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February 26. 2013 8:55PM

Durham plans to develop new town hall, redevelop old

DURHAM - A March 4 public hearing will move the municipality one step closer to a new town hall.

The current town offices at 15 Newmarket Road no longer meet the needs of the community and has myriad deficiencies, Town Administrator Todd Selig said, leading the town to purchase the former People's United Bank across the street at 8 Newmarket Road as its new home last spring.

The $745,000 purchase is contingent on the sale and redevelopment of the existing town office site, which is nearly a done deal.

On Monday, a public hearing will be held for residents to weigh in on the terms of the purchase and sale agreement for the current town office site.

The purchase price for the former bank building is $745,000. The cost to retrofit and add onto the building is estimated at $1,333,700 bringing the total for the project to $2,078,700.

"Rather than doing what is often done with governmental entities and simply raising the taxes to pay for it, we thought very entrepreneurially in Durham and plan to fund the purchase price and renovations needed through the redevelopment of the existing town office parcel," Selig said.

The sale price for the current town office building is $1.2 million. The difference will be made up in incremental added tax value from the redevelopment of the site.

The prospective buyer owns the abutting Irving gas station and is interested in redeveloping the current town office site into a pharmacy, valued between $3 million and $4 million.

"The purchase price . plus the incremental additional taxable value created as a result of the redevelopment, will allow us to purchase and cover the debt service on an ongoing basis for the cost of the (town office) redevelopment," Selig said. "The goal is to do this project without impacting the tax rate, and to date we are on track."

As the title on the bank property is cleared in the next one to three months, the town is proceeding with design of the project.

As the bank sits in the historic district, the town will submit itself to the land use approval process to ensure the design is acceptable to the historic district commission before proceeding with development.

Selig said in the next two weeks residents will see some test borings taking place on the bank property as the town seeks to gain a more definitive understanding of the underlying topography.

"The project is both renovations and an addition, and so some of the addition will include a basement area, so we have to understand whether there is ledge there or not," Selig said.

By spring, construction could be underway.

Once town offices are fully located in the new building, the project at 15 Newmarket Road would begin.

The current town offices are located in two separate homes built in the 1970s and adjoined by a breezeway. Selig said the buildings have no historic value.

He said the town is lucky to own such a sought-out parcel for redevelopment, with about 22,000 cars coming by the nearby intersection each day.

He said the Rite-Aid currently located in the Durham Marketplace plaza has been looking for alternative locations and has evaluated the current town office site, but Selig said other pharmacies are looking as well.

gmacalaster@newstote.com


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