Preservation Durham Award: Golden Belt Mill Houses

Dec. 15, 2012 @ 09:58 AM


Neighborhood Conservation Award

Developer: Scientific Properties,

Contractor: Acanthus Construction



Scientific Properties is perhaps best known for its successful rehabilitation of the Golden Belt mill complex, a 2010 winner of Preservation Durham’s Pyne Award.  This fully occupied campus, once home to Julian Carr’s Golden Belt Manufacturing Company, a turn-of-the-20th-century company that manufactured packaging for tobacco products, now houses lofts, retail, office space, galleries and events.

Following the completion of this project, Gary Kueber, chief executive officer for Scientific Properties, turned his attention to revitalizing the surrounding neighborhood, which was once company-built housing for mill workers.

To this end, Scientific Properties has either renovated or newly constructed nine houses in the Golden Belt Historic District since 2007.  The new construction is sensitive to the existing historic buildings and neighborhood fabric as a whole, and only vacant buildings and land have been redeveloped. 

In order to stretch their resources as far as possible across the neighborhood, Scientific Properties’ has focused their renovations on only the exterior, or “shell,” of these buildings, leaving the interiors an open canvas for prospective homebuyers.  This unorthodox strategy reveals Kueber’s commitment to increasing home ownership in this neighborhood.

Like most of the existing historic houses in the Golden Belt area, the renovated houses were company-built from 1900 through the 1910s as worker housing in styles typical across North Carolina.  Golden Belt Manufacturing sold these modest houses to workers in the 1950s and the neighborhood continued to have strong ties to the factory even after the final closure of the mill in 1994.  Vacancy rates rose, home ownership fell, and teardowns became frequent by the time Scientific Properties undertook the rehabilitation of the factory complex.

Most properties purchased and renovated by Scientific Properties had been vacant for years and were in a state of advanced neglect.  Most needed extensive foundation, framing, door, window and siding repairs and replacement, and some also required roof replacement and rebuilt porches.  Where possible, Scientific Properties undertook limited interior renovations, and they completely renovated the interior of one home.

While there is still work to be done in this neighborhood, the shell renovations have helped jump-start a trend of renovating the existing modest frame houses for owner occupancy or affordable rentals.  To date (as of the awards presentation), Scientific Properties has sold four of the six renovated houses: 1005 Morning Glory Avenue (a 2011 Preservation Durham Neighborhood Conservation Award Winner), 1003 Worth Street, 1102 Wall Street and 1008 Franklin Street.  Homeowners have completed the renovations in these houses, and they are owner-occupied.