516 Rigsbee Ave

36.000631, -78.899633

Cross Street
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The warehouse district area north of Morgan St., what is left of it, is a mid-20th century creation. The area near Rigsbee Ave. and Broadway St., in particular, was a higher-end late 19th and very early-20th century residential area.

Looking north-northwest up Rigsbee Ave., 1924. The houses are clustered around Broadway and Rigsbee.
(Courtesy Duke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection / Digital Durham)

By the 1940s-1960s, almost all evidence of this residential area had been displaced by light industrial/commercial enterprises. The building at 516 Rigsbee Ave. was built in the early 1960s by the Southern Parts and Electric company, and remained such through a portion of the 1970s.

Looking southeast down Rigsbee Ave., 09.02.67
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)

Sometime in the 1970s, the building became a NAPA auto parts store before being purchased by the city. The city utilized the building as a machine shop.

At this point abandoned for an indeterminate period, the currently city-owned structure is, along with 213 Broadway (immediately behind the building) currently under renovation as the downtown district (District 5) substation, forensic unit, and special operations buildings.

Looking northeast, 06.08.08

I'm happy to see the city renovating old structures for these purposes, and that District 5 will have a location distinct from police headquarters. Given the current desolation along this portion of Rigsbee Ave., it is a welcome addition.

Update 4.21.09.

The substation appears to be complete at this point - I like that they have adopted the old look of the letters atop the sign, although, even though it is a police station, I'm not sure how well Di trict 5 will be able to hang onto those letters. The random-ish assortment of windows is a bit strange, but it seems like an appropriate building to get a little bit crazy with. All in all, I think the design is interesting.

Looking northeast, 04.19.09.



This building is a serious frustration to me. The Durham Central Park folks asked the city to take it over years ago, but they're now regretting it, I think, as what's going in is a police substation which will be unoccupied much of the time, but which commands one of the most impressive views of the park there is.

For over a year I called and pried everyone I could think of in City Hall to try to see if the city would re-think using this as the police substation, so we could use it as a grocery store location. Nope, too late.

Now, I see that DPD's plans involve going around and bricking up many of the windows. Which just makes me sad.

Ugh, really? Well that definitely changes my assessment of it. I hadn't been by in ~2 weeks. They're bricking in the windows?

I guess I also didn't realize that the substation would be "unoccupied much of the time" vs. an ongoing presence. That doesn't sound like much of a police station.


Here's the link to the plans.


It appears that CSI Durham will relocate there from their current location just down the street, so it won't be unoccupied. However they don't generate sidewalk activity, so don't expect much in that department.

I also tried to get this building back from the city. It is a terrible location for a police station made even worse by the terrible design.

This location should have a direct tie in with Central Park and server a greater purpose in connection with the public foot traffic desired in this area. A police station will simply remind people of the stigma of Durham being crime infested. If will command the view of the farmers market and what we all hoped would become a vibrant Central Park.

Very SAD indeed.

Danny, thank you for the link. Wow, that is one unfriendly-looking building.

Yikes. What a piece of crap. Obviously I need to re-write my assessment of the redevelopment of the building. That has to be the most bizarrely ugly use of windows I've seen in a building in years.


I never understood the City's stance that it was "too late." So it's too late to do the right thing? They could have actually made money on the building by selling it to a developer, easily recouping any design costs they may have incurred. It's not like there aren't any other locations that could work for this purpose. At this point, with the positive changes that have taken place around Central Park, that building has some real value. Short-sighted bureaucracy at its finest, and a horrible design to boot.

It could be worse! At least the building isn't being torn down. It will be occupied the majority of the time.


Really, it could be worse?

Previous posters posted that they tried to get the building from the city...for good re/uses including the much-needed downtown grocery.

So, no, it wouldn't be torn down, or be a piece of crap, or be a reminder of Durham Crime Capital of NC!

Your "it could be worse" is just silly.

Are substations safe? dangerous? eyesores? It looks like it depends on who you ask in Durham.

Yes this building overlooks Central Park but if someone really wanted to redevelop this area there is no shortage of parking lots, warehouses and abandoned industrial sites.

Hopefully in 5/10 years, the city can sell this building at huge profit but the substation would probably have to move and in 5/10 years people will be begging for the station not to move...

I'm not sure where you get the idea that everyone will want the substation in 5/10 years. Does that mean you expect crime to get worse? I expect the area to improve and attract residents and tourists and new businesses. I hope that doesn't bring crime too but.. I suspect with more feet on the streets that crime will move on or at least a reasonable reduction in the fear based society.

As a developer in that area, I can say the Police Substation is neither good or bad TODAY. However, something more people friendly (i.e. grocery, restaurant, etc.) would be GOOD. As that area rejuvenates, a police substation will become more of a distraction than a valued addition - especially considering the proposed design. It is hideous, neither modern and enlightened nor respectful and historic. It is simple butt ugly and designed to separate the inner workings from the community.

The right decision would be to move the location and dispose of the building for a better purpose. A reasonable decision would be to at least design a police station that is a valued addition to the community and not a Precinct 13.

from anon8:51 to anon6:20,

Design is supposed to spark emotion...The Chrysler 300 is either butt ugly or beautiful depending on who you ask. I honestly don't think this proposed design deserves that much emotion.

As far as Central Park, I prefer that it become a club and entertainment district. It is in an industrial area (semi-buffered from residential areas).

A better place for a restaurant would be the corner of Central Park on the hill diagonal from the Senior Center. It could have a nice balcony overlooking performances at Central Park.

As far as substations being a distraction, most revitalizing areas place substations or monitoring stations for the perception of safety. As more people visit the Central Park area, they will want to feel safe and criminals would feel less safe going about their "business" as the area becomes more popular. (Criminals don't frequent areas w/ no "customers") :)



Hmmm. I don't think building design is supposed to spark revulsion, despite that being one of a spectrum of emotions. Despite that I agree that design does evoke emotional responses, and this one does just that. Or do you consider this one a failure on the grounds that it doesn't warrant an emotional response?


A police substation doesn't need to be in the most prominent location in Central Park. It is a misuse of that location and it will merely serve as a reminder that Durham has a crime issue and isn't safe without a police escort. I don't believe that is true but many do and this will be a great symbol of that perception. Through good design, this could be over come although I'd still prefer a different use for the site.

This will become the prison on the north side. Another great blunder in urban planning.

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