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Lovely Lofts

 

By:  Mary Hunter
 
I recently had the cherished pleasure of revisiting the unique lofts available in historic Downtown Durham.  While researching these lofts, I found out some interesting information about the Baldwin Lofts.  R.L. Baldwin, Sr. opened the downtown Durham Baldwin’s department store in 1911, making it the third location in what would go on to become a popular regional chain with stores across North Carolina and Virginia.  
 
After ten years of business, Baldwin purchased the Commerce building next door and expanded his department store to the building’s present size.  This explains why half of the Baldwin building has original wood floors while the other half features the concrete floors of the Commerce building.  This can be seen throughout the various lofts in the building. 
 
The historic nature of the Kress Building, Baldwin Lofts, and the Bullington Warehouse Condos makes living there a chance to own, experience, and tell an important story about Durham and Southern history—a story of growth and change.  Many of our clients have chosen to make a home of urban lofts that once were vibrant commercial spaces for Durham businessmen satisfying the needs of the community.  When the exposed brick or antique wood floors, for instance, are up-fitted and modernized, the lofts are stunning in a way that is difficult for new construction to emulate.  Besides the lofts at Bullington Warehouse Condos, Baldwin Lofts, Mangum 506, and the Kress Building, a new project scheduled for completion in the Spring of 2013 is located at Church and Main Street.  You can visit that website at:  www.churchandmaindurham.com
 
Historic downtown Durham’s energy finds its source, to no small degree, not only in the visionaries who have transformed historic commercial spaces into residential lofts and offices, but the residents who make their home or living there.  R.L. Baldwin could wish no better. 

 

New Business on the Block: Triangle Ecycling!

Spring cleaning abounds and if you are like many families, your attic is full of old computers that you are not sure what to do with.  A new service has opened to help!  Downtown Durham came together last Friday night to celebrate the grand opening of a new member, Triangle Ecycling!  Operating in the old Elkins Chrysler building on Jackie Robinson and Mangum, Triangle Ecycling provides small to mid-sized businesses and organizations with a secure and sustainable electronic waste recycling solution.  Collecting and disassembling computers for recycling, its mission is to create local jobs and protect the environment.  As a triple bottom line business, ten percent of the company's profits are contributed to teaching sustainability in the Durham Public Schools. 

Their business partners include: The Durham Fire Department, TROSA, Durham Public Schools, Global Electric Electronics Processing, IT support companies and commercial property managers.
 
Constituents from all over the Triangle attended the Grand Opening including members from: Many departments at Duke University and Duke Hospital, North Carolina Museum of Life and Science, Chrome 7, Raven Rock Capital, Capital BroadcastingDuke SchoolBull City ForwardCenter of Innovation for Nanobiotechnology, Center for Documentary Film Festival, City of Durham Fire DeptmentThe Institute for Sustainable Development, Greenplus, Urban Durham RealtyNorton Street IT SupportCREE, Dudapaine ArchitectsGlobal Electric Electronics ProcessingThe Groove Productions, Teach for AmericaThundershirtNC Arts in ActionMark PropertiesNicholas School of the Environment, Durham Chamber of CommerceElkins Chrysler,Kontek Systems Inc. and TROSA.
 
Feel free to contact Triangle Ecycling for drop-off hours or details. 919.414.3041 or  http://www.triangleecycling.com/
 
 
 

Spring is in the air!

 



by Mariana Byrd

 

The spring market has arrived in full force this year.  The spring market started in earnest in January (it must be the nice warm weather we’ve been having this winter!).  We’ve seen properties steadily coming on the market these last two and a half months and buyers actually buying.  In several cases, with multiple interested buyers or even multiple offers.  I truly haven’t seen this many multiple offer situations for the past 4 years.

 

This is good news for sellers and buyers alike.  Sellers are able to sell their home and move on to the next phase of their life.  While buyers are able to capitalize on the extremely low interest rates (they have been at 4% or under for a 30 year fixed!) and good prices.

 

The Triangle Multiple Listing Service stated that in Durham County there has been a 44.1% increase in closed sales in February of 2012 compared to February 2011.  Which has brought down the months supply of inventory from 9.2 last February to 6.9 this February.  Once again, great news but I must note that the same figures showed a decrease of 5.7% in median sales price and a decrease of 6.9% in average sales price.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that prices are dropping, just that there may be different types of home and therefore different prices on the market this year versus last year.  My personal view is that home prices are staying about the same but there are more buyers this year.  

 

If you had waited to sell your home the past few years it may be time to reconsider.  There are buyers waiting for their “perfect home” to come on the market.

Two of My Favorite Things

 




By  Jessica Slice
 
Urban Durham will hopefully have another new delicious neighbor in case our agents ever get tired of eating cupcakes and pastries from Daisycakes. CocoaCinnamon, the chocolate and coffee shop currently biking around town, is raising funds to open a brick and mortar location downtown. They are opening to open across from Geer Street Garden and would be conveniently located right on my walking path to work. 
 
