Downtown apartments, condos, showcased on home tour

Apr. 27, 2013 @ 07:37 PM

Looking down at the city from the seventh-story patio of the penthouse apartment in a Main Street building downtown, Amanda Mancuso could see the now-vacant cigarette factory where her mother once worked.

Mancuso, a Raleigh resident who said she was born and raised in Durham, said she also worked as a summer intern at the former Liggett & Myers Tobacco Co. factory on the corner of Duke and Main streets.

She took in the view as part of the 17th Annual Old Durham Home Tour, which included stops at 11 downtown apartments and condos. The tour is held as a fundraiser for Preservation Durham, an organization that promotes the restoration of historic homes and commercial properties. It was held on Saturday and continues Sunday.

Wendy Hillis, Preservation Durham’s executive director, said the home tour has been held downtown three times, the last time in 2005. She said it was held downtown this year because there have been a lot of changes.

“I love downtown and I’m so excited that it’s being revitalized,” said Mancuso. She had watched downtown’s revitalization from the outside, and now wanted to see it from the inside as well.

She could see the former cigarette factory from the penthouse of what’s known as the Snow Building. According to Preservation Durham, the building at 331 W. Main Street was built as an office building in 1930.

The tour also included a stop at a building on Rigsbee Avenue that was built in 1937. At one time, it housed a recreation facility with a ten-pin bowling alley, according to Preservation Durham. It was bought in 2002 as a burned-out shell, and redeveloped into office space and condo units.

The tour also included an apartment in the Five Points area of downtown on East Chapel Hill Street. The apartment is in renovated buildings at the corner of Chapel Hill and Morris streets that, on the ground floor, also house The Cupcake Bar, Pizzeria Toro, and other businesses.

Tom Galloway rents the 1,800-square-foot apartment that was open for the tour. He said he thinks downtown is at an inflection point, and it’s good to let people know about its housing options.

Galloway said he attended Duke University in the mid-1980s, and moved back to Durham. He touted downtown’s restaurants and bar scene and community and other attributes. The apartment he rents has hardwood floors and a rooftop deck with views of downtown.

“Durham has been through a lot,” he said. “(It’s) very cool now.”

The tour also included a two-story condominium in the Kress Building on Main Street. The Kress was built in 1933, according to Preservation Durham.

Durham resident Tom Miller, house captain for that tour stop, said he remembered his mother taking him on shopping trips to the building when it housed an S.H. Kress & Co. department store.

He said it was one of several department stores downtown, with a lunch counter and a toy section. The building was bought by Greenfire Development in 2005.

“I don’t remember being in here very well,” Miller said. “Downtown is coming back, but we sure did let it fall very, very far.”

Amanda Smith, the owner of the two-story unit that was open for the tour, said the top question people asked when she moved downtown was about her safety. Now, she said, their spontaneous reaction is “Oh, how cool.”

Joan Eastman took the tour on Saturday with her husband, Ed. She said she moved to the city 35 years ago, and believes it’s safer, and there are more things to do.

Ed said they’re also interested in the history of Durham, as well as the current and future development downtown. He said they enjoy seeing what’s happening downtown, which he said has an “almost electric vibe.”

“It’s exciting that Durham has come this far,” Joan said.