Revitalization

Durham’s Historic Tobacco Buildings Ignite Bull City’s Growth for the Second Time

Posted on: October 8th, 2010 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 2 Comments

 

Written by Erica Stewart

The Lucky Strike smokestack and water tower, added to the campus in 1930, lend the American Tobacco complex a one-of-a-kind distinction. (Photo: Flickr user abbyladybug, via Creative Commons.)

The Lucky Strike smokestack and water tower, added to the campus in 1930, lend the American Tobacco complex a one-of-a-kind distinction. (Photo: Flickr user abbyladybug, via Creative Commons.)

This week’s journey through NTCIC’s ten years of historic tax credit investing runs through the city of Durham, North Carolina, a city that has been dominated by the tobacco industry—either by its boom or its bust—for over 140 years. Although now known as “the City of Medicine,” there is no mistaking Durham’s association with tobacco.Downtown is still dominated physically by the multitude of magnificent brick warehouses constructed during its run as the “Bull City” (stemming from the Durham Bull tobacco manufacturing company).

After a long period of prosperity, many of the properties became vacant or underutilized, victimized by mid-twentieth century suburban population shifts and the decline of the tobacco industry. No longer driving the city’s growth, the brick buildings actually stymied Durham’s emergence from the economic slump of the latter twentieth century. The properties were so vast in size and number and so poorly cared for, and downtown so bleak that few commercial developers -–and even fewer conventional bankers—trusted their potential.

NTCIC was one of those brave believers, partnering with Bank of America to provide $13 million in tax credit equity to help finance the rehabilitation of the American Tobacco campus into a mix of new uses. The 13-acre complex, totaling approximately one million square feet, was abandoned at the south end of downtown in 1987. As the former center of Durham’s identity and its primary employer, the fate of the American Tobacco district and the health of downtown Durham were inextricably linked. Today those thick brick walls are humming again, recast as the home to top-notch office space (among them Duke University’s corporate education school, a North Carolina NPR affiliate, advertising firms, software companies and smaller businesses and nonprofits), five restaurants, a YMCA and a 2,800-seat new performing arts center.

Rehabbed American Tobacco storefronts. (Photo: Flickr user abbyladybug, via Creative Commons.)

Rehabbed American Tobacco storefronts. (Photo: Flickr user abbyladybug, via Creative Commons.)

This transformation is the largely thanks to the vision and dogged determination of the Capital Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), the owner of the Durham Bulls minor-league franchise which occupies a ballpark immediately adjacent to the complex. CBC acquired the campus in 2002 and, after failing to convince conventional bankers, secured $13 million in equity from NTCIC and $40 million from a community-based lending institution located across the train tracks from the project site. CBC launched the first phase of the project in 2004.

The numbers are staggering: Phase I rehabilitated five of the historic properties into 500,000 square feet of Class A office space, a few restaurants, and a new water feature, the Old Bull River, which courses through the center of the campus. The $85 million Phase II continued the rehabilitation of the remaining historic buildings, including some of the very oldest tobacco warehouses and factories in the United States. It also created the Old Bull Apartments and a handful of condos. The $67 million Phase III (new construction only) produced the $44 million Durham Performing Arts Center and will eventually yield 380 residential units, additional commercial office space and 40,000 square feet of retail and restaurants.

Equally impressive is the economic impact of the American Tobacco project. Phase I brought 3,450 jobs to the campus, and Phase II, more than 2,200. Property values are estimated to have risen more than 30% after each phase, increasing city revenues. The project has had a tremendous catalytic effect as well. Data shows that the pace of downtown development increased substantially following the opening of American Tobacco. For example, during the site’s 17-year period of vacancy (1987-2003), less than one significant development project, on average, was completed downtown each year. In the five years following the completion of Phase I, 16 major projects were completed downtown, averaging more than three per year.

These spin-off projects include Scientific Properties’ Venable Center project, also financed in part by NTCIC, which rehabilitates the former Golden Belt Manufacturing Complex on the eastern side of downtown. This facility was where pouches for Bull Durham loose leaf tobacco were manufactured, and later, paper cartons for cigarettes. The historic complex was abandoned and designated a brownfields site in 2000. Today, thanks in no small part to the towering example of the American Tobacco project, the Venable Center offers 35 artist studios at below-market rents, an art gallery, 37 affordable loft apartments, office space, a live music venue and ground floor retail.