Their focus on quality and creatively combined ingredients sets them apart and they also have a really commitment to building community through food. 
 
Their kickstarter campaign runs a few more weeks and I, selfishly, would encourage you all to donate. Please join my in supporting this wonderful local business.
 
Contribute here:
 
 
In the meantime, follow them on twitter @cocoacinnamon to track their changing location around town. 

 

Singapore to Durham?

 

 
 
By Courtney James
 
I just returned from a trip to Singapore and consider the week a completely fascinating sociology study (even though I had no real purpose in going other than tagging along with my husband on a business trip). I was amazed by many aspects of daily life in Singapore, but real estate won much of my attention through the course of the week.  Singapore is a relatively young country having received their independent state just over 50 years ago.  They entered into their grand independence at a time of post-war depression and poverty.  It is estimated that 300,000 people lived in squatter settlements in the suburbs and 250,000 lived in squalid shophouses in the city center.
 
As soon as the People’s Action Party came into control in 1960, they took immediate action to address this urgent housing need and passed the Housing Development Act of 1960. There were almost 55,000 housing units built between 1960 and 1965.  Because of the extreme land restrictions (an island of 720 square kilometers) high-rise flats were selected as the development of choice.  Citizens were allowed to use part of their pension fund (their forced savings accounts) to purchase the units rather than rent them.  This allowed a majority of the population who might not have otherwise had an opportunity to experience home ownership, obtain a real investment in their country.  Through the 1980’s there were specific rules put in place to ensure ethnic and income diversity throughout of the developments.  In the US, public housing is usually considered an option for lower income populations.  The public housing in Singapore is offered to about 85% of Singaporeans in varied income levels (some flats can sell for as high as $500k).
 
I can’t say that I am ready to abandon my yard and detached house here in my favorite city, but they are obviously doing something right in that country.  They have an unbelievably high rate of home ownership (89% as opposed to 66% in the states) and virtually no homelessness, they have acknowledged the benefits of vertical development in urban areas, and they have developed these spaces using thoughtful methods arranging necessary amenities nearby.  Although I would never want Durham to be exactly like Singapore (it would feel too confining to me), it would be nice to have a bit more of that true urban flavor here in downtown.  Hey, Durham developers - are you listening?

Happy Leap Day!

 



By Kelly Garcia

The leap year first started over 2000 years ago when we transitioned from the Roman calendar to the Julian calendar. Since it started many superstitions were introduced. One well known tradition is women are “able” to propose to men on February 29th. In Scotland they believe it is important for women to wear a visible red petticoat under their dress while proposing for good luck.

Do you know anyone with a Leap Day birthday? One family from Ireland made the Guinness Book of World Records for having three consecutive generations born on the 29th of February.

Some people believe Leap Day is bad luck. In Greece they advise not to get married on February 29th and in Scotland they think it is unlucky to be born on Leap Day. However, I agree with the UK that thinks anything that starts on the 29th of February is sure of success. Celebrate Leap Day this year in Durham by starting something new….try a new restaurant, meet a new friend, buy a new house or maybe even start a life with someone. However you choose to celebrate I hope luck finds you! 

 

Vote The Independent's Best of the Triangle 2012!

By Mary Hartzell

The polls are open to vote for The Independent’s Best of the Triangle 2012.  This is an opportunity for Indy readers to vote for their favorite local goods and services, everything from dog grooming to music venues.  The ballot consists of 259 questions which can be intimidating, but voters need only answer 20 of them for their choices to be counted.  Once you sign up for your account, you can save your ballot and go back frequently to vote so you do not need to complete it in one sitting.  The survey ends on April 15 at 11:59PM so you have plenty of time to start voting and try some new places before you cast your final ballot.  

Click here to begin voting:  http://posting.indyweek.com/indyweek/Survey?survey=2746369

Urban Durham Realty won the Indy’s Best of the Triangle 2011 for best real estate agency.  We hope we earned that distinction through community involvement and sponsoring local events.  Last year we hosted a Bookmark event to gather summer reading material for Durham Public School children who may not otherwise have had any.  We sponsored the NC LGBT Pride Festival, the Running of the Bulls 8k and we fielded two teams for the annual Doughman event which raises money for the SEEDS program.  We will be sponsoring all of these events again in 2012 and we hope to see you there.

Individually, our brokers contribute to charities that are meaningful to our clients.  We donate a portion of our earnings from each transaction to a local charity of our clients’ choosing.  We also support local photographers, painters and other artists by displaying their work on a rotating basis all year round.  Our office is a former art gallery located on Foster Street so we are a convenient though occasionally unexpected stop on the Durham Art Walk.  Feel free to visit our office next Saturday after the farmer’s market to enjoy the art currently on display.

