Durham Tech to partner on 360 apartments near campus for students, faculty

Durham Technical Community College is partnering with a developer to build several hundred apartments near one if its campuses.

This summer, Charlotte-based Beacon Partners bought the 12.44 acres where Durham Tech leases its North Duke Street campus for about $3.5 million.

They have since worked out a deal to move programs there — which college President J.B. Buxton said include massage therapy, cosmetology, esthetics, real estate and paralegal education — to a newly renovated campus space next door known as Durham Summit.

That will make way for up to 360 apartment the City Council approved in its last meeting before Tuesday’s election.

Students and faculty will get first crack at the walk-up style units, the developers said, and Beacon Partners and Durham Tech are negotiating the terms of affordable housing grants for those in need.

Beacon Partners promised to pay at least $4.9 million for renovation of the 40,000-square-foot new campus.

Patrick Byker, attorney for the developer, said the North Durham location was a hot property in the late ‘90s.

“Fast forward 25 years, this is an office park that time has passed by,” Byker said.

“This is a really exciting and innovative way to provide a strong community benefit, in addition to developing an underused area,” council member Jillian Johnson said. “You’re redoing a spot that’s not really serving us.”

The council also approved three other projects Monday night, which will add up to 1,515 new residential units to the city:

  • Perry Farm: 665 single-family homes and townhouses on a large assembly of land in southeast Durham.

  • 4608 Hopson Road: 400 apartments on a 17-acre assemblage just outside Research Triangle Park. The developer will make 3.5% of the units affordable for 30 years to those making 60% of the area median income.

  • Millhouse Townes: 90 residential units (likely for-sale townhomes) on 13 acres in north Durham at 1009 Chalk Level Road. The developer will make 5% of the units affordable for 30 years to those making 80% of the area median income.

Environmental concerns in Lick Creek

The approvals were unanimous except for Perry Farm, a controversial decision that arrived at nearly midnight.

Seventeen residents spoke against environmental damage in rapidly developing southeast Durham.

Samantha Krop, the Neuse River Keeper for Sound Rivers, said construction is polluting Durham waterways and impacting aquatic life.

“You can obviously see sediment pollution,” Krop said, displaying photographs of orange water spilling into Lick Creek this fall. “We’ve documented that again and again.”

The planning department reports that since 2021, more than 6,819 units have been approved or are pending in southeast Durham County, more than double the previous decade.

“The assumption behind (the developer’s) presentation is that all land should be developed and, not to be too dramatic, but that is a deadly assumption for life on this planet,” said Sherri Zann Rosenthal.

But attorney Nil Ghosh said they were doing all they could to mitigate environmental damage, by extending stream buffers from 50 to 300 feet and preserving more than double the trees and open space required.

Water from a construction site off Olive Branch Road flows into Lick Creek on March 2, 2023.
Water from a construction site off Olive Branch Road flows into Lick Creek on March 2, 2023.

“The question before us as a council isn’t: Is this going to get developed or not? It’s a question of: Is this going to be septic, big million-dollar homes or a more dense development?” council member Javiera Caballero said. “That is the trade-off.”

Perry Farm, which will spread over 274 acres along Kemp Road, failed in a January vote.

Since then, local developer CSC Group promised a 5.56-acre parcel of land to the city for a public park.

They also committed to spending around $4 million on road improvements, including three new traffic signals and new lanes widening N.C. 98 between Kemp and Sherron roads.

Ghosh said they’ll reserve 3% of the units — most of which will be for-sale townhomes — for those making less than 80% of the area median income. Those 20 units will remain affordable for 30 years.

How the council voted:

  • Yes: Caballero, Johnson, Leonardo Williams and Mayor Pro Tem Mark-Anthony Middleton.

  • No: DeDreana Freeman, Monique Holsey-Hyman and Mayor Elaine O’Neal.