Durham, NC – The 12-story Legacy Tower building that has been the longtime home and headquarters to North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Co, one of the oldest African American-owned companies in the state, is getting big changes. The building’s owners, a group of mostly Durham-based investors led by Michael Lemanski who bought the building from N.C. Mutual in 2006, have secured about $11 million in new capital to begin renovations to the 1960s-era office building.
The focus of the changes coming to downtown Durham’s iconic Legacy Tower office building at 411 W. Chapel Hill Street will be cosmetic. They will include a complete cleaning and restoration of the building’s façade, the overhaul and expansion of the building’s lobby area, construction of a 13,000-square-foot addition on the first floor with a mezzanine level, skylights for the concourse and lower level, modernized mechanical and HVAC systems, and improved conference rooms and other shared spaces.
“It’s a pretty major transformation,” Lemanski says.
As part of the changes, N.C. Mutual is shrinking its presence from about one-third of the 153,600-square-foot building’s floor space that it had occupied when Lemanski and team took over in 2006 to about a floor and a half on the upper levels, leaving about 60,000 square feet of vacant space that will be available for lease.
N.C. Mutual, founded in 1898, has been shrinking its staff and operations in recent years as profits have fallen due to “unfavorable mortality results,” according to one credit agency that tracks the company. The insurance firm has been working to expand its product offerings, including new property and casualty insurance programs introduced in 2016.
But, it’s still not the company it once was. The N.C. Mutual Life banner sign on the roof of the building will be coming down, Lemanski confirms, replaced for the time being with a sign with the building’s new Legacy Tower moniker. He expects new naming rights for the building to be part of lease negotiations with potential new corporate tenants. “Naming rights are valuable, especially for someone who wants to make a splashy entrance,” he says.
When Lemanski’s Greenfire Development group bought the building in 2006, they had invested about $5 million in capital improvements to reposition it from a Class C-level office building to a Class B-level building. “But the market continues to change,” he says. “We think this is a good opportunity to convert it into a Class A building.”
In addition to N.C. Mutual’s offices on the 12th floor, the Durham office for the Perkins + Will architecture firm will also be relocating from RTP into about 12,000 square feet on the first floor of Legacy Tower once renovations to the space is complete in early 2018. Duke University will also be leasing 12,247 square feet in Legacy Tower through December 2019, according to county records.