Urban Durham Realty brokers provide highly personalized service and we work to give our clients a unique experience.  We are committed to “doing” real estate differently.  If you voted for Urban Durham Realty as best real estate agency last year, thank you.  Whether you’re a repeat voter or new to The Indy’s Best of series, we hope you’ll include us on your 2012 ballot.  

Durham at the Cutting Edge - The Gamble House

By Lou Perron

While there are some terrific and architecturally important houses in the Triangle, it is not often that I see one of such historical significance as the “Gamble House,” located in Old North Durham.  This is an International Style house, looking like something out of Europe built in the late 1920’s/early 1930’s.

When I saw the listing in the MLS, I thought, where is this building?  When I checked on the map, I realized that I must have driven by it hundreds of times without seeing it behind its brick wall and overgrown plantings.

The first time I went to see the Gamble House, I was fascinated.  How did this house get here?  Though I studied architecture in a previous life, my schooling was far away from North Carolina, so I wasn’t aware of that the Gamble House is well known to the local architectural community.

So I looked it up on Endangered Durham. (http://endangereddurham.blogspot.com) and then George Smart’s website for Modern homes in the triangle area (http://www.trianglemodernisthouses.com).  Then I started connecting the dots.  Some time ago I had peeked in at the neighboring Dillard house, on the corner of Mangum and Markham, not realizing what was next door.  In fact, the land for the Gamble House was split off of land owned by the Dillard family.  Mrs. Gamble was the daughter of Richard E. Dillard. On the land given by Mrs. Gamble’s parents, the Gambles built one of the earliest examples of a residence in what had become known as the “International Style.”

The name “International Style” comes from a book written in 1932 by the architect Phillip Johnson and the historian Henry Russell Hitchcock for an exhibit of modern architecture at the relatively new Museum of Modern Art in New York.  Johnson had ridden a motorbike around Europe looking at postwar buildings, especially those influenced by the French architect/painter know as Le Corbusier and a German school of design called the Bauhaus. (He also got swept up in the Nazi movement, but that’s another story.)

Some of the key ideas of the International Style, as put forth by Hitchcock and Johnson are:

Form follows function – you can tell what is happening on the inside from looking at the outside.  Since the functions necessary on the interior do not need to be squeezed into a predetermined form, this creates an emphasis on balance rather than symmetry.

Materials out of the industrial age allow creation of open spaces with exterior walls that need not be load bearing and can be opened to the exterior with strip windows.  Roofs can be flat.   Thus Volume is created by a series of planes covered by a “curtain.”   The materials themselves create the detail.  This lack of ornament also allows the volume to take precedence.

The International Style was slow to catch on in America.  Part of the reason is that the forces of tradition in European culture were not present here, so a basic motivation was missing.  (The International Style in Europe was tied to a strong social contract.) Further, especially in the South, which was generally conservative, there was little interest in this movement outside of small groups.

To build the Gamble House in 1935, in Durham, North Carolina seems extraordinary.  It took a combination of  1) a client who clearly was interested in the arts and architecture, and in particular modern architecture, and who had funds (during the Depression) and the willingness to not only build but also to live in a house singularly different house from those of all of their neighbors and friends; 2) an architect who had the talent, interest, understanding and willingness to create and implement such a design;  3) a support network so that such a design could exist and persevere in NC; and 4) building techniques and materials not commonly used here.

With these challenges, how did the Gamble House get here?  One connection to North Carolina I knew:  In the early 1930’s, Black Mountain College had taken some of the Bauhaus faculty fleeing Germany.  (The influence of Black Mountain College can be seen in the NCSU School of Design and from there to modern architecture throughout North Carolina.) Black Mountain College was near Asheville, the home of the architectural firm that designed the Gamble House, Greene and Rogers (though I found differing accounts of who the architect of record was).  This seemed more than a little coincidental.  Then I discovered this in a paper by David Black for the National Registry of Historic Places:   

Perhaps the earliest, and one of the best, of these homes was the Howard Gamble House (NR), built in Durham in 1935. It was designed by W. Stewart  Rogers of the Asheville firm of Greene and Rogers. Rogers was an Asheville native, but had received his Master of Architecture degree from the School of Architecture at Harvard, where he studied under Walter Bogner, an Austrian architect whose work had been influenced by Gropius. (Claudia Roberts Brown, National Register nomination for the Dillard and Gamble Houses).

(Walter Gropius was headed the Bauhaus in Germany, then emigrated to the US and became faculty at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.)  So while I’ve uncovered no evidence that Black Mountain College was connected to the Gamble House, the International Style had its students in North Carolina.

But how about the design of the Gamble house, itself?