The real bottom line, which shouldn’t be lost in the tally of impressive figures and square footage, is that now downtown Durham is a lively, vibrant, interesting place to be, at all times of day or night. And best of all, the American Tobacco project was able to change people’s assumptions about what they thought downtown to be, what it could be, without allowing its rich architectural heritage and history to go up in smoke.

Erica Stewart is the outreach coordinator for the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s community revitalization department.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

A Very Happy Anniversary

Posted on: October 1st, 2010 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Written by Pat Lally

(Photo couresy of Tara Krebbs, Dudley Ventures, Inc.)

(Photo couresy of Tara Krebbs, Dudley Ventures, Inc.)

When Emily Post penned her first etiquette book in 1922, she offered a guide to appropriate anniversary gifts by year. This year we’re celebrating the National Trust Community Investment Corporation’s (NTCIC) decade-long effort to reinvest in America’s historic neighborhoods and my work in Congress has been taken to a whole new level as a result. Since NTCIC was established in 2000 as a for-profit subsidiary of the National Trust, it has brought more than $330 million to the rehabilitation of over 60 commercial buildings nationwide by partnering with developers of historic buildings to invest equity in a rehabilitation project so that it may be receive federal tax credits. Basically, NTCIC’s leg up “makes the numbers work” for many worthy historic rehabilitation projects that otherwise would not go forward.

These historic rehabilitation projects are the keystones to our country’s heritage – once abandoned structures that used to be lively theaters, bustling department stores, and productive mills -- transformed through NTCIC into 21st Century icons of economic development and job creation by saving our past.

Tin, by the way, is Mrs. Post’s suggestion for a 10th anniversary gift. I think it’s appropriate that we should mark NTCIC’s ten years with an historic building material used to roof countless numbers of historic buildings throughout the county. I will send up a tin of cookies this afternoon.

But why is NTCIC’s work so important to the National Trust’s legislative agenda in Congress?

Well, let’s just say that I can go to the Hill and lobby for important historic preservation programs and initiatives all day, but without the practical information, expertise, and industry support that a practitioner such as NTCIC provides, my effectiveness is limited. Congress moves bills where there are two critical ingredients: 1) information that warrants a federal response to a compelling national need; and 2) vocal advocacy from constituents, business leaders, and industry representatives. NTCIC provides so much of our public policy efforts with the user-based on-the-ground knowledge and industry advocacy we need to be successful. Its focus is on projects that have a high economic impact on the surrounding community and its daily collaboration with tax credit financiers, property owners, developers, nonprofit organizations, and local governments bring an enormously important level of influence to the preservation debate at the national level.

Let me put this value into perspective as it related to a top-tier legislative item for the National Trust, federal and state historic tax credits. NTCIC is the historic tax credit INDUSTRY’S leading advocate for improving and expanding the use of federal and state historic tax credits. I highlight “industry” because – while the National Trust has been enormously successful in attracting support from the mainstream preservation community represented by groups like our statewide and local preservation partners – it had been difficult to cultivate the necessary industry group around historic tax credit legislation. That is until NTCIC stepped in with the tax credit contacts, experts, and users to make a difference. In fact, NTCIC took a fledgling group of tax credit developers we put together around our Community Restoration and Revitalization Act and helped establish the Historic Tax Credit Coalition (HTCC), an expanded group of developers, investors, syndicators, tax accountants, preservation consultants, and lawyers dedicated to amending the federal historic tax credit program.

... Read More →

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

Up and Coming in Downcity: Historic Rehabilitation and the Arts Converge in Providence

Posted on: September 28th, 2010 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Written by Erica Stewart

The third installment in the ongoing series of blog posts on the National Trust Community Investment Corporation and its decade of new markets and historic tax credit investing takes us to Providence, Rhode Island. NTCIC has invested nearly $14 million in two historic real estate projects by nonprofit developer AS220 that created artist live/work space out of abandoned commercial buildings. Not only have these projects created affordable housing and artist exhibit space that reinforces the city’s commitment to being a “Creative Capital,” but they return vacant historic properties to use, for the economic and aesthetic benefit of the city and its residents.

