Editor’s note: The historic, diverse, well-educated, fun, entrepreneurial urban Durham is springing to life in a big way. Marcus Jackson heralds Durham as one of the fastest growing urban investment destinations in the Southeast. And he is not alone in his forecast of budding entrepreneurship, the arts and economic prosperity. A developer recently announced the addition of a 26-story tower to be located in the City Center district. In addition to increasing demand within the traditional office market, the acceleration of Durham’s creative, well-educated demographic has sprung forward, creating demand for non-traditional office spaces such as the American Underground, now at two locations: American Tobacco Campus and the Main Street Campus.

WRALTechWire asked Jackson, who is is Managing Director of Investments and focuses his commercial real estate services in the Triangle that offer proven live-work-play environments for Colliers International, to offer his personal insight into Durham’s rebirth from a commerical real estate point of view. Recently the Colliers local office released a study entitled: Downtown Durham: The State of its Revitalization. It is available free of charge by e-mailing Jackson at marcus.jackson@colliers.com or by calling 919-616-3284.

DURHAM, N.C. - The rich demographic and its strategic location substantiate the value of the Downtown … it is six miles from Research Triangle Park and 40,000 plus high technology and pharma professionals and 15 minutes from RDU International Airport.

Downtown Durham has an office market of 2.2 million square feet and average rents are $21.86 vs. 3.4 million sf and rents at $21.26 in urban Raleigh.

Commercial growth is expected with the rise of the economy and increased investments in amenities and civic features.

Urban Durham remains a global landmark for research, innovation and education. Durham’s scholarly culture dates back to 1892 when Trinity College moved to Durham, NC. To honor his father, James Duke established a philanthropic foundation to support the college and in 1924, Trinity became Duke University. In 1910, Dr. James Shepard established NC Central University: the nation’s first publicly supported Liberal Arts College for African Americans.

NCCU has grown to its current day population of 8,500 students.

Duke University has 14,000 students and leases approximately 900,000 SF of office space in the core of Downtown, including approximately 2,750 employees.

This year, Duke University signed a $90 million lease for a major lab facility and in 2012-2013, Duke Hospital delivered an $800 million expansion. Duke University and Medical Center continue to prosper; they recently launched a $3.2 billion capital campaign to ensure its growth and global leadership.

Durham has historically been an incubator for top flight entrepreneurs and job creators. As a result, the city has attracted terrifically likeminded individuals. Measurement Inc. was founded by Dr. Henry Scherich in 1980 in the basement of his home in Durham. Today, the rapidly-growing scholastic testing firm headquartered in Downtown Durham employees over 400 professionals. In April 2013, Dr. Scherich was named by Ernst & Young as a finalist for the Entrepreneur of the Year in the Southeast.

Recently, Family Health International (FHI) announced its relocation to Downtown Durham with a major lease at Diamond View within the American Tobacco Campus; this deal will add up to 500 employees.

Continuous feedback from companies like FHI suggests Durham’s leadership in several areas such as its favorable environment for corporate growth, recruitment, and an excellent quality of life.

The growing Class A apartment and hotel market rounds out the urban investment potential. The apartment market includes 1,522 units, which are 97% leased with effective rents averaging from $1.36/SF to $1.68/SF (apartment sizes range from 700 – 1,400 SF.) To help meet future demand, developers have about 1,200 new units under construction and have proposed an additional 1,400 units. And hotel developers have also announced 600 new hotel rooms.

Beyond “business”, a major success catalyst is the vibe and excitement from the blossoming arts and entertainment scene. There are over 2.2 million visitors downtown annually that take advantage of the Durham Bulls baseball games, the Carolina Theatre, nationally-acclaimed eateries, and varied arts and musical venues. In 2008, the city completed the Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC): a 2,800 seat venue, recognized by Pollster Magazine as one of the Top 4 Worldwide Theatre Venues. Durham was named The Tastiest Town in the South by Southern Living Magazine in May 2013, surpassing towns like New Orleans and Miami.

Even The New York Times has recognized the town as a prominent destination by publishing an article entitled “36 hours in Durham” in January 2013. Local restaurants such as Mateo Tapas, Fullsteam Brewery and Scratch Bakery are continually recognized by organizations such as the James Beard Foundation and Bon Appetite Magazine.

While Downtown Durham has an excellent foundation in place, it is just now entering a period where it will experience its most rapid growth. The economic and social growth will be sustainable in this city because of its history and commitment to cultural preservation and the public/private support of new and growing businesses. Now is the time to invest in this vibrant urban center.

About Colliers International

Colliers International is a global leader in commercial real estate services, with over 13,500 professionals operating out of more than 482 offices in 62 countries. The latest annual survey by the Lipsey Company ranked Colliers International as the second-most recognized commercial real estate firm in the world.

Colliers International has served clients in the Raleigh-Durham | Eastern North Carolina market since 1987 and specializes in tenant/landlord representation, property management and investment services. Visit our website at colliers.com/rdu or follow us on Twitter: @ColliersRDU.

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