Durham Historic Commission backs ‘City Center’ tower

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Durham Historic Commission backs ‘City Center’ tower


Preservationists gave their seal of approval Tuesday to a proposed 26-story building that, according to its designer, will turn “lights on” in downtown Durham.

“You have the (Durham Bulls) ball field, you have the arts,” said architect Michael Noda. “What you need is a warm bed and lights on … an inner city that has people living, working and playing there.”

Dubbed “City Center,” the building is designed, Noda said, to include about 21,000 square feet of street-level retail space; interior parking on floors two and three; 62,000 square feet of office space on floors three, four and five; and a stepped-back tower accommodating 130 to 134 residential apartments.

Austin Lawrence Partners of Vail, Colo., is developing the project. The company announced its plan in November, after buying a vacant lot and four buildings in the block between Main and Parrish streets, inside Durham’s National Register historic central business district. Construction that significantly alters the district’s historic appearance requires a “certificate of appropriateness” from the city-county Historic Preservation Commission. The certificate won approval by a 5-1 vote Tuesday. Commissioner Andrew Sprouse objected to the height, which would tower over the 17-story Hill Building that stands across Corcoran Street from the City Center site and has dominated the Durham skyline since 1937.