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The sky is the limit

Condo-mania in Durham Central Park 

The condo mania that has gripped downtown Durham—hundreds of new units are under construction at West Village, 605 W. Chapel Hill St. and at Willard and Jackson streets—is spreading to the Central Park neighborhood.

The area that Fullsteam brewery, Geer Street Garden, Cocoa Cinnamon, Motorco and the Surf Club made hip and desirable (and who doesn't want to be?) is now a target for mixed-use developments and condominiums.

While at this point it may be just dreams sketched on the back of a cocktail napkin, Alex Washburn, who owns the Motorco building at 723 Rigsbee Ave. and an adjacent parking lot, is planning, at some point, to build condos on part of that land. This is according to sources knowledgeable of the situation, but who asked not to be named. (Hang out at the Motorco bar long enough and you'll hear a lot of gossip.)

What this means for Motorco is uncertain; there are still a few years left on the building's lease. The INDY couldn't reach Washburn—New York City's former chief urban designer, he lives in Brooklyn—for comment. But we're definitely picking up his book The Nature of Urban Design: A New York Perspective on Resilience to see where his head is.

On a recent sunny afternoon, we stopped by The Nomadic Trading Company at 619–621 Foster St. (and in addition to gorgeous rugs, we found some amazing Red Crescent backpacks, vintage globes and old metal mess kits) and learned that Greenfire Development is selling that building to ... not roger perry, who is developing the Liberty Warehouse site.

And not Austin-Lawrence, which plans to transform the old Jack Tarr Motel (aka the Oprah building) into a boutique hotel—and the vacant lot to the south into a 26-story tower.

The buyer is ... Alston Gardner. A Durham native, Gardner founded Fulcrum Equity Partners in Chapel Hill and serves on the UNC Board of Governors.

Gardner confirmed Tuesday that he and his sister, Lucy Stokes , who has worked in Durham development for more than 20 years, have the 11,000-square-foot building under contract.

What will become of the Nomadic Trading is still uncertain. "It would be hard to redevelop the site without parking," Gardner said, adding that "A seven- or-eight story building is not an option."

The interest in Central Park comes after Perry of East West Partners in Chapel Hill announced his plans earlier this year to redevelop the Liberty Warehouse property—another Greenfire sale—into condos.

"Central Park has a lot of potential," Gardner said. "The question is how do you take advantage of that and grow it without destroying what made it attractive in the first place?"

(A downtown aside: Gardner said he and Stokes are also considering buying the Teermark building, which abuts the former SunTrust, soon-to-be 21c Museum Hotel downtown. Gardner cautioned that it is not a done deal because it is a financially risky endeavor.)

Back in Central Park, the building next to Nomadic Trading at 609 Foster St., is owned by Tyler Huntington of Tyler's Taproom. He plans to put a distillery and event space in there, although there is little action at that site right now.

Who will be the final Central Park holdout? We're putting our money on Lloyd's Lounge , the nondescript-hip-because-it's-anti-hip bar in a low-slung white house at 704 Rigsbee Ave. As goes Lloyd's, so goes the neighborhood.

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