Chesterfield Building owner confirms some ‘work is beginning soon’

Apr. 23, 2014 @ 08:39 PM

Demolition and other work is beginning soon at the former Liggett Group cigarette factory on Main Street downtown, a spokesman for the company that owns the building confirmed Wednesday.

But the work may be more of a procedural step to meet deadlines to ensure that plans and permits needed for the project remain in place, according to Durham City Manager Tom Bonfield.

“The demolition work is just showing they’re continuing the project,” Bonfield said, explaining that rules in place require developers to hit certain milestones in order to keep permits and site plans in place.

The building in question is at 701 W. Main St. and is also known as the Chesterfield Building.The vacant, seven-story building sold for $7.5 million at the end of last year to a Maryland-based real estate company.

Wexford Science & Technology,  part of the real estate investment trust BioMed Realty, specializes in developing facilities for institutions, especially universities, university-led research parks, and health care systems.

 “Wexford remains focused on working with the city of Durham to redevelop the Chesterfield into a world-class research facility,” Jim Cullinan, a Wexford spokesman, said in an emailed statement. “While we can confirm that some abatement and demolition work is beginning soon, it is premature for us to discuss specific plans as we continue to finalize our planning for this exciting redevelopment project in downtown Durham. We hope to have more information soon.”

The city issued a building permit for interior demolition work totaling $2.46 million.

 “I think they’re just doing some demolition,” Bonfield said, “and they have to keep the building permit alive in order to keep the site plan approval alive,” he said.

More generally, Bonfield said he believes they’re still trying to figure out where they’re going to build parking needed for the project. He said they may need between 600 to 800 parking spaces. He said they have had conversations with city leaders about “how we can work with them to figure out how to solve a parking problem.”

“It’s not really our problem to solve,” he said.

 “A parking deck is going to have to be built,” he said. “There’s not enough surface parking to support those kinds of numbers. You have to go vertical. That’s what they’re looking at – available land in proximity.”

Bonfield also added the city is “very, very positive on Wexford.” He said the project  in combination with others in the area to create research space are “fantastic for that district of downtown.”

An attempt to reach Josh Parker, a Durham resident who was at one time vying to buy and redevelop the building through his own firm but who works for Wexford, was not successful Wednesday.