If you’ve spent any time in downtown Providence as an area resident or visitor, you know there’s much more to the Rhode Island capital than its former mayor whose federal racketeering charge landed him in federal prison for four years. In fact, a visit to Providence, especially its Downcity district, reveals why it is the envy of many big cities, with its nucleus of rehabbed historic commercial buildings, an inviting river front (that hosts the exquisite “WaterFire” performance) and interesting theaters, restaurants and retail. Providence also boasts the largest number of working artists in the country, reflected in its colorful mix of galleries, theaters and museums.

And thanks to the vision and commitment of AS220, a number of these artists now enjoy two economical and inspirational places to live, work and collaborate: the newly rehabbed Mercantile Building and The Dreyfus—both in the heart of downtown Providence’s high-rent district.

The Dreyfus

The Dreyfus interior before restoration.

The Dreyfus interior before restoration.

The Dreyfus was built in the late 1890s as a small hotel, frequented mostly by salesmen arriving at the nearby train station in downtown Providence. In later years, its French restaurant became a favorite for theater goers as the area became known as the city’s theater district (the basement speakeasy was quite popular for different reasons during Prohibition). The property was enlarged in 1917, the hotel closed in the 60s, and then Johnson & Wales operated it as a dormitory from 1975 to 1999. The Dreyfus remained vacant for several years after that while advocates considered an appropriate reuse. In 2005, it was acquired by the well-respected arts nonprofit organization AS220, whose $7.5 million historic rehabilitation created 14 artists’ lofts, 10 work studios, and ground-floor restaurant and retail space. Three of the lofts are market-rate, and the rest of the space is available below-market to facilitate AS220’s goal of building community in downtown Providence through affordable space for artists to live, work, and operate businesses.

The Dreyfus interior after restoration.

The Dreyfus interior after restoration.

The project team was delighted to find much of the hotel’s classic interior covered up, but largely intact. The highly decorative wood paneling and coffered ceilings in the ground floor bar and dining room are considered to be among the finest intact historic commercial interiors in Providence. The magnificent terracotta that adorns the exterior of the building, along with the stunning stained glass windows on the first floor, was painstakingly restored. The loft apartments and studio spaces boast original wood floors, stairway balustrades, moldings and wainscoting.

The Dreyfus re-opened in May 2007, featuring a new restaurant that highlights local ingredients, AS220’s printmaking shop, and studios and lofts for an eclectic mix of artists. The first tenants included painters, photographers, a playwright, a printer, a DJ, a jeweler, a pastry-artist and even a hot-air-balloon maker. Despite their diverse callings in life, you can be sure after one look at their exquisitely-renovated homes, they all share a passion for historic preservation.

Mercantile Building

The Merchantile Building.

The Merchantile Building.

The Mercantile Building, immediately next door to the Dreyfus, follows in a very similar vein. AS220 began its $16.9 million rehabilitation in 2008 to create retail and office space, a restaurant, 22 housing units, and artists’ studios in the 40,000 square-foot, former commercial building. The rehab, in addition to retaining important historic details, is also incorporating many sustainable design elements, including: natural daylighting, low-consumption plumbing fixtures, a reflective roof membrane and recycled building materials.

Tenants will include the Fab Lab, a computer fabrication and technology collaboration between AS220 and MIT, a public silkscreen shop and other retail spaces that provide opportunities to create, display and sell artwork. College Visions, a program that helps disadvantaged youths apply to college, is also set to occupy space. Two longtime Mercantile tenants - a locksmith and a bar - will be continuing their occupancy in the building, in new and very improved spaces. The residences are scheduled to open October 1.

A significant impact of this project, in addition to the estimated 150 construction jobs and 129 permanent jobs generated by the rehab, is its contribution to the revitalization of Martha Street, which abuts the building on one side. Once regarded a back alley fit only for the stable found there, it is being transformed into a vibrant pedestrian way, greatly enhancing neighborhood safety and vitality.

