Downtown apartment plans get conditional OK

Apr. 11, 2013 @ 12:51 PM

A developer has received conditional approval for plans to build apartments on a parking lot used mostly by residents of the West Village lofts, but has abandoned plans for now for a smaller additional apartment building across the street.
Federal Capital Partners is the majority owner of West Village, the mixed-use development of loft apartments, businesses and restaurants in renovated former tobacco commercial buildings downtown. The Maryland-based company is also behind plans to build 156 units of apartments as well as parking on what’s now a parking lot at 601 W. Morgan St.
On Friday, the City of Durham Development Review Board approved the site plan for the proposed apartments subject to certain corrections and verification, said Alysia Bailey Taylor, planning supervisor with Durham City-County Planning, in an email.
The plans will get the final sign-off by staff when the requested corrections are made, she said. The developer also needs to get the project construction drawings approved before applying for building permits.
Bryan Kane, vice president with Federal Capital Partners, said the company is targeting construction to begin at the end of the second quarter. The company has the capital it needs to complete the project, he said.
Originally, the apartment project was also planned to include a second building on the north side of West Morgan Street. But Federal Capital dropped the idea after a January Historic Preservation Commission hearing, Downtown Durham Inc. President Bill Kalkhof said.
Though the commission only delayed a decision on the second building, Federal Capital officials “were frustrated, and that led to the conclusion, ‘There’s no purpose in coming back, we’ll move on and build on Main Street parking lot where we don’t have to go through the [preservation commission],’ ” Kalkhof said.
Kane said company officials believed there was “no clear direction” from the commission as to what changes they wanted to the building design.
He said the uncertainty of the timing, the cost of the additional building and the fact that the additional structure would take away parking made the company opt to build the single building instead.
The company may reconsider the building in the future, he said, but does not have any plans for the second building currently.
“We submitted (to the Historic Preservation Commission), and they asked us to come back with additional amendments, which the requested amendments were very unclear, and as a result, we didn’t feel it was prudent to spend the time on that approval process when we could build a much more economical building on the larger lot without that impediment,” he said.
The company changed its plans from a proposal to build 196 units between a larger building and a smaller, 44-unit building across the street, to a single, 156-unit building. The company does not need any approvals from the Historic Preservation Commission for the single building at 601 W. Morgan St., Kane said.
The building is slated to be six stories with some interior parking, he said. There will be fewer parking spots than there are on the lot now, so said there is also excess parking in another existing West Village parking garage.
Bailey Taylor said the plans call for 16 surface parking spaces as well as 110 spaces in a proposed parking deck, as well as another five on-street spaces.
Kane said the existing parking lot is used mostly by residents, but is used by one business, Posh The Salon. He said “certainly everybody” is going to be impacted to some degree by the work, but he said that’s part of urban construction.
“Just to be clear, we will be doing everything we can to lessen the impact of construction on our tenants, and we are confident the added amenities and residents are going to be an improvement to both the residents’ lifestyle and our commercial tenants’ businesses in the long run,” he said in an email.
Mary Long, the owner of Posh, said she and others are waiting on additional information about parking impacts, as well as about noise from the construction.
“The management company is aggressively gathering information for us, and is constantly in communication with us, so we’re really comfortable with how things are proceeding,” she said. “We do have additional information to gather.”
Long said the apartments could also add to the business’s client base.
“On the positive side, West Village maintains a high occupancy rate, so we certainly are excited that there will be additional potential clients because we certainly enjoy a partnership with the apartments,” she said.

Reporter Ray Gronberg contributed to this report.