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Durham's American Underground is expanding

American Underground, the office space in Durham's American Tobacco Campus that offers cheaper rents to startups, is expanding.

A new space called Underground @Main Street will offer 22,000 square feet of space for startups at 201 W. Main Street. The building is owned by Self-Help Credit Union.

The space is expected to eventually host about 50 startups and support organizations. Fifteen tenants have already signed up.

Bandwidth, the Raleigh-based telecommunications company, and Yealink are providing the building with complimentary phone systems.

The American Underground space in American Tobacco opened in 2010. It includes 26,000 square feet of space in the lower levels of the Strickland and Crowe buildings.

Federal Capital Partners acquires phase two of Durham's West Village

Federal Capital Partners, which acquired the first phase of the West Village development in downtown Durham late last year, announced Wednesday that it has taken a controlling interest in the project's second phase with a $5 million investment.

Phase two, which includes 212 apartments and 104,000 square feet of commercial space, is owned by a partnership that includes Duke basketball stars Christian Laettner and Brian Davis. That group will retain an equity interest in the project.

In December, FCP acquired West Village's first phase, which includes 241 apartments and 10,000 square feet of retail and parking, for $35.25 million. FCP's partner in that deal is Greensboro-based Bell Partners.

West Village was developed by Laettner, Davis and Tom Niemann, a Duke business school graduate. Their company, Blue Devil Ventures, led a $170 million revitalization effort in Durham that converted an abandoned tobacco factory into a mix of restaurants, offices and apartments.

Measurement Inc. to build new office building in downtown Durham

Measurement Durham, the real estate development arm of Measurement Inc., said today that it will begin construction next month on a 74,000 square foot building in downtown Durham.

The $12 million project, to be located at the corner of Hunt and Morris streets, is the first of several buildings that will make up Morris Ridge, a larger development planned for the block bordered by Durham Central Park and Hunt, Morris and Corporation streets.
Measurement Incorporated, which develops and scores educational and professional exams for state and local agencies, will occupy half the building. Urban Plant Mobile is also leasing space in the building.

The five-story building is expected to be completed by July 2012.

The Scrap Exchange launches Artist Series Tours

The Scrap Exchange, a nonprofit creative reuse center, is launching the first of a series of artist tours to benefit their Capital Campaign.

MDC to relocate to historic downtown Durham building

A historic downtown Durham building that has sat empty for years has been bought by the nonprofit developer Self-Help, which plans to renovate the property and lease it to fellow Triangle nonprofit MDC.

Last month, Self-Help paid $1.4 million for the John Sprunt Hill building at 307 West Main Street. It will spend $800,000 renovating the four-story, 16,295-square-foot building.

MDC, which develops anti-poverty, job training and other types of programs for struggling communities, is currently based in Chapel Hill. It expects to occupy three of the four floors by July.

MDC plans to sublet the groundfloor to another nonprofit.

Laettner, Davis ordered to pay NFL linebacker $3.8 million

A federal judge in Maryland has ruled that former Duke basketball stars Christian Laettner and Brian Davis must pay NFL linebacker Shawn Merriman $3.765 million and give him ownership stakes in the duo's projects in Durham, Baltimore and Atlanta.

Merriman, who currently plays for the Buffalo Bills, has accused Laettner and Davis of failing to abide by terms of a $3 million loan and a settlement reached in federal court in 2009.

The latest judgment, filed Dec. 13 in the U.S. District Court in Maryland, gives Merriman a 10 percent membership interest in the West Village Condos Partnership in Durham, the West Village project in Atlanta, and a project in Baltimore.

Merriman's capital stake in the Durham and Atlanta projects will be $800,000 each. In Baltimore, it will be $1.4 million.

Five companies join American Tobacco's basement space for startups

American Underground, the recently opened basement space at American Tobacco Campus in downtown Durham, has announced five new tenants.

The startups include Acorn Innovestments, Adzerk, Jaargon Ltd., Preation and Two Toasters.

They join the earlier announced companies Launchbox Digital, Joystick Labs and the Council for Entrepreneurial Development.

American Underground includes 26,000 square feet of space on the lower levels of the Strickland and Crowe buildings. It had been used as storage space until this fall.

The space is designed for startups -- rents are about $5 per square foot cheaper. It includes offices and suites, shared conference rooms and break rooms and a classroom that accommodates 60 people.

Redevelopment plan for Durham's Chesterfield building passes one hurdle

Developer Josh Parker's efforts to redevelop the massive Chesterfield building in downtown Durham passed one hurdle earlier this week.

On Monday, the state Department of Commerce gave Parker's development group, Chesterfield Partners, approval for $65 million in borrowing capacity.

Chesterfield Partners is hoping to sell $65 million in federal stimulus bonds to transform the Chesterfield building into a mix of retail, offices and apartments.

Parker also needs approval from Durham County's Industrial Facilities and Pollution Control Financing Authority. A hearing has been set for Nov. 8 to discuss the proposal.

American Tobacco to make "big announcement" next week

The owner of the American Tobacco Campus in downtown Durham has scheduled a "big announcement" for Tuesday morning.

A representative of ATC declined to disclose what the announcement is about, but it's likely to be real estate related.

ATC has titled the announcement "The Big Bang for Small Business" and says it involves the future of entrepreneurship in the Triangle and North Carolina.

ATC recently lost tenant GlaxoSmithKline, which has decided to depart from its 88,000 square feet of space in May.

Despite that news, the project remains a phenomenal success and one of the catalysts for downtown Durham's ongoing revitalization.

Read more for a run down of a few other companies that are reportedly looking in downtown Durham.

Durham's Greenfire applies for stimulus bonds to renovate SunTrust Tower

Greenfire Development has applied for $25 million in federal stimulus-allocated bonds that would be used to convert downtown Durham’s SunTrust Tower into a 165-room boutique hotel.

If approved, the bonds could jump start a key project that has been stalled for several years by the credit crunch.

If local and state officials approve Greenfire’s request, the developer would then market the bonds to investors. The application says construction would begin in October if the bonds are awarded.

The developer’s application states that the project, called Spark Hotel & Spa, would be part of Starwood’s Luxury Collection and would be managed by Interstate Hotels and Resorts.

Carl Webb, a partner with Greenfire, said the Starwoods deal has not been finalized. The deal with Interstate Hotels and Resorts has been.

The $25 million in bonds would cover half the cost of the project. Greenfire would need to raise the rest of the money from other sources.

The SunTrust Tower, also called the Hill Building, is among the trophies in Greenfire’s portfolio. The company owns more than 30 buildings in downtown Durham and about 900,000 square feet of space.

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