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Could the Golden Belt campus become the new American Tobacco? Its new owners have an ambitious plan

A rendering of the Cordoba building on 800 Taylor Street, which LRC Properties intends to redevelop into an office building with an attached music venue as part of its ownership of the Golden Belt campus. The Cordoba building is pictured here with the rest of the Golden Belt campus to the north of the rendering.
A rendering of the Cordoba building on 800 Taylor Street, which LRC Properties intends to redevelop into an office building with an attached music venue as part of its ownership of the Golden Belt campus. The Cordoba building is pictured here with the rest of the Golden Belt campus to the north of the rendering. Courtesy of NAI Coralantic

The new owners of the Golden Belt campus east of downtown Durham have an ambitious plan to transform the former textile factory into an arts and community destination – with an outdoor music venue and brewery.

New York-based real estate investor LRC Properties purchased the property this month for more than $19 million from Scientific Properties. LRC now owns all the buildings on the Golden Belt campus, including the Cordoba building on the north end of the campus, which it purchased in 2016 for $4.5 million.

“We essentially want to make it a mini American Tobacco Campus, but on the east side of Main Street, near where Ponysaurus (Brewing Co.) and some residential has brought some community to an area that has been neglected,” said Howard Lavitt, a co-founder of LRC, adding that he thinks the rejuvenation of the building could be a catalyst for the neighborhood.

The Golden Belt campus, which was created by the Golden Belt Manufacturing Co. in the early 1900s, is made up of six buildings – not including the Cordoba building.

The Golden Belt campus has about 37 loft-style apartments and 150,000 square feet of office space. Current tenants includes Durham city government units such as the Neighborhood Improvement Services Department, the Office of Economic & Workforce Development and Community Development.

The Cordoba building, which will be renamed Mill No. 1, has about 190,000 square feet of space.

Scientific Properties – a real estate firm founded by Andrew Rothschild that once had extensive holdings in downtown Durham – purchased the Golden Belt buildings in 2004 and originally renovated them into offices, loft apartments and artists studios.

Biggest changes

The biggest changes will be coming to the former Cordoba building. It will be converted into loft-office space, an exhibition hall, a music venue and space for a brewery complete with a beer garden. The rest of the Golden Belt campus will see cosmetic improvements, such as new signage, entrances and improved streetscapes.

Renovations to the Cordoba building and the rest of the Golden Belt campus are expected to exceed $30 million and will take 12 to 14 months to complete, according to Lavitt. RCI Contractors, which helped build Citrix’s Raleigh office, has been tasked with the renovation.

The Cordoba building was formerly the home of the Cordoba Arts Center, which once housed several arts organizations, including Liberty Arts and The Scrap Exchange, which were displaced when the Liberty Warehouse roof collapsed in 2011.

The Cordoba building now sits empty while it’s being renovated, but LRC plans to offer around 10,000 square feet of space at a subsidized price for artists and around 10,000 square feet in the main Golden Belt buildings to continue its history as a space for artists.

Arts and music

Office space at the Golden Belt campus will likely rent in the upper $20s per square foot, while artists could pay half or 40 percent of that price, Lavitt said.

“We are going to continue to emphasize the arts and music,” he said. The campus will also include a community garden space for the nonprofit SEEDS.

Lavitt added that the music venue will be managed by Cicely Mitchell, the co-founder of the Art of Cool music festival, and that LRC will create a budget for marketing the venue.

Several breweries have been in conversation with LRC about the Cordoba space, including Dueling Sloths Brewing Co., which was located in the building before the renovations.

LRC – which also owns the 227 Fayetteville Street building in downtown Raleigh – said it’s in discussions with the city about a public-private partnership on the redevelopment of the campus. A partnership with the city will be “pivotal” to create more parking around the campus, Lavitt said.

“We are looking for the city to help us. We don’t want … parking to be an issue and a growth inhibitor.” he said, noting the property has a few vacant parcels that could be set aside for affordable housing.

“We need to focus on the east side (of downtown) and not just the center and the west side. The city has spent a lot of money putting up parking structures by the American Tobacco Campus and putting money into streetscapes and parks – but on the east (side) there has been very little done.”

Zachery Eanes: 919-419-6684, @zeanes

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