Published: Sep 18, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Sep 16, 2012 02:47 PM
Hard upon 21c Museum Hotels’ plan to turn the art deco Hill Building into a luxury hotel, another developer wants to give similar treatment to a space-age icon on Chapel Hill Street.
Gentian Group LLC, a Durham firm incorporated last March, contemplates an $11-million makeover for the Home Savings building, also known as the Mutual Community Savings building, an emphatically modernist 1968 landmark near the Main Post Office. The resulting Holland Hotel would have 54 rooms, restaurant and bar.
“And a really cool rooftop deck,” said Bill Kalkhof, CEO of Downtown Durham Inc.
Carey Greene, who is a partner in the building’s owner, CREH-Mutual LLC, is a principal in the project, along with Brad Reese and Daniel Robinson. Recent weeks have also seen Greenfire Development, one of central Durham’s largest property owners, announce plans to redevelop the historic Liberty Warehouse and expand its planned Jackson Street apartment complex from 88 to 183 units.
“A lot of this stuff is starting to come together,” Kalkhof said.
The City Council was to vote on a $605,000 incentive grant for the project at its meeting Monday night. City Economic Development Director Kevin Dick said his office had been working on the deal much of the summer.
Gentian is also seeking $605,000 from Durham County. That incentive has not come up for county commissioners’ review yet.
In August, the city and county approved $7.7 million in incentives for 21c’s project at the 17-story Hill Building (also called the SunTrust and CCB building). Together, the Holland and 21c would add 179 rooms near the Convention Center.
Downtown boosters and local government officials say the city center could use 800 rooms besides the 188 existing rooms at the Marriott, which shares its Foster Street building with the Durham Convention Center. More rooms, they say will help attract business to the city-county owned Convention Center, which got a $7 million renovation in 2011 after several years of annual deficits exceeding $1 million.
“We’ve got a lot to offer downtown now, but we’ve got a lot of need,” Kalkhof said.
Ironically enough, the Holland Hotel’s prospective site was home to a hotel once before, the short-lived Corcoran, which opened in 1907. In the 1930s, that building was replaced by the Center Theatre, a cinema renowned for its Wurlitzer organ and air conditioning.
After the Center moved to Lakewood Shopping Center in 1967, Home Savings and Loan bought the lot and put up a modernist building unlike anything else downtown, with soaring columns suggesting rockets and a rounded corner tower that paid architectural homage to the Center Theatre’s curved facade.
“It’s too cool to tear down,” said Kalkhof.
Meanwhile, the futures of two other downtown landmarks remain in limbo.
• Chapel Hill developer Roger Perry let his option lapse on the “Oprah Building” – a parking garage and abandoned motel on Corcoran Street – after he could not agree on a price with owner Dianne Sturdivant and her agent, Juan Chambers.
• Entrepreneur Josh Parker said last week that he and his partners are still “very interested” in buying and remodeling the Chesterfield Building – the former Liggett and Myers cigarette factory at Main and Duke streets near Brightleaf Square. There again, “coming together on a reasonable price” has been a stumbling block, Parker said.