In celebration of Unscripted 2 month anniversary, we sat down with Jane & Greg Hills of Austin Lawrence Partners & the developers behind the hotel to chat all things Durham & Unscripted.
Describe Durham in 3 words? Friendly, Creative, and Eclectic.
How was Austin Lawrence Partners created? We had been managing and developing real estate properties for almost 34 years. We loved the creativity of the business so much that we spun off to form our own firm; Austin Lawrence Partners, named after our son, Austin.
What prompted you to open Unscripted Durham? We acquired the Jack Tar Motel/Hotel property in 2014 to add to the parking needs for the One City Center tower development we are building directly across the street from Unscripted Durham. Initially our objective for the building was more focused on parking and not hotel centric. But after much research, and visiting with the City and County of Durham, and the neighbors within the downtown community, we started to think about the hotel. We also love the rich history of downtown Durham and the mid-century modern architecture of the Jack Tar Motel/Hotel, that we really felt the building’s potential. When it came down to it, the property’s historic mid-century modern structure, abundance of parking, and street level retail in the downtown core of Durham, NC…we really thought- what’s not to love about that!
What was your favorite part about working on Unscripted? There were so many favorite parts but because we specialize in historic restoration and preservation paying respect to the past while bringing the building into the future was a great opportunity for the community and really an exciting part about this project.
This was your first hotel project. How was that experience different from the past projects? Even though this was our first hotel project, most of our projects are firsts. Each one is very different from the other because we look for unique opportunities and challenges. We are always looking to adapt each project to the city they are in. We are always looking at the community and neighborhoods that will be developed or redeveloped in and the planning and rules in which you have to follow. We spend a lot of time working with the local planning commissions and finding out what is important to them. It makes for a great and different experience all the way around.
What are your favorite things to do in Durham? We love to meet new people, eat at the restaurants, sit at the local bars/pubs, attend sporting events at our amazing colleges along with Bull Durham baseball games and fireworks on Friday night. We also can’t wait to attend a Hurricanes game this season! We love wandering the streets while looking through the galleries and shops, walking and running on Al Bueler Trail near the Washington Duke Inn and Golf Club, attending the various festivals and art fairs, and eating our way through the food trucks at the Saturday Farmers Market. The list goes on and on. Oh, and hanging out on the pool deck at Unscripted Durham while enjoying friends and family!
How is it to be able to work together not just as colleagues but husband and wife? It is a great pleasure and joy to work together. We have a huge amount of respect and trust for one another and the confidence that we can do anything-together. I would say the challenge is that our hours tend to be long because our skillsets crossover and we tend to use our “after hours” time to brainstorm and prepare for the next day. Not so bad though when we can kick up our heels with a glass of wine in our sweats!
Where do you both get your inspiration from? People, places and things. We study people, we study places and we love to look at new and exciting things and places that people are creating. We are constantly curious and feel safe in not knowing everything.
Best piece of advice on the key to being successful? Persistence, never giving up and most importantly never forgetting where we came from.