The Hill Building

A few months ago, Insider Louisville was posting about 21C Museum Museum Hotel investors starting construction on a new facility in Bentonville, Ark.

Then a few weeks ago, the next stop for Laura Lee Brown, Steve Wilson and investors was Lexington.

That was in addition to retrofitting a downtown Cincinnati building, with that hotel/museum scheduled to open later this year.

Now, the News & Observer newsite in Raleigh, N.C. is reporting 21C executives have plans to open in Durham, N.C. in a Depression-era office tower, The Hill Building, no one quite knows what to do with.

Following the Louisville model that started with a vacant but architecturally significant downtown property on the once forlorn West Main Street corridor, the 21C in Durham is being pitched as an urban revitalization catalyst.

From the story by David Bracken:

While the 1935 building’s art deco ornamentation makes it an architectural marvel, its location at the intersection of Main and Corcoran streets is just as important. Reopening the 17-story tower, also known as the SunTrust Building, would go a long way toward linking the core of downtown Durham with other redevelopment activity occurring nearby in West Village and American Tobacco Campus. The latest – and by far the most unique – redevelopment proposal for the Hill Building emerged last week, when a Louisville, Ky., developer announced that it wants to turn it into a 125-room boutique hotel that will also feature a contemporary art museum and a restaurant and bar. The proposal, which would require $5 million in public assistance from the city and county, is sure to rekindle debate over the proper use of incentives. It also represents an interesting test case of the ability for art to drive commerce in Durham and elsewhere around the Triangle. Although 21c’s hotel concept may sound whimsical, it makes a lot more sense when you understand the company’s origins. Its founders, Laura Lee Brown and her husband Steve Wilson, are contemporary art collectors with very deep pockets. Brown is an heiress to the Brown-Forman liquor company, which owns both Jack Daniels and Southern Comfort.

The News & Observer story is important for two reasons:

• The deal includes buildings that are falling down (sound familiar?), with city officials desperate for a solution. Desperate enough to throw money at the 21C deal.

• The post includes details about the overall 21C enterprise never covered by the fast fading conventional media in Louisville.

This is, more than anything, a wake-up call for Insider Louisville to get to work on updates about all the pending deals in Louisville touched by 21C investors Brown, Wilson and Craig Greenberg.

 

 

 

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