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Vacant South Square land in Durham set for huge development

A Charlotte-based developer wants to redevelop part of the South Square area in southwest Durham.
A Charlotte-based developer wants to redevelop part of the South Square area in southwest Durham.

A Charlotte-based developer has plans to rejuvenate a section of the South Square area in Durham that has sat vacant for years.

Hawthorne Retail Partners said on Tuesday that it had started construction on a development it is calling University Hill, which will be a 300,000-square-foot mixed-used development at 3806 University Drive.

The project would sit on 15 acres off University Drive that are now vacant. The property is near the old South Square mall property, which is now home to a Target and a Sam's Club.

Hawthorne officially bought the property last month for $1 million, according to Durham County property records.

University Hill Renderings 2.jpg
A rendering of the University Hill development that is coming to the South Square area of Durham. Courtesy of Hawthorne Retail Partners

The project is expected to be completed in fall 2019 and will feature a 30,000-square-foot O2 Fitness athletic club as well as restaurant and office space and 269 apartments. The apartments will start around $1,150 per month and average around $1,450 per month, Hawthorne said.

The developers also said the project would include an art project called the "Murals at University Hill," which would be a collection of over 25,000 square feet of mural from artists across North Carolina.

It isn't the first project that Hawthorne, whose principal is from Durham originally, has done in the area. It also renovated the Post Office-dominated Shannon Plaza nearby a decade ago.

"We are passionate about Durham and excited to have a project in one of the hottest cities in North Carolina," said Shoff Allison, principal at Hawthorne.

"Unlike a lot of other areas throughout the Southeast, there has been little apartment and retail development in University Hill’s surrounding area in the last 10 to 15 years," Allison added. "We feel there is demand in this location for a well executed retail and apartment development and anticipate University Hill will be well received and benefit the residents of Durham. We are hopeful that University Hill will be the catalyst for additional redevelopment in the immediate area."

CBRE's Raleigh office will handle leasing for the development, but Allison said he hopes to attract a number of local and regional restaurants to the development. Allison noted that when Hawthorne refurbished the Shannon Plaza shopping center it was fortunate to land the former food truck Only Burger's first brick-and-mortar location.

"We are targeting local and regional restaurants with a variety that will appeal to Durham," Allison said. "We will also have restaurants that range in size from 750-1,300 square feet that will provide opportunities for smaller restaurants or food truck operators who are looking to establish a bricks and mortar presence. "

A decade of downtown Durham revitalization has raised concern about rippling effects of gentrification. Durham is changing, with construction cranes marking the city's skyline as new businesses and residents move in.

Over the next few years, redevelopment in downtown Durham will reshape the skyline and add hundreds of office, retail and living spaces to the Bull City.

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