The Royal Crown and Seven-Up Bottling Plant at 321 W Geer Street in Durham was built in 1939 in the Moderne style. It is a contributing structure within the Foster and W Geer Streets National Register Historic District. Indeed, it is the largest structure in the district, making its preservation all the more important to retaining the character of the neighborhood. The building operated as a bottling plant until at least 1963, but was vacant and in deteriorating condition until Empire purchased the building in 2012.
Following acquisition, Empire began to plan a historic tax credit rehabilitation. The repair and preservation of original materials and features was essential. Indeed, the building retains its original industrial feel--concrete floors, steel frame windows, exposed wood joist ceilings, exposed brick, even black marker scrawled on the walls to identify soft drink syrup mixtures. Viewed in isolation, the writing is not particularly aesthetically pleasing, but in the context of a historic bottling plant, it provides current users a real sense of connection to the building and its past use. In addition to the preservation of historic details, new mechanical, electrical, and sprinkler systems were added in the manner least intrusive to the historic building, reenergizing the structure for use for many years to come.
The current tenant at 321 W Geer Street, the Pit Restaurant, is a perfect fit for the dynamic and constantly evolving Rigsbee Avenue district, which provides spaces and uses enjoyable to Durham residents and visitors alike. Indeed, the project, completed in early 2014, is an excellent example of how to use the past to build an engaging and authentic downtown environment.