Sun setting on SunTrust sign as changes loom

Jun. 28, 2013 @ 04:14 PM

The SunTrust Bank sign that sits on top of the 17-story tower on Corcoran Street downtown is proposed to come down, and plans are in motion for the bank branch in the bottom floor of the building to move down the street.

The changes come as part of the planned redevelopment of the building, built in 1937 and known historically as the Hill Building (and, at one time, the CCB Building), into a hotel, restaurant and art museum called 21c Museum Hotel.

Plans for renovation of the historic structure have been submitted to Durham’s Historic Preservation Commission for consideration on Tuesday.

Work on the building’s interior was slated to start Friday, said Craig Greenberg, president of the company behind the planned project, 21c Museum Hotels.

The Kentucky-based company announced on Friday the start of the $48 million renovation and restoration project that’s targeted to be complete in 2015.

“We are starting today, and we will (continue) without interruption until completion,” Greenberg said. He said a permit was issued Thursday that would allow for the start of interior demolition and environmental abatement work. That interior work doesn’t affect historic parts of the structure, he said.

The Historic Preservation Commission considers proposed changes to the exterior of local historic structures when deciding whether to issue a certificate of appropriateness for a project.

And, according to the plans filed with the commission, the company plans to keep the exterior of the tower largely the same.

The company is planning to repair windows and clean up the limestone on the exterior of the building, to open up the upper story terraces for use by hotel guests and to replace six windows on 13th- and15th-story terraces with doors to provide access to outdoor spaces, among other work.

It also plans to install new canopies and signs on the ground floor for the hotel and restaurant, and to take down the SunTrust sign on top of the tower.

“SunTrust’s lease expires at the end of this year, and as part of our redesign and renovation of the project, the SunTrust sign will be removed,” Greenberg said. “That’s not a historical element that’s part of the period of (historical) significance.”

Michael McCoy, a spokesman for Atlanta-based SunTrust, confirmed in an email that the bank has signed a lease for another space downtown for the branch.

Plans have been filed with the Historic Preservation Commission for renovations to a space in another local historic site nearby at 200 N. Mangum St. to allow for the opening of a new bank branch there. Those plans also are slated to be considered at Tuesday’s meeting.

The building on North Mangum was built in 1912, and was once home of the pharmacy Rogers Drug Co. Plans filed with the commission show proposed renovations of the 2,825-square-foot first floor space that would include work to the storefront openings to allow for installation of an ATM and night-depository equipment. The original tile floors and decorative metal ceilings are proposed to stay.

At one time, the tower at 111 N. Corcoran St. was the regional headquarters for SunTrust.

The building was known as the CCB Building until 2004, when Central Carolina Bank was acquired by SunTrust. CCB’s lettering was on top of the building starting 1964.

State senator and philanthropist John Sprunt Hill hired the design firm Shreve, Lamb and Harmon to work on the building, according to information in the Durham City-County Planning Department’s Downtown Durham Historic District Plan. The design firm also designed the Empire State Building.

After its completion, the plan said the building was headquarters for Hill’s Home Savings and Trust Co., which later became CCB.

In 2006, a Durham-based development firm, Greenfire Development, bought the building for nearly $4.1 million. The company once had plans of its own to turn the building into a boutique hotel.

The firm now has a minority ownership interest in the project led by 21c Museum Hotels.

“(I’m) very excited at the start of construction of the hotel,” said Paul Smith, managing partner of Greenfire, in an email. “(It’s) a big day for Durham!”

Greenberg said that after the renovation is complete, the building will be a hotel with 125 rooms, a new restaurant, and public space on the first two floors with a free, public art museum that will showcase rotating art shows.

The redevelopment project is backed by $5.7 million in incentives from the Durham City Council and another $2 million from the Durham County Board of Commissioners.

Greenberg said the company has closed on a portion of the financing for the project and is “on the road” to closing the rest. He said the company has closed on a loan from Self-Help Ventures. The company is investing equity in the project.

Targeted to open in 2015, the Durham hotel would be the Kentucky company’s fourth, behind completed hotels in Louisville, Ky., Cincinnati, and Bentonville, Ark.