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Downtown Durham gets a facelift

By Greg LaudaniStaff Writer

Now more than ever, students are welcoming the sight of bulldozers rolling around giant ditches.

Desolate construction sites during this academic year will bring three new off-campus living opportunities to Main Street by next fall.

University Edge Apartments has begun construction of the Orion Student Housing project, a modern blend of state-of-the-art student apartments, homes and central commercial space for aspiring businesses. The complex is being built at 25 to 27 Main St. across from the Durham Post Office.

The development’s location gives residents easy access to downtown and the benefit of a short walk to the center of campus. Sleeping late could become a much smaller issue for students living so close to UNH.

“It’s going to be a different scene than what students are used to,” said Kelly Lewton, the general manager of University Edge Apartments.

Set to open August 2015, the apartment building will sit behind the project’s new homes and commercial spaces. University Edge said its new living spaces will be “50 percent larger than the average downtown apartments.” All 197 units will come fully furnished and with their own washer and dryer, as well.

Todd Selig, Durham’s town administrator, said the Orion Project was before the Durham Historical District Commission for over a year before the town could reach an agreement on its design. The complex’s brand new clubhouse will feature a media center, study lounges, a computer lab and coffee bar. University Edge believes these amenities make this new housing option different and appealing to students.

“The clubhouse itself is really geared toward helping students in their living situation, as well as contributing to their studies,” Lewton said.

Many upperclassmen have already began showing interest living in the new space come next fall. University Edge expects it will only take “a number of hours” for all of the apartments to be leased when they are finished next August.

“The new apartments seem like a perfect place for upperclassmen,” junior Brittany Mailhot said. “I would definitely consider living there next year with how close it is to downtown and for all the conveniences in the apartments that make things easier for students.”

Even more changes will take place along Main Street during the academic year. Across the street from University Edge’s construction site are apartments and local businesses.Along with University Edge’s new student housing opportunities, the Henderson Project, a separate endeavor, is under construction directly across the street at 1 Madbury Road. This project strives to open up even more opportunities for students and businesses to thrive on Main Street.

Mark Henderson, owner of the Henderson Project’s land and former Rental Housing Commission Chairman, had the project approved in 2009. Five years later and with designs up to modern code, construction is under way.

The project, set to finish by next summer, is a three-story building with two floors of apartments and one floor of commercial space, according to the Town of Durham’s website. With an aim toward making students comfortable in their living situation, underground parking will be available.

All of these new apartments could give a major lift to downtown businesses. The developments put residents just steps away from all of Main Street’s shops and restaurants. And town representatives like Selig are optimistic about the positive economic impact these developments could have on Durham.

“Downtown businesses will have the opportunity to attract the business of these new residents,” the town administrator said confidently.

On the topic of Durham businesses, Pauly’s Pockets is set to expand to include housing.

The popular downtown restaurant has been approved to expand “up, over and around,” according to Selig. Pauly’s will expand from one story to a three-story building that will go over and around Hair Excitement. The top two stories will encompass apartments.

Selig also claims that zoning requirements call for two stories of housing above one level for commercial use.

Despite the expansion, Pauly’s will not stop making the falafel it crowns “best in town” on its website. The restaurant will stay open during construction, which is anticipated to begin in mid-September and re-open in time for next fall.

Although construction sites are not the prettiest things to look at, the work being done now will eventually deliver new opportunities and a new look to downtown Durham.

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