Work for second phase of Ninth Street North underway

Jun. 18, 2014 @ 06:00 PM

Work has begun on a new Ninth Street apartment complex that will transform a block of the street north of Elmo’s Diner.
Site preparation work is underway for the Solis Ninth Street apartment project, which is slated to have 229 apartments, a central courtyard and pool. The development also includes space for ground-level retail shops and restaurants. The project is on the block bounded by Ninth Street north of Elmo’s, Green Street and Iredell Street.
Burt Phillips, a spokesman for the lead developer, Charlotte-based Terwilliger Pappas, said the project is scheduled to be completed in early 2016. Durham developer Glenn Dickson and Blue Ridge Realty are also partners in the project.
In the planning stages for years, the project is the second phase of the Ninth Street North development project, whose first phase was developed by Dickson through a limited partnership called Ninth Street North Properties.
Completed in 2002, the first phase was the two-story building on Ninth Street that houses Bali Hai, Dale’s Indian Cuisine, and One World Market.
The next phase – the apartment complex -- was at one time targeted to get underway in 2009, but an official said in a previous interview that the recession delayed the project.
Dickson said Wednesday that the project was too large for his family to develop alone, so they sought a partner. They put in the land as equity, he said, and will continue to play a role in the retail side of the project.
“This project was much larger than our local family could take on,” he said. “We partnered with very professional group out of Charlotte, Terwilliger Pappas, to help us execute this plan. And they are the lead developer, but we are helping with the development and the retail leasing.”
Dickson said that residential property on the site footprint on Iredell has been demolished, and demolition has begun along Ninth.
Solis Ninth Street has a mix of residential as well as commercial uses, Dickson said, and will act as a transition between the business-oriented district to the south and the residential district to the north. 
“We’ve been working on this for seven years now, and we’ve had a lot of neighborhood input for the density,” Dickson said. “So it’s a higher density than what has been there with old dilapidated buildings for the last 10, 15, 20 years. And we’re actually making that block a nicer area for everyone.”
Tom Miller, a resident of the nearby Watts-Hillandale Neighborhood Association and a chairman of the group who worked on the project plans with developers, said he’s glad to see the project underway. However, he said it will make a “big change” to Ninth Street’s profile because of its proximity to residential neighborhoods.
“In the past, development on this site was pretty low-intensity commercial (Biscuit King, The Colonel, and an ABC store – all one-story buildings),” he aid. “Now it will have a lot of apartments in a multistory building.”
But he said the building will step-down as it goes north, which will “soften the impact.”
“This is a promise they will keep under the existing site plan,” he said in an email. “This is good.”
Miller said he worries about how many new apartments the area can absorb. In addition to Solis Ninth Street, a new apartment complex has gone up in the Ninth Street area called Crescent Ninth Street, and at least one other is under construction nearby.
“I also worry about building so many very similar projects in similar buildings all at the same time,” Miller said. “What will happen when all of these buildings reach the end of their useful lives at the same time? I would have preferred a little more diversity in housing types and more home-ownership housing mixed in with the rental units.”
In addition to the first phase of Ninth Street North and the apartment complex, there’s also a future potential phase in the works that’s targeted for property including where the French bistro Vin Rouge sites now.
But Dickson said that phase will “not happen any time soon” and in fact, he said “we don’t even know if that will ever happen.”
“That is a future, way-down-the-road development,” Dickson said. “And we don’t know if that will ever happen because Vin Rouge and Blu (Seafood) are wonderful tenants and great additions to West Durham.”