Mayor Pro-Tem: Durham's old police headquarters could become a destination

Anthony Wilson Image
Tuesday, June 6, 2023
City's Vision: 'Durham's old police HQ could become destination'
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ABC11 spoke with Mark-Anthony Middleton, mayor pro-tem of Durham, about potential plans for the former Durham Police Department headquarters building.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- It might be an eye-sore for some, but the City of Durham believes the old police headquarters on West Chapel Hill road could be a destination for future residents of the Bull City.

The mid-century structure was built in the late 1950s and opened in January 1959. It was built by Milton Small, an architect at NC State.

ABC11 spoke with Mark-Anthony Middleton, mayor pro-tem of Durham, about potential plans for the former Durham Police Department headquarters building. Here are some of his responses, lightly edited for clarity:

"At a previous work session, my colleagues agreed to authorize the city manager to go forward to issue what's called a request for qualified action from developers based upon a set of priorities, hopes, aspirations that we have for this building. This iconic spot, one of the last gateways to downtown, one of the last opportunities that we have as a government to brand our city. So we've got to get this decision right. This is a generational decision, as I've said many times."

"The community's been very clear in their voice. This is not going to be just a 'put the cash on the table, grab it and walk away' type of transaction again. This is city-owned property which provides us with an opportunity to put our particular stamp as the people communicated to us on our city skyline.

The Vision

"So we've asked for developers to bring us a plan that includes affordable housing, that includes an open activated space for residents and neighbors to come in and enjoy this space and to linger in and to be around one another, a space that includes office space as well. But also one of the things that I've emphasized, a signature and iconic structure as well that could be a calling card for our city where you don't have to have the name of the city at the bottom of the screen. When you see this space, you'll know that's Durham, North Carolina. So all of those things are in the mix as we look for a developer to help us develop this property."

"We're looking for a very specific developer who can give us what we want. One of the things also that we're looking at is for developers to consider is keeping this building as well. This building has a great deal of historic importance for a number of people and a number of organizations in our city. So that's part of our request as well, part of our priorities as well, to give us a plan that can preserve this building, that can give us affordable housing, office space and activated public space and the signature and iconic design as well. It's a tall order. But we got responses from the last time we put out the priorities, and they're not very different from the last I've heard you. So we're excited about what's going to happen on this corner."

"This evening, my colleagues by consent, if it's not pulled, will authorize our city manager to float the request for qualifications to developers all around the country, possibly around the world, based upon the priorities that the council has set after listening to voices in our community. Every day we get offers on land every day that that's not a fantastical proposition. Once the police vacated this spot, we immediately started getting offers and folk that were interested in getting this property. But as the government, as the voice of the people, our job is to first discern what the people want and then make that will manifest if you will. And the people have been very clear that we want this opportunity to brand this corner for the people of Durham. Not to pass us by. And that's my intention."


"It could be months. You know, once the qualifications are out there, developers and, you know, we're on the radar. People know what's going on in Durham. Durham's a hot city, a city that's on the rise. And so I don't anticipate long, long amounts of time, but probably a couple of months (before a decision is made about a developer). We'll hear back. We'll look at what the developer sends us after requests for qualifications. Then we'll go over a request for proposals which will bring us closer to actually breaking ground.


"There's definitely going to be costs associated with keeping this building. And we're looking at opportunities to exploit historic tax credits, whatever funding there may be out there to help us preserve historic buildings...We ran into that in our the first time we got a request for proposals, and we had a developer that was going to develop this property for us. Of course, that plan fell apart for a number of reasons. One of those reasons was the costs associated with rehabbing and preserving."

"This is a serious project and we're looking for serious developers. But we'll get there. We'll definitely get there."

ALSO SEE: Demolition begins on Durham's Liberty Street Apartments, paving way for new affordable housing