Colorado firm buys former downtown motel for $5 million

Jun. 26, 2014 @ 05:53 PM

A Colorado firm has added the former Jack Tar Motel to its downtown Durham real estate collection.

A limited liability company connected to Aspen, Colo.,-based Austin Lawrence Partners paid $5 million for the motel on Corcoran Street on Wednesday, according to Durham property records.

“We plan to do a hip, cool, artsy, hotel with about 72 rooms,” said Greg Hills, the co-founder and managing partner of the Colorado-based firm, as well as to restore the building’s interior parking deck.

He said they want to renovate the pool deck and to add a bar there, and to have ground-floor retail space such as a late-night diner.

The motel building is at the corner of Corcoran and Parrish streets, across Parrish from  the vacant lot where Austin Lawrence wants to build a tower with 21 floors of apartments, four floors of office space, and ground-floor shops and restaurants.

According to marketing information for the project, the developer plans to use the motel deck as parking for the office space in the downtown tower.

During the day, he said 200 spaces of the 250-space deck would be used by employees working in the tower office space, and after hours, it would open for public parking. Fifty spaces would always be open to the public.

Hills said they plan to start construction on the tower this October, and to have the more than $70 million project finished late in 2016. The motel renovation is expected to cost around $20 million, he said. Work is targeted to begin in January to allow for a soft opening in the first quarter of 2016.

“We’re working diligently now on the financing,” Hills said. “We are working with a joint venture partner on the project on the tower, and so we expect to have that all wrapped up in the next couple of months.” 

City Council leaders have pledged $4 million in public incentives to support the two projects. And in May, the Durham County Board of Commissioners voted to add approximately $4 million. The incentives will be paid out across 15 years if the developer meets certain performance targets.
The company already bought the vacant land where the skyscraper is planned. It bought the land through a connected limited liability company in November 2012 along with several neighboring vacant buildings on Main and Parrish Streets. The firm plans to weave the facades of the neighboring vacant buildings into the new construction.
In addition to those two downtown properties, Austin Lawrence was also behind the purchase of the 1970s-era building on Main Street downtown known as the SouthBank building. The company plans to demolish the building to develop something else there.