Liberty Warehouse marches towards its doom as “cool” new site plans are revealed

Having been allowed to decay for years under Greenfire’s watch, Liberty Warehouse (Durham’s last extant tobacco auction house) now has an execution date: Spring 2014.

The Warehouse’s trajectory was fixed when its roof collapsed in 2011, and Greenfire has been looking for a way out ever since. That way out (as mentioned previously) was in revoking the structure’s landmark status, then selling the property to a development firm named East West Partners.

East West Partners never gave any reason to hope that they would retain much of the structure, and there’s now official confirmation that the building will be almost completely destroyed (save re-use of some cosmetic elements) in the site plan (PDF) which was presented at a meeting organized by Preservation Durham. The non-profit had been one of the last holdouts in efforts to avoid demolition, but they gave up their fight last year as it became clear that there was no way to save the structure.

There’s something you should know, though: this new building is going to be cool. Here are some quotes from the developers care of thedurhamnews.com:

Retail space will be “really unique and cool,” he said.

“It’ll have a very warehouse-y look. It’ll have concrete floors, there’ll be exposed ceilings, a lot of the really unique, cool signage will be reused. … some really interesting spaces that we think are very characteristic of what is in Central Park.”

“We want to create really unique and cool public memorial to not only the building but to the tobacco auction business in Durham,” he said. “It’s something that’s missing.”

Well hell, are you telling me this thing is going to be… cool? I’m not going to tell you how to do your jobs, but here are some synonyms to try:

  • sweet
  • rad
  • killer
  • hip
  • bitchin’
  • bodacious
  • awesome
  • bootilicious
  • bangin’

There are some more details courtesy of The Indy Week:

The upscale Triangle developers behind the Woodcroft subdivision in South Durham and what they call the “urban village” of East 54 in Chapel Hill say the new Liberty will include 246 one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments, 24,000 square feet of retail space and a 391-space parking deck at its center. At its tallest, the building will stand five stories, with multiple courtyards.

My own feelings on this one are… complex.

It just plain sucks that the warehouse is being razed, but let’s face it, that ship sailed years ago when Greenfire let it fall apart. It’s great that the development is going to be mixed use, because the street level there really does beg for some retail to flesh out the corridor between downtown and Old North Durham, and there’s going to be more demand for apartments near downtown as the area continues to boom.

But…

Guys, could you sound any more like corporate shills trying to piggyback off of a scene that developed organically? The small businesses that made Foster/Geer into what it is today braved some seriously sketchy times, and they turned a deserted ghetto into a seriously cool place to be, keeping all of those legit weird old buildings alive while doing so. And now you’re going to swoop in and put up some Tobacco Warehouse Wonderland theme park crap.

On paper it sounds like it has all the corporate lameness of the ATC, without any of the actual historic stuff that makes the ATC interesting and fun.

Well, c’est la vie. This is probably the best we could really hope for on such prime real estate, and an upscale mixed use development will beat a disintegrating historic warehouse.

I guess.

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