The siting of the Gamble house is incredible.  From the street, it’s a geometric stack of blocks, stuccoed white, punctured by bands of windows that wrap around the corner, and topped off with a series of flat roofs.  The lot looks flat from the front approach, but this is hardly what you find when you step inside.  You move through a central entrance, featuring to the left a tight curved staircase with a beautiful spiral metal railing.  The floor is a fine grain hardwood like maple.  Ahead of you is a large central room with fireplace and an enormous window looking out at huge hardwood tree and the land falling away into the distance.  It’s hard to imagine that you are in the middle of Durham.

The land below has been subdivided, but because of an easement for the large high voltage lines, this land has yet to be built upon.   Not surprisingly, the large transmission tower at the end of the driveway has been a deterrent to many prospective buyers of this unique house.

Originally there was a series of balconies and outdoor terraces on the second floor, but over time these have been enclosed, making the front façade more monolithic than it was originally.  The windows have almost all been replaced, without the grids of the steel framed windows and their detail.



Two large additions have been built off of the living room, with large exposed wood beams.  I suspect that these beams came out of one of the large Durham warehouses that were torn down in the last couple of decades.

Yet with all the changes, there are still some delightful details remaining.  There is a curved canopy roof over the entry and a sweet round window to the right, bringing light into the bathroom and animating the facade.  The living room ceiling is smooth plaster with two small recesses that give it a subtle cascading effect.  There are niches in the walls of the staircase and the dining room that have glass shelve bases that can be lit from below.  A window in the staircase brings borrowed light from above.  And in the center of the dining room ceiling there is a large round tray ceiling, lit from a hidden recess.  The upstairs has lots of light, two bedrooms with a huge changing room, a couple of sunrooms and a large terrace on the roof of the garage.  The kitchen still even has some of the original marble countertops, and flour and sugar hoppers with cranks.

This is a house that was built for entertaining.  This is a house that demands to be preserved.  

(Note: At the time of publishing this blog, I was happy to hear that the Gamble House went under contract. I hope the new owners will have the respect, imagination, and finances to bring this unique building back to the gem it once was.)

Early Gamble House photo from the North Carolina Collection, circa 1940.  Historic details of the Gamble house thanks to Endangered Durham, Triangle Modernist Houses and David Black paper on Early Modern Architecture in Raleigh Associated with the Faculty of the NCSU School of Design, Raleigh, Wake County, North Carolina for the National Registry of Historic Places, 1994

Urban Durham Realty Hearts Local Charities

 

by Ashley St.Clair

 

We are equally invested in the Durham community and in our clients - as a company and as individuals, we are dedicated to the vibrancy and success of the Bull City. As a reflection of this core tenet, each agent at Urban Durham Realty donates a portion of their commission from every transaction to a local charity of their client’s choice. In this way, we are able to support charitable causes that are both local and meaningful to our remarkable clients. But how much does Urban Durham Realty donate, you ask?

 

I am excited to announce that, since opening in 2009, Urban Durham Realty’s charitable donations have exceeded $23,600 to more than 40 causes...and the sky’s the limit!

 

We are committed to Durham stewardship on so many levels, and we believe that by operating this way, we help to strengthen the fabric of our community. Thanks to our fans for your continued support and for helping us contribute to so many worthy causes.

 

VIBRANT DOWNTOWN

 

 
by Mary Hunter
 
This past Saturday, I had the pleasure of spending my evening with friends eating at Dos Perros and then heading over to the DPAC to join a sell-out crowd attending Bill Cosby's show. I found myself driving around in search of street parking. It did not take me long before I remembered Durham has large public lots, very conveniently located, so that events such as Bill Cosby's can be quickly and safely accessed. In a word, I could find a place to park and walk without a lot of stress or wasted time, allowing me (and everyone else) the pleasure of relishing the energy of Durham's downtown evening life. What a wonderful transition from 30 years ago, to see how Durham has become a bright, lively destination that boast innumerable cultural activities. 
 
Besides playing host to Bill Cosby over the weekend, Durham is participating in culinary arts. This week running from January 23-29 will be Triangle Restaurant Week.  Durham is fortunate to have 21 restaurants participating in showing their culinary excellence by featuring a three course delicious meal at a fixed price that will provide food enthusiasts an opportunity to eat out at several participating local restaurants.  See a complete list at:  http://www.blvd.tv/trw/
 
I also learned that another opportunity to enjoy the downtown scene is being hosted by the Carolina Theatre.  They will be featuring two Full Frame Documentary Films that are free to everyone.  The dates for these films will be January 25 and February 1, with showings at 7:00 p.m. For information, you can go to http://www.fullframefest.org/events.php
 
Between the Carolina Theatre, DPAC and the restaurants downtown there are many opportunities to enjoy Vibrant Downtown.  What are you waiting for? 
 
 

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