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Check out the rooftop views from the new Durham Innovation District buildings

One day soon you will be able to enjoy a meal and a drink from the rooftop of 300 Morris — one of two 7-story buildings going up in the Durham Innovation District — all while taking in a sweeping vista of downtown.

The twin buildings, at 200 and 300 Morris Street on the edge of Durham Central Park, have been one of the several crane-heavy projects that have dotted Durham's skyline since it broke ground a little over a year ago. But that construction will soon be completed and new tenants will follow.

Longfellow Real Estate Partners — the developers behind the $100 million project — said one of those tenants will be a new rooftop restaurant. The firm is talking to “a couple operators” about opening a restaurant on the rooftop of 300 Morris, said Longfellow Managing Director Jessica Brock.

The restaurant tenant and several office tenants will likely be announced in the coming months, as construction draws to a close. Retail on the first floors of each building is also planned.

The two buildings, designed by Durham-based Duda/Paine Architects, are “probably about 80 percent complete” with a targeted completion date for July, Brock said

Only one tenant has been named so far, albeit a huge one. Duke Clinical Research Institute (DCRI) has leased all 160,000 square feet of the 200 Morris building. The move consolidates all of DCRI’s operations in the city to downtown, rather than split between downtown’s DCRI building and Duke University.

But, several other parties are interested in 300 Morris, Brock said. She noted that new office space has been leased up quickly in downtown at projects such as One City Center and the Chesterfield.

Downtown Durham has had some of the lowest office vacancy rates in the Triangle. For the first quarter of this year, its vacancy rate was 2.6 percent, according to real estate services firm JLL. Downtown Raleigh’s vacancy rate, for comparison, was 5.1 percent in the first quarter.

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The proposed layout of the Durham Innovation District, which would include 900,000 square feet of new office and lab space. Courtesy of Longfellow Real Estate Partners

The two Morris Street buildings are part of Longfellow’s large-scale “Innovation District,” a 15-plus-acre campus that will add around 900,000 square feet of office and lab space in the coming years. Durham-based Measurement Inc., a significant property owner in that part of downtown, partnered with Longfellow on the plan.

In 2015, the Durham City Council approved an economic incentive agreement of $5.25 million over 15 years for phase one of the project. The agreement allows the public to use the 1,200-car parking garage on nights and weekends.

The Morris Street buildings represent the first phase of that new office space, representing around 350,000 square feet. The next phase will be a tower dedicated to lab space.

“We haven't officially announced it yet, but we are in the early planning process of a multistory lab building right in front of the historic Imperial building facing Five Points,” Brock said, though there's no concrete timeline on when those plans will be revealed.

"It will be the first one in the Triangle, and it will be right here in downtown Durham."

Zachery Eanes: 919-419-6684, @zeanes

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