Durham County will spend $20 million on a strip mall, the former home of the Boys & Girls Club, and several acres next to Durham Technical Community College.
The Durham County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Monday night to approve the three purchases.
“We cannot continue to put everything downtown,” Commissioner Nimasheena Burns said at the meeting. “We have to put things in the community.”
“We’re being proactive,” said Chair Brenda Howerton.
Durham Board of Elections to consolidate locations
The strip mall was the priciest purchase. It sits on over 17 acres and contains an empty grocery store location intended as a new home for the Durham County Board of Elections.
The Shoppes of Hope Valley was built in 2002 on Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway at Roxboro Street, anchored by a long-vacant Kroger with 25 additional storefronts and a 590-space parking lot.
Kroger closed all 14 of its Triangle locations in 2018, selling some to its North Carolina-based subsidiary Harris Teeter.
Kentucky-based real estate developer BC Wood Properties bought the shopping center in 2015 for $15.6 million, but was never able to re-lease the 54,436-square-foot anchor store. A $12.1 million contract was negotiated with the county, records show, with BC Wood agreeing to first replace the roof and HVAC systems and seal coat the parking lot.
Director of Elections Derek Bowens said the Board of Elections is currently split between two locations: a main office downtown and a warehouse on South Alston Avenue.
“What this will do is consolidate our spaces into one facility and also give us the additional space we need for our ever-expanding operations,” Bowens told The News & Observer.
Sixteen units in the strip mall are leased to tenants that include Family Dollar, the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles, and a variety of restaurants, cellphone companies and other shops.
“There’s no decision that’s been made on what to do with those at this point. The current leases will remain unchanged,” said Peri Manns, assistant general manager of administration.
Bowens said the move — five years in the making — could happen as early as 2023. The county is considering a limited obligation bond or bank financing.
“That’s right down from Hillside and that is right across the street from the new John Avery Boys & Girls Club and there’s a new elementary school going there, so we already know that this is going to be a center for community activity and we want to make sure that we have a place there,” Burns said.
Bull City United could move into former Boys & Girls Club
The county will spend another $6 million to buy a vacant building that for five decades held the Boys & Girls Club, in a move commissioners said was at least in part about protecting a bit of real estate in a historic Black neighborhood from development pressure.
“It is smack dab in the center of Hayti. Hayti has been purchased by folks who are not from this community and not from this state,” Burns said. “We did it so people could not continue to tear up Hayti.”
The two parcels there total 2.61 acres and last sold in 2019 to an LLC registered to private investor Pablo Reiter for just over $2 million.
“This is a very strategic, valuable piece of property,” Vice Chair Wendy Jacobs said. “We don’t just want Durham County government to be in office buildings downtown. We need to be accessible.”
Bull City United, a violent crime and gang intervention program funded by the county and city, had initially hoped to lease the empty building, which is sandwiched between East Pettigrew Street and the Durham Freeway.
The Boys & Girls Club called it home for most of its history — from 1972 until it relocated on Martin Luther King, Jr. Parkway in 2020.
“Before a lease could be negotiated, the owner made the decision to sell the property rather than enter a long-term lease,” county staff wrote in an agenda item.
“It was just a perfect location,” Joanne Pierce, the county’s general manager of health and well-being, told commissioners Monday.
The public health department launched Bull City United in 2016 to send trusted community members called “violence interrupters” into certain neighborhoods to help resolve conflicts, identify people at high risk of violent behavior, and reshape social norms around gun violence.
Pierce said the space also will be used by My Brother’s Keeper and Project BUILD, other programs in the Department of Public Health’s department of community intervention.
The county is similarly considering a limited obligation bond or bank financing.
Durham Tech buys neighboring land
The commissioners also agreed to buy land next to Durham Tech
For the past two decades, the nearly 6 acres were privately owned by Randal and Leslie Brame, who gave the college the first option to buy and negotiated a $2.3 million price.
“This is an important piece to get right for our community, but it’s also an important piece for the future expansion opportunities of the college,” said J.B. Buxton, Durham Tech’s president.
The money will be drawn from the fund the county uses to pay its debts.
This story was originally published August 8, 2022 5:43 PM.
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