We understand that the local nature of Ninth Street is important, and we are trying to embrace that."
Lobbad said he's more concerned about the lack of parking for customers on Ninth Street, especially because some of the new projects are built atop what used to be a parking lot.
"A lot of the merchants on this side were not happy with the parking lot being closed," he said.
In addition to limited on-street parking, his customers now have access to about 40 spaces in a nearby lot. But the future of that lot is in limbo.
City officials are considering extending a lease on the lot and making it paid parking. Durham had a 25-year lease on the lot before Regency purchased it as a part of the new development.
Lobbad said paid parking would prevent someone from taking up a spot all day, but it could deter people from visiting Ninth Street in the first place.
"We don't have off-site parking here. What we have is what we have," he said. "We are just trying to stay as open-minded as possible and see what will happen."