Durham City Council OKs $3.9M for downtown tower

jwise@newsobserver.comApril 22, 2014 

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Durham City Council members want Austin Lawrence to put a priority on stabilizing or demolishing the building at 117 W. Parrish St., which burned in 2001 and has had little attention since.

HARRY LYNCH — hlynch@newsobserverver.com

— Assured that a burned-out eyesore will get prompt attention, the Durham City Council approved a $3.97-million incentive for the developers of a 26-story mixed-use project and motel makeover in the heart of downtown.

Austin Lawrence Partners of Aspen, Colo., plans to invest “north of $89 million” in its tower across Corcoran Street from the landmark Hill Building (also known as the CCB or SunTrust Tower), and in renovating the long-closed Jack Tar motel and parking garage in the next block, company President Greg Hills told council members Monday night.

Incentive payments will be spread over 15 years and will not begin until construction is complete. The city projects a net increase in tax revenue of $8.31 million over the incentive term, leaving a net gain of more than $4.3 million. Durham County commissioners are due to vote on a similar incentive agreement next week.

During an April 19 work session, council members said they wanted Austin Lawrence to put a priority on stabilizing or demolishing the building at 117 W. Parrish St., which burned in 2001 and has had little attention since.

At Monday night’s council meeting, Hills said bracing the building facade, to allow for safe debris removal and excavation, would start once the necessary permits are approved, in October according to the current timeline. The exterior, along with four other historic storefronts, will be restored to its original circa-1910 appearance as part of the tower’s first floor.

“I feel a lot more comfortable,” said Councilman Steve Schewel.

The tower is to have a two-level underground parking garage, retail at street level, four floors of office space and 133 apartments on the floors above. Completion is projected in the fall of 2016.

The Jack Tar, an early-1960s motel-style addition to a 16-story hotel that once stood on present-day CCB Plaza, is due for renovation into a 74-room hotel and its parking deck upfitted for use by tower occupants and the general public.

The incentive passed 6-1, with Mayor Bill Bell voting no. Bell said he wanted incentive payments tied to the city actually receiving a specified increase in tax revenue, but he agreed to go ahead with a vote rather than delay the project.

Wise: 919-641-5895

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