Local News

Change Could Be on the Horizon for the Bull City

Posted February 18, 2008 6:29 p.m. EST

— A proposed $284 million development in downtown Durham could change the face of the Bull City for generations to come.

Over the past three years, Durham-based Greenfire Development has purchased 19 properties in an area of downtown known as the City Center.

Plans include 240,000 square feet of office space, 70,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, 430 residential units and an additional 1,700 parking spaces.

"As we've been able to acquire property, we were able to start thinking large about what was possible," said Greenfire managing partner Michael Lemanski. "We see this as a very transformative project."

For example, the old SunTrust building located in City Center would be converted to a 150-room hotel and spa. Across the street from it, on the old Woolworth's site, there are plans to transform it into a 17-story office building.

By creating a mix of retail, restaurants, residential and office space with additional parking, Greenfire says the project will be energy-efficient and environmentally friendly.

The development would also create about 5,000 construction jobs and 1,300 permanent jobs, Greenfire says.

"But we still have to get over the hurdle of the city approving those incentives for us to move forward," Greenfire partner Carl Webb said.

The Durham City Council will look at the Greenfire project for the first time at a work session Thursday.

For the deal to go through, the city would have to contribute $12 million and agree to sell three vacant lots. Without those lots, Greenfire developers say the project doesn't make sense.

If the city approves the project, construction could begin by the summer and take seven years to complete.

"We're looking at an opportunity to change the way people perceive downtown Durham," Lemanski said.