There were so many suits stuffed into a second-floor room at the Carmichael Building on North Duke Street that it looked like a Jos. A. Bank store.
Instead the occasion was the announcement this morning of a $500 million new development proposed for the northwest side of downtown: the Durham Innovation District with 1.7 million square feet of office, scientific research, retail, 300 residences and a public park on 15 acres.
The area is bounded by Roney Street and the Durham Farmers Market to the east, Corporation Street to the north, Duke Street to the West and Fernway/Morgan Street to the South.
The project is led by Duke University, Measurement, Inc. and Longfellow Real Estate Partners. Longfellow is already working with Duke on the renovation of 710 W. Main St., the old Liggett & Myers research lab.
Although organizers didn’t roll out a timetable, maps posted in the room show Durham.ID, as it’s known, will be built in four phases, proceeding from east (Roney Street) to west (Duke Street, across from Durham School of the Arts). The 300 residences will be clustered in the center of the development. No price ranges have been made public.
While the elected officials, university bigwigs and real estate developers celebrated (it was 10 a.m., so donuts subbed for wine), they were also careful to massage the point that creating a life sciences hub downtown could be viewed as invading RTP’s turf.
“We’re not competing with RTP,” said Scott Selig, Duke University vice president of real estate. “This is the downtown answer while RTP gets things up and running.”
That’s kind of Selig to say, but regardless of the public assurances, the downtown tech and life sciences boom in Durham and Raleigh does compete with Research Triangle Park, the longtime headquarters for similar multinational companies—GlaxoSmithKline, IBM, Cisco—as well as smaller start ups.
When RTP was built in the 1950s and 1960s, the suburban office park was en vogue. Here, scientists, inventors and innovators could work in quiet offices, walled off by trees from the rest of the world.
But 21st-century workplaces, particularly in life sciences and tech, encourage more collaboration. That’s why co-working spaces, such as those in American Underground—even the private offices are glass—are so successful. RTP is trying to respond to that demand by creating the Archie campus, with office, retail, residences and restaurants at Park Drive and Highway 54.
In fact, it sounds a lot like Durham.ID.
“There are so many researchers in a secluded area,” said Mayor Bill Bell. “Now we can bring them downtown.”