In 2013, Federal Capital Partners began building a fairly typical podium / stick-built apartment structure on top of the surface parking lot adjacent to the Cobb and O'Brien buildings. This area, unlike most surface parking lots in Durham, has not ever really been the site of any structure of significance. A small corner of the lot was occupied by the Wright Factory, later the first graded school in Durham, during the late 1800s
Wright Factory repurposed as Durham's first Graded School, 1880s.
(Courtesy Duke RBMC - Wyatt Dixon Collection)
The building served as the graded school for white children until 1892 , when the first school building erected expressly for that purpose was built at the corner of Carr and Jackson Sts.
The Wright factory was demolished soon after the departure of the school - between 1892 and 1893, when Cigarette St. (which ran along the east side of the Old Cigarette Factory - then quite new) was extended northward across Main St. to Morris St. It was soon closed again with the expansion of the railroad sidings between the Globe Warehouse/Norfolk & Western Depot and the soon-to-be-built O'Brien Warehouse.
During most of the 20th century, the area contained a series of sidings for the railroad serving the L&M complex.
Aerial showing the 'railroad yard' in the middle of the photo.
With the downsizing of rail freight, these lines were abandoned, and by the 1960s, this had become parking.
In 2001, the original West Village partners scurried to reveal plans to place "brownstones" on this site after some consideration was given at the city council level to building the transportation hub on this site. (Essentially, expanding the then-existing bus station.) There was a rendering in the paper which I thought I'd saved for posterity, but I can't find it. Here's the meager amount I can see in the N&O search without paying something exorbitant:
April 25, 2001: Turn-of-the-century-style brownstones and new condos are about to sprout on vacant lots and parking space downtown.
Blue Devil Ventures, which turned several old tobacco warehouses into modern loft apartments last year, announced plans Tuesday to build a new batch of units.
Most will be for sale, but a few dozen will be for rent. The $45 million project will put about 211 new units on three lots the firm owns next to its West Village apartment complex.
The firm will break ground in the next six months, said Tom Niemann, managing partner of Blue Devil Ventures. …
Needless to say, it never happened, what with the other struggles of that partnership.
04.11.10, with the O'Brien and Cobb buildings in the background.
After Federal Capital Partners' acquisition of the West Village projects (Phases I and II,) they began plans for apartment structures on the parking lots north and south of Morgan Street. The one north of Morgan was shelved, ostensibly because of the Historic Preservation Commission objections to FCP's aesthetic choices, which they viewed as intrusive on the many historic structures adjacent to the parking lots. I have to suspect that the large quantity of apartments coming on the market had something more to do with the decision, and the HPC was a convenient scapegoat. I can't imagine abandoning a lucrative project because of some architectural/material modifications on the part of the HPC.
Early construction, 10.08.13 (Photo from SouthBank building by Carson Harkrader.)
02.16.14 (Photo by Gary Kueber)
We'll see what the final product looks like, but I'm very happy to see infill on another surface parking lot downtown. How many apartments we can really absorb downtown is a question on everyone's mind (or at least everyone who does development,) but just having more mass in the copious dead n' empty areas downtown is wonderful.
02.28.14 (G. Kueber)