Holiday Inn / Tq / Urban Merchant Center

35.9967072, -78.9107181

Cross Street
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Year demolished
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The south side of the 600 block of West Chapel Hill St. consisted of residential structures into the 1950s - bookended by a commercial area to the west at Vickers Ave. and the YWCA to the east, across South Gregson.

Looking southeast at the intersection of South Gregson and West Chapel Hill St.
(Courtesy Herald-Sun)

In 1959, most of the houses in the block bounded by Jackson, Gregson, West Chapel Hill St., and Vickers Ave. were torn down in order to build a Holiday Inn.

Aerial shot of construction in 1959.


Under Construction, 1959


Construction, 1959


Construction, 1959


The Holiday Inn in the early 1960s. This shot is taken looking southwest, with West Chapel Hill St. in the foreground. Note that this is prior to the construction of the Durham Freeway, and most of the houses in the immediate background are no longer extant.
(Courtesy of Whig Hill)

Looking southeast at a cool cat waiting for the cocktail crowd by the pool, 09.11.61.
(Courtesy Herald-Sun)



(Courtesy goldengreyblue)

The Holiday Inn operated for many years, and I am unsure of when it closed. In the 1960s-1970s, the restaurant / bar was called the "Festa Room." It evidently became quite the hangout for Ricers and their hanger-ons.

1968 ad for the Festa Room at the downtown Durham Holiday Inn.


It appears that in 1993 someone defaulted on their loans, and Ronnie and Diane Sturdivant bought the property. It has been a fun road ever since.

The Sturdivants operated the hotel as a week-by-week room rental facility, which they called 'Temporary Quarters.' By the late 90s, TQ had turned into a major nuisance. Problems peaked in 1997-98, when repeated health code violations (and eventual refusal to allow health code inspectors on the property) caused county officials to revoke the Sturdivant's permit to operate the establishment. They continued to rent rooms at the facility, which was the source of 525 911 calls between Jan 1997 and July 1998. In July 1998, a schizophrenic man stood on the rooftop and fired shotgun blasts at police headquarters, across the street.

Turned out the county Mental Health Department was continuing to use TQ as a housing option for people coming through their department, despite the lack of an operating permit.

In September 1998, TQ was ordered shut down for good. The Sturdivants eventually started using the front of the building as a thrift store, which they call the 'Urban Merchant Center'. The majority of the facility remains empty and derelict.

While the Sturdivants continually let this property (as well as The Washington Duke Motel, of 'We Want Oprah' fame) fall behind on taxes (I can't keep track of how many times it has gone to foreclosure) they always pay it off on the day of foreclosure. Of course, all of this work by county employees costs all of us money.

But the property itself is miserable - amenities include old refrigerators and furniture stacked around in the cracked, heaved parking lot. It seems to be used as a school bus parking facility now as well. The place is surrounded by high chain-link fence topped with razor wire.

This is the third, and perhaps most egregious, part of the Dead Zone between Trinity Park/Brightleaf and Morehead Hill/Forest Hills - the stretch of Gregson dominated by this eyesore, the massive police department parking lot, and Bill Fields' dilapidated property. There's no logical reason why, given its great geographic situation, this shouldn't be a vibrant part of the city. But Bill Fields and the Sturdivants see to it that it is kept in a state of perpetual desolation.

Looking southeast from West Chapel Hill St., 2006. (G. Kueber)


Ronnie, I don't believe you can do it. But I'd be willing to help you sell it - ?

Looking west/southwest from the police department parking lot, 2006 (G. Kueber)

In 2012, this site was purchased by EDR, a Memphis residential developer which specialized in student housing. In February 2013, demolition of the Holiday Inn began.

02.27.13 (G. Kueber)

03.02.13 (G. Kueber)

03.02.13 (G. Kueber)

03.09.13 (G. Kueber)

03.09.13 (G. Kueber)

Per the Herald-Sun on 3.27.13  

Education Realty Trust, or EdR, is a Memphis, Tenn.-based publicly traded company. EdR is partnering to build a [$46.1 million] apartment community in Durham through a joint venture with the Washington D.C. real estate investment and development firm Javelin 19 Investments.
The plan is to build a 386-bed project on property across from the Durham police headquarters. The project is proposed to include studio apartments as well as one-bedroom and two-bedroom units. In addition, there will be an attached parking garage with 400 parking spaces.

The apartments are designed to appeal to Duke University graduate students and upperclassmen, according to a news release.
EdR is planned to own and manage 90 percent of the joint venture, and will provide development, construction oversight and management services for the project.

The project is expected to be completed in the summer of 2014.

“While a graduate student at Duke, I led several consulting projects focused on the nearby West End community,” said Jill Homan, principal at Javelin 19 Investments, in a statement in the release. “This highly traveled, yet under resourced corridor between Duke and downtown Durham is an incredibly exciting redevelopment opportunity.”

Rendering from South Gregson and West Chapel Hill, looking southwest.

08.10.13 (G. Kueber)

08.10.13 (G. Kueber)

I have to say, as of December 2013, I am impressed. It is an honest-to-goodness urban infill structure, here in downtown Durham. Amazing what a massive difference it makes to the feel of this area and intersection to have some height and mass, built up to the street. This is how it is done, public sector. I reserve judgment on the exterior finishes, but couldn't be more pleased with the bulk.

12.13.13 (G. Kueber)

12.13.13 (G. Kueber)

05.31.14 (G. Kueber)

The apartment complex opened for business at the beginning of August 2014.


The interior courtyard / pool. The more things change... 08.07.14 (G. Kueber)


Ronnie Leon Sturdivant memorial

Ronnie Leon Sturdivant memorial plaque on Jackson St. behind 605 West. (November 2014)

What kind of business? - well, we'll leave that to your imagination.


