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Developers jump at chance to work in downtown Durham

The amount of residential space in downtown Durham is expected to more than double in the next two to three years.

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DURHAM, N.C. — The amount of residential space downtown is expected to more than double in the next two to three years, and developers are jumping at the chance to get in on the expected boom.

Andy Rothschild left his medical practice several years ago to develop real estate in Durham. The founder of Scientific Properties is transforming the former Golden Belt textile mill on East Main Street into a mix of offices, shops, restaurants, artist studios and 37 loft apartments.

"I thought there was just so much potential here," Rothschild said. "It's already a cultural capital, a dining capital, an arts capital (and) an education capital, and now we are just bringing that all into the downtown."

Alexandro Washburn, the director of urban design for the New York City Planning Department, decided to invest in downtown Durham while working at a previous job in the American Tobacco complex.

"It's that chance to be part of the betterment of a place," said Washburn, who is developing the Trinity Lofts condominium complex in the former Cal-Tone Paints building, at the corner of Trinity and Washington streets.

"Even some of the best cities in the world don't have this kind of proximity of all these urban attractors," he said.

Bill Kalkhof, the president of Downtown Durham Inc., said the success of American Tobacco, West Village and other projects has encouraged developers. He said he expects the number of residential units downtown to increase from 900 to between 2,200 and 2,500 within three years.

"The projects that got built sell. The projects that got built for apartments lease. We are always in the mid- to high-90s of occupancy (rates)," Kalkhof said.

There's so much interest in the area that a downtown seminar for Realtors on Wednesday attracted almost four times the number of participants expected.

"I don't even think it's even a question of will it be a success. It's a success now, and it's going to be a big, big success," Washburn said.

Most of the residential units in the area are rentals because developers obtained tax credits that require a redeveloped property to provide rental housing for a specified number of years.

WRAL.com's parent company, Capitol Broadcasting Co., is the developer of the American Tobacco project.



Erin Hartness, Reporter
Pete James, Photographer
Matthew Burns, Web Editor

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