Liberty Warehouse Update

Dear Members:

I am deeply grateful for the incredible support the Preservation Durham membership and community have shown this past week in response to the Liberty Warehouse situation.

Our plea to City Council was echoed in the unprecedented and overwhelming number of emails sent to Council by Preservation Durham members and friends.  You are valued teammates in our ongoing work!

I am pleased to share with you that we have reached an agreement with Greenfire, the current owner of the Liberty Warehouse, and with East-West Partners, the potential new owners and developers of the site.  The comments we will give at tonight's Council meeting - scheduled for 7pm in the City Council Chambers - will reflect that agreement, as outlined below..

Josh Parker, President of the Preservation Durham Board of Directors, and I have had many conversations with Paul Smith (Greenfire), Roger Perry (East-West Partners) and Bryson Powell (East-West Partners) over the past week.  We have negotiated the following items with regards to the historic elements of the Liberty Warehouse.
  • Integration of the existing Southern brick wall of Liberty Warehouse in to the redevelopment plans by preserving the Foundary, Central Park mural and wall, but making strategic penetrations to allow for enhanced public connectivity and programming in Central Park.
  • Incorporation of the Northeastern brick fa´┐Żade and LIBERTY sign in to the redevelopment plans.
  • Reuse of existing old wood materials from the warehouse within the redevelopment and the recycling of those that are not reused onsite.
  • Memorialization and documentation of the Liberty Warehouse building and the tobacco auction business in Durham, either through an outdoor public exhibit or in a dedicated museum space.
  • Use architectural forms and materials that contextually relate to the surrounding area.
  • A continued dialogue with Preservation Durham around the development of Liberty Warehouse that will include regular communication and meetings as the project proceeds towards construction.    
  • Lastly, Should a scenario arise where East West Partners is not involved in the redevelopment of Liberty Warehouse, Greenfire Development is committed to
    meeting these same criteria.  
Preservation Durham remains committed to the Historic Preservation Commission and their incredibly valuable volunteer work to safeguard the historic architectural integrity of Durham.

The lifting of Local Landmark status from the Liberty Warehouse is not our first choice.  However, after judging the political landscape of the last few days, it became clear that direct negotiation with the owner and developer was the only viable course to the most important objective: retention of as much of the Liberty as possible.
Preservation Durham remains committed to the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) and their incredibly valuable volunteer work to safeguard the historic architectural integrity of Durham.  Yet the HPC is not tasked to mediate or lobby on behalf of preservation concerns. 

Preservation of our community's treasured assets is a group effort, requiring the struggles - in concert with the HPC, the State Historic Preservation Office, Preservation Durham, preservation-friendly elected officials, and an engaged citizenry.

I am satisfied that Josh and I have done everything we can to ensure that the Liberty Warehouse will continue to serve as a link to Durham's storied and cultural past.  And, I will continue to work with the present and future owners of the property to ensure that our agreement is honored.

Allow me to reiterate how amazed I was by the support you have shown.  Together, we affirm and bear witness to the indisputable fact that historic preservation does not hinder or obstruct Durham's development; rather, it enhances and distinguishes Durham.  As do all of you.

Wendy Hillis, AIA
Executive Director

Preservation Durham
P.O. Box 25411
Durham, North Carolina 27702