Big changes coming to Durham’s NC Mutual building

The N.C. Mutual Building will be seeing a lot of changes in coming months, as a developer plans to refurbish the building.
The N.C. Mutual Building will be seeing a lot of changes in coming months, as a developer plans to refurbish the building. The Herald-Sun

The NC Mutual building on West Chapel Hill Street is getting a dramatic makeover – one that will see its landmark name stripped from the top of the building.

The 12-story, 1960s-era office tower has been renamed Legacy Tower by a development group led by Michael Lemanski, who plans to update the building to attract new tenants. Earlier this year, NC Mutual announced it would shrink its footprint there from six floors to one, opening up 60,000 square feet of office space there.

Lemanski bought the building in 2006 for $10.5 million, while still with Greenfire Development, according to property records. The original Greenfire investors were bought out several years ago, and the new group contains mainly local investors, he said

The group is pouring $11 million into the renovations.

“The building has good bones,” Lemanski said, noting the changes will be mainly cosmetic.

Changes include restoring the façade, adding a mezzanine to expand the lobby by 13,000 square feet, and improving amenities such as a fitness center and a cafe.

Lemanski said the group is also adding lights to make the building more prominent at night.

The renovations should be complete in 12 months.

The naming rights of the building are also available for purchase – so potentially a new company name will adorn the top of the building again.

The renovations come as the 118-year-old NC Mutual reduces its footprint in Durham. The company, which posted a loss of $479,000 last year, told its shareholders at its annual meeting this year about the building’s transformation.

The company also changed its name in March to NC Mutual rather than continuing to use N.C. Mutual Life, which is currently written on the building’s signage.

Rents will climb significantly once the renovation is completed. Real estate firm Avison Young lists rates at the building between $26 to $29 per square foot.

“We think it can have similar rates as the rest of downtown Durham,” Lemanski said.

Lemanksi hopes the changes will attract creative-class clientele. The architecture firm Perkins+Will has already moved into the building, and he has heard interest from other potential tenants.

“We think (the renovations) will make it an amazing showpiece in downtown,” he said.

Zachery Eanes: 919-419-6684, @zeanes