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Downtown Revitalization Plan Thwarted by Failed Hotel Deal

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DURHAM — Big plans to beef up downtown Durham have fallen apart. City leaders were excited over plans to renovate the Heart of Durham Hotel. Those plans are in big trouble, now that the hotel deal has fallen through.

We brought you the story back in November when a Raleigh group paid half a million dollars for the old hotel and its prime piece of downtown real estate. But, with the failure of the deal, Durham again has the problem faced by so many downtowns-- how to breathe new life into deteriorating downtown buildings.

It was a great hope for downtown Durham, the start of something big in the revitalization business. That's what they were saying when a group of businessmen bought the old Heart of Durham Hotel with plans to fix the place up. But, the deal fell through.

"Yes it did," says Bill Kalkhof of Downtown Durham, Ltd. "It's disappointing to us that it did because the redevelopment of the building would have been important and a good step for downtown."

What could have been a good step is now an eyesore. The owners have put up a fence topped with barbed wire. It closes in a crumbling, broken down building, a building that becomes more expensive to repair as time passes.

"Frankly, I'm disappointed at what I see across the street from where I work," admits Howard Clement of the Durham City Council.

Clement sees the Heart of Durham Hotel just about every day. He says the disappointment there conflicts with some of the positives of late in downtown re-development. The Diamond View office complex is going up fast. It provides a great view of the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.

But, the vision for downtown Durham doesn't need setbacks like the Heart of Durham.

"I understand that some deals are falling through the cracks, which is unfortunate," Clement says. "But I'm hoping that people of good will will come together and do what needs to be done to correct that situation. It's a disaster if you ask my opinion."

Downtown Durham thinks the hotel should be demolished and the owners should concentrate only on selling the property. The owners to this point have resisted that suggestion.


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