The resulting body of work is an artful illustration of how artistic creativity, innovation and historic preservation can combine to effect the revitalization of a community without losing its soul in the process.

Erica Stewart is the outreach coordinator for the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s community revitalization department.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

Change is Brewing in Baltimore

Posted on: September 10th, 2010 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment

 

Written by Erica Stewart

Baltimore's American Brewery building. (Photo: Paul Burk)

Baltimore's American Brewery building. (Photo: Paul Burk)

This is the second in a series of blog posts featuring projects that have creatively adapted historic buildings to fit new uses, bringing essential services, jobs, and civic pride to their community. These retrofits have transformed an opulent theatre, a rural schoolhouse, a Beaux Arts post office, among others—and all utilized federal historic tax credit equity from the National Trust Community Investment Corporation (NTCIC). The National Trust Community Investment Corporation, celebrating its 10th anniversary and $330 million in dollars invested, is a proud partner in more than 60 amazing transformations.

To behold the full power of preservation, look no further than Baltimore, Maryland. NTCIC has a $26 million track record of investment in four projects there, a city rich in historic resources, the political will to save them, and the financial tools to do it. The impact of rehabilitating Baltimore’s well-worn treasures goes far beyond their four walls. Historic rehabilitation projects can not only transform buildings, but entire communities.

Need proof? Two examples from opposite sides of Baltimore sing out. Take the historic Hippodrome Theatre—now known as the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center—the site of a $71 million rehabilitation that reinvented West Baltimore as a destination for world-class theater, and in the process, ushered in tremendous economic benefit for the city. Over a five-year period, the theatre is projected to yield $26 million in expenditures, about $18 million in personal income, 490 permanent jobs and $1.9 million in state and local tax receipts.

On the other side of town, a world away from velvet ropes and Broadway shows, the reuse of a former brewery building in East Baltimore has saved an abandoned landmark from ruin, and buoyed an entire neighborhood’s chances for revival as well.

One of the completed interior spaces in the American Brewery building. (Photo: Paul Burk)

One of the completed interior spaces in the American Brewery building. (Photo: Paul Burk)

The American Brewery Brewhouse was built in East Baltimore in 1887, its five-story tower making it one of the tallest gravity-fed breweries in North America and an imposing witness to the community’s boom—and eventual bust. Vacated in 1973 after brewery operations ceased, the building deteriorated while the neighborhood sunk into poverty and crime, drug use and violence surged. Various redevelopment schemes for the brewhouse were proposed and failed, earning the building “white elephant” status and symbolizing the despair felt by the entire community.

Then, in 2005, the nonprofit organization Humanin, Inc., a 40-year old social services organization based in suburban Maryland, happened across the building on a scouting mission and it was love at first sight. Having snuck inside, the building’s vast potential—despite ankle-deep pigeon guano and rotting roof and timbers—was evident, as was the surrounding community’s need for Humanim’s services (they provide workforce development training to persons with barriers to employment).

In April 2009, their dream to make the brewhouse their organization’s headquarters became reality. Two-hundred fifty of its employees relocated there—bringing with them their need for restaurants, retail, vendors, etc. --and 40 individuals from the surrounding community were hired. This impact is in addition to the project’s estimated $12.6 million in household and business income and $1.3 million in state and local taxes. I don’t have to say that this represents a huge boost to an area with 51% percent poverty and unemployment at four times the national average.

Equally exciting is that the brewhouse rehabilitation is not the only sign of hope in the community. Johns Hopkins has a medical complex in development nearby, a light- rail station is in the works, and Humanim has plans to take on the bottling building on the brewery campus next.

In its bold moves forward, Broadway East is not losing its past. In keeping with historic tax credit requirements, the brewery’s exterior was preserved, a wooden grain elevator that carried malt to the tower is now visible through Plexiglas, and salvaged brew tanks serve as meeting rooms (including the so-called ‘Think Tank’), the reception desk, a board room fireplace and the exterior sign.

The result? Rather than being best known as backdrop to grim scenes from HBO’s The Wire, the American Brewery brewhouse is now a clear beacon of hope, and living proof that a community can retrace its past to find its future.