In my continuing service as a pro bono, unsolicited urban redesigner, I've always imagined that building would make a great youth hostel. I wonder if the YMCA would be willing to run it...

Oh, well. Like Sturdevant would ever sell it.

Maybe we should ask Oprah to ask Sturdivant to sell the building. :)

Oprah might be the only one who could convince him to do something useful with the place. I've always imagined that it might just disappear someday, but for some reason, Neighborhood Improvement Services only wants to 'improve' structures that I think have redeeming value.

Although I think convenience stores/gas stations on corners are a really unsatisfying use of a corner lot from a design perspective, I agree that this one does have its unique character. I get off the TTA bus right by it and stop in now and then on the walk home. I have warmer feelings towards them since they seem to have decreased the once common presence of 4-5 drunk guys sprawled on the concrete next to the building. (I guess Temporary Quarters didn't have a hotel bar.)


Why Don't They Change Back To An Hotel. Talk To The Police And Heath Dep. I Am Trying To Think Why Not Change It Back. It's Been 11 Years Since The Incident. Like If I Was The Owner Of The Place. I Would Change The Place. Tell The Dep That I Was Sorry About The Accident. Like Its Not Like They Told Them That They Cant Do A Hotel For There Rest Of There Life.There Might Have Been A Gun Shot To The Police. But Its Not Like They Did It On Purpose. YOu Know

I drove by this afternoon and saw several police cars (lights on) along with a couple of tow trucks. Several people were outside having very animated conversations.

I recall reading recently that the lot was going to get cleaned up, come hell or warrant. Anyone have the real scoop?

--Jamie Gruener

I heard that the Urban Merchant Center is under contract. Anybody know anything?

That is the rumor - I saw surveyors around the site a few weeks ago, and there is a big "AUCTION - EVERYTHING MUST GO" sign out front." From a few different sources, I've heard that it's a developer that typically specializes in student housing. Hopefully, if that's the case, they'll put something nice here and not some craptastic plasticness. It's an awesome location.

Although honestly my bar's pretty low on what can replace this mess. The only thing worth saving is the cool front awning.


Drop a daisy-cutter on this thing. I never thought I would say this, but how about a mixed-use development here? Or a nice-looking office building?

I went to the auction, just to get a look inside the place. Mostly full of trash and mold. Some of the rooms still had shelves full of thrift store stuff, and some were just full of garbage. It was super fascinating though - the whole place's history could be seen as you walked through the enormous place. The auction materials said that the building is going to be torn down.

The Herald-Sun reports as of 10.18.2012 that the property has sold to a Memphis developer of student housing, named EdR. The developer reportedly plans to build 350 units on the property, along with structured parking. Reportedly, they have also purchased the two service station parcels (one former) on West Chapel Hill Street - 601 WCH and 613 WCH.

While I'll reserve full judgment until I see the quality of product that the group builds - we don't really need another Duke Villa here - this is almost certainly a big positive. I've been yearning to see some of the areas that really create deadness between areas of vibrancy come alive, and this is a very big one. If they get this right (and the Armada Hoffler/Greenfire development on Jackson St. comes to fruition.) I think we'll see a dramatic transformation in the way Five Points/Brightleaf/AmTob link with Morehead Hill and the commercial corridor on West Chapel Hill Street.


Gary- I was writing to tell you that this morning, driving south on the Durham Freeway, I could see a bulldozer outside of the old Holiday Inn tearing it down... but I see you've already realized this. Glad you got some photos ahead of the demolition.

This hotel was the site of likely Durham's first mainstream disco called S.R.O. This would have been around 1976 or so. It was complete with Saturday Night Fever lit-up floor and a bar. Its location was in the basement of the front/main building. The entrance was down the patterned concrete block visible to the left of the building. It can be seen in the first photo with the stepped awning.

Gary - DDI just posted on Facebook that they broke ground on the site today! It seems they are partnering with EdR on it. Anyway, I hope your wishes are true that it will bring more link between the 5 points, brightleaf and west chapel hill areas. Agree it's better than Duke student housing for sure. When I googled "urban merchant center" it was fun and interesting to read all you had collected on the area. Thanks for the significant service you do for Durham in preserving all this great information!

Thanks so much Beth! Just as an FYI, DDI is a booster group for downtown - they do not develop anything. (I sit on their board, full disclosure.) The project is a partnership between EDR and the Javelin Group (investors.) While we know that the project will be 300 apartment units, the other details are a bit fuzzy - so I do hope that it's better quality that the Duke Manors of the world.


I drove by this morning, March 1st, on West Chapel Hill Street. The old Amoco gas station on the corner of West Chapel Hill Street and Gregson Street was torm down as of 8:45 this morning. However it didn't look like they had actually started tearing down the hotel itself yet.

So it looks like it will become an apartment complex. See the durham News story "Apartment builder buys abandoned motel" for more (sorry can't post the link because of spam filters).

Let's hope for some storefront/restaurants too.

Ahh, I knew you would know what was going on with this place. It's the end of an era with the birth of something new, perhaps they should call it The Phoenix instead of 605.

I had to visit this area in my brain like Google Street View to think about how close it really is to Brightleaf and ATC, in which it really is reasonable walking distance to a lot of places... like the Bus Depot.

I've looked at this post before, and never really took notice of a specific comment that might have direct correlation to something that may have happened that you described in this blog post.

It also makes me wonder if there is a Durham(Duke) Master Plan out there somewhere in some double secret room only you may know about.

And..... what does the guy right across the street think about it? Is he thinking of selling?? :-)

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