A developer wants to build apartments in Durham. But one group opposes its plans.

A developer wants to bring 343 apartments to Southwest Durham Drive near the Patterson Place shopping center (pictured).
A developer wants to bring 343 apartments to Southwest Durham Drive near the Patterson Place shopping center (pictured). File photo

The developer behind multiple downtown apartment buildings has filed plans for another big apartment project in Durham.

Terwilliger Pappas – which built the Solis Ninth Street apartment building near Duke University’s East Campus – filed the plans with the Durham City-County Planning Department last month to build 343 apartments off Southwest Durham Drive near the Patterson Place shopping center.

The plans, which would spread the apartments among 16 buildings and include three garages, are being reviewed by the city.

The project is called Solis Patterson Place in the plans and will have one-, two- and three-bedroom units.

Terwilliger Pappas is also behind the under-construction Solis Brightleaf project on West Main Street next to Brightleaf Square. The 194-unit Brightleaf apartment complex – located on the former Howerton-Bryan Funeral Home site – is due to be completed in late 2018.

Jeff Smith, executive vice president at Terwilliger Pappas’ Charlotte office, said the project is still in the early planning stages, but he hopes ground could be broken by the summer.

It is unclear how much apartment units at Solis Patterson Place will rent for. At its Solis Ninth Street community near Duke – which is a more expensive place to live than Southwest Durham typically is – one-bedroom apartments begin at around $1,400 a month.

Environmental concerns

The project only needs administrative approval from the planning department to move forward and wouldn’t need to go before the Durham Planning Commission or City Council.

That concerns the New Hope Creek Corridor Advisory Committee.

The advisory group was established in 1992 and advises the city and county of Durham as well as Orange County and Chapel Hill on the implementation of the New Hope Creek Corridor Plan, which guides development around the creek that runs through Durham and Orange counties.

Robert Healy, a professor emeritus of environmental sciences and policy at Duke University and co-chair of the New Hope Creek group, wrote a letter to the planning department Monday sharing concerns about some slopes that border the creek.

“Very recently, we have been presented with a site plan for over 300 apartment units on a site on the east side of Southwest Durham Drive,” Healy wrote. “The parcel includes most of the steepest slopes that were given emphasis in the New Hope Plan. The proposed development would cut into the slopes at several points and would remove vegetation, including some very old trees.”

Healy said he was worried that this project was “zooming right through the approval process” without specific consideration for the slopes. He added that his group doesn’t want to kill the project but rather have the plans altered to protect the slopes.

In a response to the advisory committee’s letter, Planning Department Director Patrick Young said his department would consider the project’s implications.

“Please let me assure you that we (the Planning Department) are committed to full enforcement of all adopted standards regarding steep slope protection and to advocating for necessary protections for steep slopes and other critical environmental features,” Young said. “Let me also assure you that the referenced site plan for the proposed apartment development on the east side of SW Durham Drive has not been approved, and that the applicant has been required to clearly identify all areas qualified as steep slopes under the current (adopted) development ordinance.”

Developing corridor

Southwest Durham Drive, which is home to several apartment complexes, Patterson Place and a middle school, has seen a lot of development in recent time.

That development won’t slow anytime soon either as the planned Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit system will go through Patterson Place.

At the intersection of Southwest Durham Drive and U.S. 15-501, the University Ford and University Kia auto dealerships are nearing completion on the construction of their new home.

University Ford is relocating from downtown to southwest Durham after it sold its downtown property to Capitol Broadcasting Co. for nearly $30 million.

Capitol Broadcasting, developer of the American Tobacco Campus, is looking to expand the ATC with the redevelopment of the former auto dealership property.

Zachery Eanes: 919-419-6684, @zeanes