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A fond farewell to 105 Brooks Avenue

The light-filled “treehouse” at 105 Brooks Avenue

It’s been said music is a time machine. You hear a certain song and immediately you’re transported back to a specific place and moment in time. Place and space hold the same power for me. The dirt road leading to my grandparents home. A certain Central Park bench. Crossing the bridge to Wrightsville Beach. Those little league baseball fields I played on many decades ago.

Any time I would walk into the collaborative space at our New Kind offices I was immediately transported back to a bright fall afternoon some 17 years ago. My design firm, Burney Design, was moving into our new office at 105 Brooks Avenue in Raleigh.

In the midst of all the moving day madness—furniture and boxes arriving, scattered about here and there in the hope they’d eventually find their place—we were paid a friendly visit by our new neighbor: design legend and personal hero, Frank Harmon.

As Frank and I stood in the generous and glorious window-lined main office, originally the office of G. Milton Small, and at the time my office, Frank remarked in his unmistakeable, cultured southern drawl, “David, this is the finest office building in all of North Carolina.”

The author, center, flanked by New Kind co-founders Jonathan Opp (left) and Tom Rabon (right)

We’re leaving the building this week. Moving to HQ Capital Club in downtown Raleigh. But today I’m feeling nostalgic. And a bit wistful. It’s the right move for the New Kind—to prepare us for expansion, to better connect with our city’s design and tech communities, to feed off the energy downtown. But, personally, it’s bittersweet. I love this building.

“‘David,’ he told me, ‘this is the finest office building in all of North Carolina.'”

Burney Design occupied the building for two years. We moved out when I sold the firm to Capstrat. I later joined Red Hat for what turned into a six-year hiatus from the building when I decided to co-found New Kind. In 2008 I called Milton with the news that I was starting over and one of my goals was to get back into his building. A little over a year later, January 2010, we moved in.

All told, throughout both the earlier Burney Design era and more recently along the journey with New Kind, I’ve spent nine years of my working life in this office space. I’ve enjoyed every day. For my money Frank was absolutely correct.

Our largest collaborative space, which New Kind calls Everest, home to countless pow-wows, workshops, crank sessions and company gatherings

Indeed. Every architect I’ve ever known who’s visited me at the office has shown similar respect. Kenneth Hobgood, Jeffrey Lee, Dennis Stallings, Tony Lineberry – and more to be sure – have all been unabashed in their praise for Mr. Small’s use of materials and attention to scale and detail. And the light! Oh, the light! Even parking under the building is a beautiful event.

So, let me sing the praises to Mr. G. Milton Small who designed and built this building more than 50 years ago. To his son, Milton Small, our wonderful landlord. And to the building itself for proving the timeless value of great design.

I’ll miss 105 Brooks Avenue. I’m so grateful for the time spent here.

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