613 South Duke Street

35.993107, -78.908642

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613 South Duke

Continuing southward on Duke St. from yesterday's post, the boundaries of the 600 block have changed. Yancey St. was moved northward on the east side of the freeway, away from the onramp. The original block would have begun where Yancey intersects Duke on the left side and continued south to Parker Street, which no longer intersects Duke St. due to the freeway.

This block was also residential, with somewhat larger houses than the 500 block of S. Duke as the street moved towards Morehead Hill. All pictures were taken in 1963 as a part of Urban Renewal property appraisals.


The Ramada Inn was likely built in the 1980s, from the look of it, but I don't know when it was built. It ceased being a Ramada about 7-8 years ago, and went through several hotel permutations (the sign for a long time simply said 'Inn'.) It was bought about a year and a half ago and completely renovated into the 'Crown Park Hotel.' However, this evidently did not make the hotel any more appealing, and it was foreclosed upon.

Now Frank Wittenberg has rebranded this as Duke Studio Condominiums. He touts purchasing the hotel rooms at $74500 a pop so that one can "live like a millionare."

This, unfortunately, likely means that this building will be with us for awhile. I'm not the first to make this point about this property (although I can't for the life of me remember where else I read it, so I apologize for the lack of acknowledgment). Future fragmented ownership will, limit the potential to redevelop this site. The building is truly uninspiring - a bleak addition to the landscape near American Tobacco. I suppose that the proximity to AT could be enough, but I can't imagine buying a 'studio condo' (hotel room) in this building.

Update: 4/6/07

As predicted below, the Duke Studio Condos url above is now dead, and the future of this project uncertain. Struever Bros. evidently laments missing out on this building when it was in foreclosure the first time; perhaps they will get another chance.

Update: 9/3/08

It appears that the Starwood hotel chain has bought this property and plans to convert it to their "Sheraton Four Points" brand - which appears to be a budget hotel flag for the group. No word on when this will be complete or what they plan to do to the property, but I can't see how it could be anything but inadequate to make this an appealing destination.


If you're worried that Frank Wittenburg's success at selling condos might save the building, I wouldn't worry so much. If there's one developer who's shown he has absolutely no idea of how to capitalize on downtown Durham, it's Frank.

I don't have the bulldoze jones for that building nearly as much as I do for, say, SouthBank or the City Hall Annex. Partially because I figured it might come in useful politically down the line. If the Dumbest Idea Ever, a.k.a. a massive expansion of the Civic Center into a convention center, ever rears its head again, the Crown Park Hotel makes a great argument for why the convention center would be better on, say, the University Ford site. (Or any number of other places in Durham. The consultants' report is one of the funniest publications I've ever read -- it very clearly makes arguments why Durham doesn't need a convention center, and why it would be a bad idea, then goes on to recommend that we build one.)

Yeah, he does seem stuck in another era - like he found the key to success in 1980, and that's the way to do things, damnit.

But he evidently did manage to sell all the 'Duke Tower' condos at Trinity and Duke. So while this is hardly directly comparable, what happens if he sells 12 of them? Someone purchases a block of 4 to sublease to out-of-town guests, another buys a block of 5 for investment, because they think the site is valuable... etc. It just gets messy.

I can't stand this building from Duke St., on which the dumpsters/service area face. I think Duke is a pretty important gateway to Durham, and having the back/service area of this bland slab as the first sight as one exits from the freeway/enters downtown coming up Duke St. isn't exactly enticing. At least the Crown Park folks put in some trees along the inside of the sidewalk. It ain't much, but it's better than the drab strip of grass that was there before.

I haven't seen the consultant's report you mention - I'd like to sometime. Convention centers seem like another one of those sexy ideas to 'save' downtown in one fell swoop. The only reason I'd want a new one would be to have a reason to knock down the old one and reconnect the Carolina Theater and Peopleless Plaza with Chapel Hill St.


Surprisingly enough, the consultant's report provides a little bit of support for knocking down at least the western portion of the Civic Center. It's not in their recommendations of course -- they probably wouldn't get paid then -- but there's a fair bit of info there to help justify it.

I'm at work now, but I've got an electronic copy that Reyn Bowman sent me somewhere, and I can forward it to you at some point.

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