NC Central University plans to open a student center on the north end of campus next year, its clever design to serve as a gateway to campus — the first glimpse of HBCU for many coming off the freeway.
The building, which will cost more than $3.5 million, was designed by Durham firm Evoke Studio Architecture.
“It’s a 24/7 facility open to students,” architect Brittany Eaker Kirkland told members of the Durham Historic Preservation Commission on Tuesday.
The heart of the 24/7 Collaborative Learning and Research Center, as it is known, is the large shaded porch under the dramatic awning roof.
“This blurring of indoor and outdoor space is reminiscent of the welcoming and inclusive porches of adjacent residences in the centre,” the architectural firm wrote to the Durham City Planning Department.
The space will be open around the clock for students to study and congregate. It is built in Eagle colors with red brick and dark gray metal trim.
It will be located at the northwest corner of Fayetteville and Lawson streets, opposite the campus of the sprawling $55 million student center completed in December.
Because it’s in the Fayetteville Street Historic District, the Historic Preservation Commission had to weigh its merits. The board voted unanimously in favor on Tuesday.
“It’s not a massive structure. It’s a single-story structure,” Eaker Kirkland said of the 4,900-square-foot building. “We’re not trying to maximize and create an out-of-scale building with the neighborhood in this way.”
The project will provide relief to nearby residents from flooding as it includes plans to replace the water main and upgrade the line down Lawson Street.
“There are a lot of flooding issues in this area and it was a recurring theme at our neighborhood meetings,” Eaker Kirkland said. “Any adjacent residences that had any kind of slope or basement level, they flooded every time it rained.”
Tad DeBerry, who sits on the Historic Preservation Commission and voted for the project, said it was unfortunate that two historic single-family homes, once on the site, were demolished.
“It’s a model of the university taking historic elements of its community out of the Historic District to build new structures,” DeBerry said. “The continued disregard of the university using public funds to degrade the historic district is sad.”
University spokesman Stephen Fusi said the design concept was careful to mix traditional neighborhood features with more modern elements.
“NCCU seeks to maintain the character of the campus and meet the needs of 21st century students while welcoming the surrounding community,” Fusi told The News & Observer.
The university has previously worked with Evoke, including on an award-winning redesign of the school’s television studio.
“We are looking for designers who are invested in the Durham community. Evoke Studio Architecture is a local Durham firm and the concepts they presented demonstrated an understanding of the history and purpose of the structures in the University area,” said Fusi.
The board approved the design last April and then agreed to increase the budget to $3,555,000 from the original $3 million.
Then the project must be submitted to the state for building code review. Teams are expected to get to work in September. The end of 2023 is scheduled for completion.
This story was originally published June 16, 2022 1:36 p.m.