Durham News

Durham County commissioners approved $20 million to help fund RTP modernization

County commissioners unanimously approved an agreement Monday night to give up to $20 million toward an effort to modernize the 50-year-old Research Triangle Park.

The money will be used to help fund phase one of Park Center’s redevelopment, a cornerstone of Research Triangle Foundation’s master plan to modernize the park with retail, residential and open spaces. 

Commissioners also approved amendments to the Durham Comprehensive Plan, the Unified Development Ordinance and related rezonings to create a new zoning district – Science Research Park-Center – to accommodate and define the standards for the mixed uses in the proposed redevelopment for some areas within the 98-acre property known as Park Center in Research Triangle Park. The area is surrounded by N.C. 54, Davis Drive, Interstate 40 and N.C. 147.

The approvals allow aspects of the RTP master plan, announced in 2012 to guide changes in the park for the next 50 years, to move forward. Phase one of Park Center includes the redevelopment of 45 acres on the eastern half of the center, Elizabeth Rooks, executive vice-president of the Research Triangle Foundation, said before the meeting.

“We have done the more detailed plan for the east side,” Rooks said. “The west side, we are keeping the existing buildings that are there for the time being.”

The re-development plan for Park Center includes 600 apartments, about 1 million square feet of office space, about 300,000 square feet of retail, a full-service hotel, a second hotel, possibly a boutique hotel, and a meeting center, Rooks said.

The Research Triangle Foundation has already invested $25 million in Park Center and has committed to spending another $20 million, according to a county report. The $20 million in county funding, which will be paid over a 10-year period, would help cover the development of utility infrastructure, parking and public parks.

Now that commissioners have approved the related zoning changes, the site plan already submitted for phase one of Park Center can move forward – beginning with an administrative review by county planning officials.

Commissioners said Monday that approval of the public-private $20 million agreement between the county and the Research Triangle Foundation marks an exciting moment for the community.

“I think this is something that 10 years from now we are going to look back and say that it was a great vision in this community,” said Commissioner Ellen Reckhow. “I think we will reap the dividends of this investment for many decades.”

Virginia Bridges: 919-829-8924, @virginiabridges