Erica Stewart is the outreach coordinator for the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s community revitalization department.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

Investing in New Orleans' Past Brightens its Present – and Future

Posted on: September 3rd, 2010 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Written by Erica Stewart

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the National Trust’s historic tax credit equity investing business: an endeavor that has brought more than $330 million to the rehabilitation of 60+ commercial buildings nationwide. Support from the National Trust Community Investment Corporation (NTCIC) has helped revive vacant and abandoned structures that were once lively vaudeville theaters, bustling department stores, revered office buildings, and various others: a Masonic Temple, a brewery, a gas station, a jail, to name a few.

In celebration of the 10th anniversary milestone, PreservationNation will be featuring ten adaptive use projects financed in part by NTCIC. You may be surprised to learn of the amazing transformations that are happening across the county—even in these challenging economic times. They are a testament to the creativity and imagination of the human spirit, the durability of historic buildings, and the strong economic benefit of preserving them. You may even recognize one from a favorite city street near you.

In honor of another anniversary—but hardly grounds for celebration—our first project spotlight takes us to Louisiana five years after Hurricane Katrina. This is a place where, thanks in part to additional federal incentives, NTCIC has invested $60 million in $117 million worth of historic rehabilitation projects that are bringing life and economic development back to the storm-battered areas. These range from a former furniture showroom conversion into a dynamic community center currently ongoing in New Orleans’ gritty Bywater (a project covered here) to the elegant remodel of the bedraggled Hotel Pontchartrain in the fashionable Lower Garden District.

The Pontchartrain Hotel

The Pontchartrain Hotel in New Orleans’ Lower Garden District.

The Pontchartrain Hotel in New Orleans’ Lower Garden District.

The Pontchartrain Hotel stands 14 stories above St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans’ Lower Garden district and was the tallest building in the city when it was constructed in 1927. Its history is a mostly glorious one, as its lush furnishings and one-of-a-kind antiques represented the epitome of luxury travel. Stars such as Richard Burton and Mary Martin stayed there when they came to town, and both had suites named after them. Many prominent New Orleanians such as Edith Stern, the Sears and Roebuck heiress, and Frankie Besthoff, whose family co-founded the K&B drugstore chain, called it home.

"In its heyday, it was considered one of the very best hotels in the country," said Honore Aschaffenburg, grandson of the hotel's founder. "It evoked some of the best qualities of New Orleans -- the wonderful, gregarious nature of the people who live here and how they enjoy entertaining and interacting with one another."

Its beloved high-end restaurant, the Caribbean Room, was equally popular among celebrities—Walt Disney, Ginger Rogers and Tennessee Williams to name a few—and for its extravagant dessert, a gravity-defying combination of ice cream and meringue known as the “mile-high pie.”

The lobby of the restored Pontchartrain Hotel.

The lobby of the restored Pontchartrain Hotel.

The Pontchartrain lost some of its luster in the latter part of the 20th century, as the number of hotels downtown and in the French Quarter expanded. Hurricane Katrina’s rage delivered only a glancing blow in 2005, but the ensuing dampness, utility outages, and vandalism caused extensive interior deterioration. The building closed in 2007 while new building owners David Burrus and George Newton III mounted a campaign to save the Pontchartrain from destruction. In 2008 they launched a $21 million historic rehabilitation effort that converted the property into a grand 84-unit senior housing facility.

The Pontchartrain made its triumphant return to New Orleans’ high society in the summer of 2009. Its former guest rooms have been enlarged and configured to serve as both independent and assisted-living apartments for seniors. The Caribbean Room is back, but reserved for residents only, while its other cherished watering hole, the Bayou Bar, is welcoming patrons new and old alike to step back into the days of Frank Sinatra and gas-powered chandeliers.

In addition to a cognac-flavored taste of the past, the Pontchartrain Hotel rehabilitation is delivering significant economic benefit to the revitalization of New Orleans as well. The project is estimated to generate 387 jobs, $1.1 million in state and local taxes and $11.6 million in household and business income. Now, I’ll drink to that.

Erica Stewart is the outreach coordinator for the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s community revitalization department.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.