CARY – This isn’t a sensationalist headline promising an in-depth look at a celebrity mansion for sale, but it sure is big news for the Triangle’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
David Gardner, the founding partner of Triangle-based early-stage venture capital firm Cofounders Capital, and his partner have listed their lakefront home for sale with a price tag of more than $8 million.
So, does that mean that this local investor with strong ties to the region and a stated commitment to its entrepreneurs will be moving away from the Triangle?
Take a breath. Fear not.
Yes, the Gardners plan to sell their property, which has been their primary residence for more than two decades.
But they’re not leaving the Triangle, Gardner told WRAL TechWire.
“We’ve loved living where we are, we’ve loved living in Cary,” said Gardner. “I’ve served on the Cary Chamber, I’ve invested in a lot of local companies here.”
And Cofounders Capital, which recently closed $24 million in new investment from limited partners, will remain focused on early-stage Triangle-based startup companies, said Gardner.
But when it comes to home, it’s time to downside and to simplify, including not having a yard or a private road to maintain, said Gardner.
It’s not a decision that came on a whim, explained Gardner. He spoke with more than 20 people in conducting what he called “due diligence” on a possible move, working to identify the next place for him and his spouse to call home.
Once their home is sold, they’ll move to Durham. Downtown Durham, specifically, said Gardner, or close enough that he may be able to walk into downtown to maintain an office, should he decide to open one, or to work from one of the city’s coworking spaces.
“When I first moved to Cary, Durham had a bad reputation,” said Gardner. That was 1999, he noted. And at that time, said Gardner, he’d talked to a variety of people in the region while he was making that move.
“I talked to some of the people, who intentionally said that they planned to make Durham the jewel of the Triangle,” said Gardner. “There are people who have had a long-term vision of making Durham what it is today,” he said.
A decade ago, WRAL TechWire wrote a featured series, The New Bull City, which tracked Durham’s changing ecosystem, from tobacco to technology. At the time, the average residential home price in the 27701 zip code, where downtown Durham is situated, was just under $150,000, according to data from the Triangle Multiple Listing Service. A decade later, the average residential home price in 27701 is $461,650, according to Triangle Multiple Listing Service data. That equates to an average annual appreciation rate of 11.95% during that time period.
Not to mention all of the development that has occurred in the prior decade, as the Durham skyline has changed. Now, said Gardner, “Durham, I think, is really something special.”
One often overlooked feature of downtown Durham, said Gardner, is that there are wonderful open spaces, both city-owned and privately owned, that provide green space. And, he said, it’s a “really, nice, walkable downtown.”
Gardner realizes that he’s not the only person that’s decided to make a move into downtown Durham.
“You’ve got companies moving there,” he noted. That’s companies ranging from founder-only startup companies working at a coworking space as well as Google, which announced last year it would open an engineering hub in downtown Durham, and startups in between. It’s also life science startups that are in their early phases of growth through GlaxoSmithKline, which moved all of its local employees from its campus in Research Triangle Park to a new facility in downtown Durham late last year.
“People who haven’t taken a fair assessment of Durham in the last ten years, should take another look,” said Gardner.