November 2, 2011 — Durham, N.C.

Posted November 5, 2011 6:33 pm | Filed under Downtown Renewal

WRHI’s Manning Kimmel traveled with the Rock Hill Economic Development Corporation to Durham, N.C. on Nov. 2, 2011, to see the revitalization efforts that have transformed the City of Durham into a vibrant atmosphere. Rock Hill City leaders, developers and business leaders hope to do the same here in the years to come.


RHEDC Durham, NC
Meeting #1
Durham Mayor Bill Belk

Durham 5th largest city in NC-transformed our economy-racially mixed – alot of high tech/medical businesses here. Pride ourselves in our diversity and our adaptive reuse of our old tobacco buildings using private/public partnership. Still have challenges of crime & poverty..

Bill Kalkhof, President, Downtown Durham, Inc.

How did this redevelopment of the American Tobacco Warehouses happen ?? 1960s exodus from Durham started and it wasn’t until the 1980s that sparks of redevelopment the 1990’s ABD Development came together to redevelop this 1 million square feet of abandoned space-formerly the Lucky Strike plant…parking, streetscapes and cops necessary for downtown developments just like streets, water and sewer are necessary for greenfield development…(story of failure of referendum for parking garage-great sucking sound started))…Construction of baseball park was step #1. Condition of buildings was terrible…then phase 1 of West Village gave us a small amount if momentum-but community was skeptical..


Mike Hill: D3 Development (formerly was w/Capital Broadcasting) we bought the Durham Bills to “unite the triangle” and keep the team downtown and not move to new ballpark at the airport. Efforts of 2 councilmen made this happen. This has been a wonderful partnership for Capital Bdcst that has worked for 20 years…((how the project was done)) 1996 nobody wanted to be in downtown Durham. We needed to steer the demand that already existed to downtown-security and parking the two key problems !!! This was the 1st project in the country to use New Market tax credits and Historic Preservation credits. Elected officials asked for our help after the ballpark was built-it took 3 1/2 years to put the project together and get financing for 600,000 square feet. Then City and County committed to parking so we could get tenants and these parking garages look good and work well. Private Sector Development equals $250 million and city/county spent $35 million on parking along with giving us a “fixed parking rate” through 2014…Tenants love this place: it’s become an exceptional place to live & work !!!


Michael Goodman: VP Real Estate, Capitol Broadcasting Co.

What is the current environment & future ??


2004 we started to see how special this project was-this was not a real estate project-this was something really special for the community and families for entertainment and community use-gives people a reason to come downtown..The decision to add a “river” came when we were 80% leased-it was all about making this an experience !!!

Entrepreneurs love how the space is done..we have become the “innovation hub” of the Triangle. This is now about running a piece of real estate..((new spec project getting started.)) We will have over 2 million visitors to this area this year and this is an office park !?!?!? This has had a GREAT impact on the community-the success of your business is tied to the success of your community. We have fun here everyday. Plan now is to be done in 5 more years (we started in 2004) and then we will just concentrate on making it new and fresh….we recruit companies that will give back to our community !!!


How do we keep the momentum going ?? We now gave 15,000 employees working downtown Durham + 1000 residents (need 2000 more).


Tom Bonfield, City Manager of Durham


Importance of Partnerships: 3 keys to success: 1/Political Leadership that will make the tough decisions and stick with them. 2/Creativity:needed for the twists and turns that always come up with projects like this-have to think outside of the box. 3/Perseverance: don’t ever give up


We did not put any of these projects up for public vote-had we done so, none of thus would have happened.



This whole project was all about relationships: political and civic. Can’t do this without community wide support.

No company would have come here unless it was safe, affordable, had parking, and knew that public sector would be here to handle future problems.

Duke has 3000 employees and leases 600,000 square feet here in downtown and they like it here.

Have to have vision for people to buy into-we want local candidates to have buy-in. We meet with elected officials regularly to keep them informed on what we’re doing. We trust each other-we may not always agree, but we trust each other. We all look good when downtown is successful. There is no finish line-you’re never done !!!

