Duke University is set to radically transform part of Northgate Mall in Durham.
The university announced on Friday that it will be taking over the former Macy’s department store, which has sat vacant for much of the past year, and turn it into administrative offices and medical clinics for Duke University Health System.
Duke purchased the 2.5-acre property from Macy’s Retail Holdings Inc. for $4.5 million, according to county property records. Macy’s owned its department store at Northgate Mall – but the larger mall is owned by Durham-based Northgate Associates.
The Northgate Macy’s has been closed since earlier this year, when it was part of a larger shuttering of stores by the department chain.
Scott Selig, Duke’s associate vice president of real estate, said the former Macy’s store represented an opportunity to enhance the Northgate area as well as provide a large space for its growing medical clinic presence.
“All malls and all cities are changing and redeveloping as retail is changing and redeveloping,” Selig said in an interview. “We felt that this opportunity would be a boost for the Northgate area – and because it lies almost equidistant to our two hospital campuses in Durham, we felt it was very easily accessible to our employees.
“We feel like (this redevelopment) really will redefine Northgate for the next decades.”
Selig said the former Macy’s space will become the largest single office for Duke Health that is not currently on one of its three hospital campuses. The two-story, 183,840-square-foot building at 1058 West Club Boulevard will be renovated to house more than 1,000 Duke staff, doctors and patients.
Duke plans to extensively renovate the former department store – both the inside of the building and the parking lot – to accommodate medical facilities and patient drop-off areas.
Melodie Pugh, director of marketing at Northgate Associates, said Duke’s investment will spur further changes at the mall.
“There will be a lot of changes, a lot of positive changes,” she said. “Malls are struggling all across the country and they are trying to be creative. ... These clinics are still going to open into the mall and will really enhance that end of the mall.”
In recent time, the mall has added tenants beyond retail and restaurant spaces. Planet Fitness recently opened a gym there, Measurement Inc. has put offices in the mall and the Durham County Library houses its North Carolina collection there.
Pugh added that filling the vacant building could help spark renewed interest from tenants and restaurants. That its newest tenant is Duke University is even better, she said.
“Everything (Duke) seems to touch they enhance. Look at what they have done in Durham alone,” she said.
Selig said he views the investment into Northgate as an extension of the investment the school has made in downtown Durham. He said Duke will work with Northgate on attracting potential tenants to the mall, though no plans have been made yet.
“Any long term building vacancy is not good for the area around it or for Durham,” he said. “The Macy’s (investment) is in the same vein” as our investment downtown.