Local News

Group wants Durham to blend old buildings into new police headquarters

Posted April 16, 2015

— A preservation group is lobbying Durham officials to find ways to incorporate two historic buildings into plans for the city's new police headquarters.

The city plans to move its main police station from West Chapel Hill Street to a 4.5-acre site on East Main Street that connects downtown to east Durham.

The Carpenter Motor Co. building, which dates to 1923, and the 72-year-old GMC Truck Building bookend the site.

"The question that we are putting out there is, is there value in keeping this building, and is there space to keep it as part of this new complex?" said Wendy Hillis, executive director of Preservation Durham. "There hasn’t been any emphasis on saving these buildings."

Hillis said it would be a shame to lose the buildings, which she said have an "authentic" feel in their design.

"If this is what’s driving Durham’s redevelopment, this authenticity, then I think we should look at where we can retain that authenticity wherever it might be," she said.

City Councilman Don Moffitt said city staff would evaluate the idea to see if preservation is a realistic aspect of the $62 million police headquarters.

"It’s a very small site for everything that needs to go onto it. I know just fitting it all on will be very complex," Moffitt said.

There are other questions and concerns about the new headquarters, including how pedestrian friendly it will be and its scale. Moffitt said he doesn't want a repeat of the neighboring Health and Human Services building.

"It presents a very large façade to the street, and it's not a great space to be a pedestrian," he said. "My goal, my emphasis is to make sure we do (the police headquarters) in a way that contributes to the life on the street and the connector between" downtown and east Durham.

Hillis said she also wants a pedestrian-friendly project, and blending the two historic buildings in could accomplish that.

"You want to enliven it with things that cause people to want to walk down the street, that are really creating a connection," she said. "Let’s see if it’s possible to keep this because I really think it would be a win-win for everybody."


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