Addressing the “Mr. NO” mindset: downtown real estate exists and has value. You make the investment in expectation that other good projects will happen…Who your developer is minds alot !!! If a project happens it becomes the catalyst for other projects that will payoff.


We dreamed up incentives as we went along…we led the effort to make the community believe in it’s downtown


((end of morning session))



Durham (con’t/afternoon session)


Recruiting Businesses:


When we started this project the average age downtown was in the mid 50’s-now it’s in the mid 30’s. Average salary was mid 30’s now mid 50’s. Challenge now to make it affordable for more people because now “we ain’t cheap.”


Kevin Dick: Office of Economic and Work Force Development on small business recruitment and retention..


Our downtown is much different than CLT because if our history.. Place alot of emphasis on food (“foody district”). Only one national chain-we have an eclectic selection of restaurants. Our policy emphasizes recruiting high growth companies like biotech, communications etc. and we bring in experts to guide us.


We have created smaller grant programs to help build new/existing businesses-study showed we needed to help building owners up-fit their space. Implemented: 1/BIG “building incentive grant” with a $75,000 max grant-study said to keep these programs simple-7 buildings have taken advantage of this-creates incentives for others to do the same-size of grants reduce every year-many self driven projects have resulted from seeing others improve theirs…todate through this program we have invested $674,000 that’s resulted in more than 3 million in new investment. $6 of every $10 of tax base is from property taxes + $2 more from sales tax so more buildings means more activity….we changed what we do once we reached “critical mass.”





Matthew Coppedge: Director of Marketing & Communications what have we done to recruit bus.??


We asked ourselves how do we see ourselves ?? Answer: “As a startup center for new business in the SE.” People don’t want to drive to work anymore-want to be where other successful businesses are and where start-ups are as well. Start-ups are the key to this-we offer rents as low as $150 pet month. #1 issue for start-ups is capital and #2 issue is “connections. “Start Up Stampede” is 60 days of free rent with Free wifi and lots of people to meet !! Had $55,000 of services donated by local businesses for this event and we put in only $8,000. Of 15 we placed into the program, 9 stayed and we got lots of publicity. Doing Stampede #2 right now…Advice: work closely with start-ups and find out what they need…Use recruiters who look like the start-ups…Street Level Recruiting only 5 years old.


Melissa Muir, Dir.of Special Projects, Downtown Durham Inc. We help new businesses overcome the regulatory hassles. We are a “One Stop shop.” I just make sure they get pointed in the right direction and get their startup issues resolved. Big thing for us: establishing relationships with these businesses. We help with grand openings and get incredible support from existing businesses. The more business we bring the bigger “magnet” we become to draw people downtown.

Four points: 1/Restaurants 5 years ago were non- existent. 2/Now seeing a stronger pedigree of startup business prospects. 3/challenge we have of filling-in gaps of activity…4/”Business Improvement District Tax”needed to keep growth possible-done now by over 1000 cities (won’t be easy to get passed but we have to do it)


Q/A: working on child care issue for downtown which would just be another amenity to recruit the kind of people we want in Downtown Durham.


The good news is: What’s happening downtown is spreading out from downtown and we’re seeing adjacent depressed areas starting to improve as well..


**Downtowns cannot be an island to themselves-entrances have to be appealing and cannot “suck.”


Closing Advice: 1/You can do this same redevelopment in RH with the same quality we have done here. You may not get the rate of return from your initial project(s) but that will come with follow-ins. 2/Don’t pay attention to the naysayers…and 3/if you don’t revitalize your downtown you just won’t be able to compete.


Tom Niemann, Niemann Capital LLC, developer of West Village


“West Village” is 453 residential apartments with commercial development adjacent to American Tobacco. Had it not been for Greensboro HUD office this development would not have happened…Our vision was “build it and they will come” with a commitment to set aside 25% of the apartments for low income. Why ?? Because it’s families of different incomes which create the “heart & soul” of a community-and we accomplished that by simply creating smaller apartments with larger ones…


(walking tour of West Village followed presentation and then it was back home on the train.)