Brightleaf developer plans to tear down buildings that housed Durham restaurants

·2 min read

A developer plans to tear down buildings in the Brightleaf district to make way for a large parking garage and seven-story retail and office building, plans filed last month show.

The Main Street buildings have been home to Saint James Seafood, which announced its upcoming closure on Wednesday, and Torero’s Mexican Restaurant, which closed this spring.

Asana Partners, a Charlotte firm, bought much of Durham’s Brightleaf Square in 2019 and has been steadily renovating its properties in the bustling downtown district.

The newly planned 250,000-square-foot development is L-shaped and will take up much of the block north of Main Street between Duke and Gregson streets, according to a site plan obtained by The News & Observer.

The northwest corner, which Asana doesn’t own, is not included in the plans.

A parking deck with 461 spaces would stretch along Gregson Street, while retail and office space is planned for the building on Main Street.

Both structures would be seven stories, but the Main Street building will be about 60 feet taller.

Asana intends to demolish the buildings, which tax records show date to the mid-1920s.

Planning staff has reviewed the site plans and requested corrections. Asana did not return calls Wednesday.

Seven years ago, chef Matt Kelly wrote Saint James’ first menu on a cocktail napkin while on an airplane and always has imagined his ideal seafood joint as marrying the fried fish nostalgia of childhood trips to the beach with renewed demands for everything on the half shell.
Seven years ago, chef Matt Kelly wrote Saint James’ first menu on a cocktail napkin while on an airplane and always has imagined his ideal seafood joint as marrying the fried fish nostalgia of childhood trips to the beach with renewed demands for everything on the half shell.

What will happen to the restaurants?

The acclaimed Saint James Seafood announced Wednesday it would close in early October after a tumultuous four years downtown.

“I have some unfortunate news to share,” Chef Matt Kelly posted on the restaurant’s Instagram page. “Yesterday I let my team know that our lease has been terminated.”

Kelly said he hopes to relocate.

A masked and gloved worker looks outside the window at Torero’s Restaurant as the joint Durham City and County stay-at-home order is announced to be extended past its Friday expiration date, on Tuesday, May 12, 2020, in Durham, N.C.
A masked and gloved worker looks outside the window at Torero’s Restaurant as the joint Durham City and County stay-at-home order is announced to be extended past its Friday expiration date, on Tuesday, May 12, 2020, in Durham, N.C.

Torero’s Mexican Restaurant, another local favorite, has been closed since April 30.

The business, which opened in 1993, posted signs in the window saying it would reopen soon down the street, in a space in West Village Apartments.

“Hi there, we’ve having delays on getting the restaurant ready but we are pretty close, keep tune you all, We miss you!” the business replied to inquiring customers on Facebook last week.

Both restaurants were closed for about a year after a fatal gas explosion nearby in 2019, only to have to immediately reckon with the COVID-19 pandemic.

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