Monday, May 24, 2010

Emergence of the Foster-Greer Streets District – Blending Existing and Small Project, Stand Alone Adaptive Reuse

When many of you look to Durham, North Carolina for inspiration about preserving sense of place, it may be easy to overlook the very small adaptive reuse projects here with the spotlight often absorbed by mega projects of that nature centered on old historic tobacco and textile factory buildings such as Brightleaf, West Village, Measurement Inc, Golden Belt, Venable and American Tobacco.

But equally important if not even more emblematic to sustaining a community’s unique sense of place is what’s happening on the far northern edge of Downtown, around the intersection of Foster and Geer Streets. kingsweb

It seems even more challenging than the big master planned projects to seel both infilling and adaptive reuse of free standing structures dovetailing with those with viable existing uses and still make it all make sense in terms of place.

The equal of his award winning Trinity Heights project with Duke University, New Urbanism developer Bob Chapman (one of just 25 who signed the original charter) is to me a catalyst and inspiration for the area around Foster and Geer.

The area sits between the corners of two thriving historic neighborhoods, Trinity Park and Old North Durham one side and on the other, the Central Park District anchored by the Farmer’s Market.  Bob has converted the Trotter Building, his headquarters and a cool meeting and function space, along with two small, cottage style gas stations.  One a beautiful restoration of a former Texaco/Sinclair Station  and the current restoration of an old “Pure Oil” cottage-style that went out of business in the ‘70s as Fletcher’s Gulf.

Of course, Bob has company like the folks bringing back the 1940’s era King’s Sandwich Shop across the street from his gas stations and George Davis’s  Stone Bros. & Byrd, a throw-back combination garden center and country store dating back to the 1914 farmer’s supply store which had built adjacent to King’s in the 1960’s.  The intersection is also just over the centerfield fence of the Historic Durham Athletic Park made famous in the movie classic, Bull Durham.

It makes sense for Stone Brothers to be near the County Extension Office, a county educational partnership with the State’s two land-grant colleges, NCSU and NC A&T and the US Department of Agriculture just around the corner.  Around the opposite corner from Stone Bros & Byrd, another old warehouse has been transformed into Trinity Lofts.

There’s also ManBites Dog Theater and theater company and the Central Park School for Children of which Chapman is facilities director.  His Trotter building, which had been home to the precursor of Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC and the famous North Carolina Fund is not only his office, it is home the innovative SeeSaw Studio as well as unique meeting and function space.

Preserving a sense of place requires both large and small scale projects and Durham is fortunate to have a good mix of both and the developers like Bob Chapman to pull them off.


Randy said...

Glad to see you're still around in Durham, and I hope you're enjoying full retirement.

Unknown said...

When taking Alex Washburn through the former Caltone Building,it was a great delight to realize that he immediately "got it". The vision came together that day as we wrote the contract!
Trinity Lofts is a great redevelopment project - one of very few places downtown where one can enjoy a "piece of green".