'Innovation District' Could Bring 1 Million Square Feet Of New Office Space To Durham

Oct 2, 2014

Adam Sichol and Jamison Peschel are Managing Partners with Longfellow Real Estate Partners, developers of 'Durham ID.'
Credit Leoneda Inge

Downtown Durham has undergone a major transformation over the past decade.  And economic development projects are not slowing down with new hotels, office space and housing under construction.

Yesterday, community stakeholders came together to announce the latest big project.  It’s called the Durham Innovation District or "Durham ID," for short.

The Durham Innovation District or Durham ID will stretch from North Duke Street all the way to the Durham Farmer’s Market when it’s all finished. 

(Look at a detailed map here.)

Mayor Bill Bell says Durham is growing and developing so fast it’s turning into a city of acronyms.  He’s calling the Durham Innovation District, D-I-D for “DID.”

“We’ve got the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, DBAP.  We have the Durham Performing Arts Center, DPAC.  And you’re probably not going to like this.  But we now have DID," said Bell.  "That’s my acronym.”

The first phase of Durham ID will be filled with researchers from Duke University.  Bell says he’s been waiting a long time for this next chapter of downtown.

“I know as a retired IBM engineer, have heard for years that, so many of our needs have taken place in sort of isolation and some of the best researchers and scientists in the world, right here in Durham, the City of Medicine, but so many of the researchers are sort of out in a secluded area doing their ground-breaking work.  Now we have an opportunity to bring them all together into the downtown area,” said Bell.

The Details

The "Durham ID" master plan calls for re-developing 15 acres downtown.  That includes one million square feet of new office and laboratory space, 50,000 square feet of new retail space and 300 new residential units.

Scott Selig is the Associate VP for Capital Assets and Real Estate at Duke.  He says they’re excited about the project.

“We’re taking Durham versions of what’s happened in other cities, which is wherever basic research has come off campus, the private sector has surrounded it to create true innovation and entrepreneurship," said Selig.

Himani Vaidya is a Research Tech already working in Duke's Genetics Lab in the new 'Durham ID.'
Credit Leoneda Inge

Adam Sichol is a Managing Partner of Longfellow Real Estate Partners based in Boston.  But he also has offices in downtown Durham and saw the potential in building a Durham Innovation District.  Sichol says it reminds him of Kendall Square near Harvard.

“It reminds us the opportunity with the great institutions, like Duke University, Durham Tech, NCCU and the great educated workforce down here, reminds us of the educated workforce that we see in Cambridge, Massachusetts," said Sichol.

There are still a lot of chairs covered in plastic and empty desks in the newly renovated Carmichael Building, but several researchers have already started moving in to 300 North Duke Street.  It used to be owned by Liggett and Myers Tobacco Company, but most recently was a county Social Services building.

There's a lot of energy, a lot of intellectual energy, not just in this building but in all over the place. I'm really excited to partake of that and to see new things and new places to walk and think my deep thoughts.'

"My office is here in the corner.  I get a lovely office, I can look over at the power plant, I look right where they were talking about at the horseshoe, I will be right in the middle of the horseshoe," said Elizabeth Hauser, while on a tour of her new offices.

Elizabeth Hauser is a professor in Biostatistics and Bioinformatics at Duke’s Molecular Physiology Institute.  She says she’ll like being downtown.

“There’s a lot of energy, a lot of intellectual energy, not just in this building but in all over the place," said Hauser.  "So I’m really excited to partake of that and to see new things and new places to walk and think my deep thoughts.”

And that’s what community leaders and developers want – a downtown equipped to make a thriving creative class feel right at home.