CBC Moves Ahead With American Tobacco Project

CBC Moves Ahead With American Tobacco Project

Capitol Broadcasting plan to preserve much of the history of the American Tobacco Campus.

After three years of research and planning for the American Tobacco Campus in downtown Durham, Capitol Broadcasting has exercised its option to buy the property and begin converting it to a workable space. The more than one-million-square-foot complex will become offices, restaurants, shops, a fitness center and possibly include some residential units.

Environmental cleanup work began on Wednesday, January 23. Permits have been submitted to allow the environmental cleanup of asbestos, lead paint and bird droppings. Contractor LVI Services of North Carolina began erecting scaffolding and will proceed with cleanup when the permits are granted, which should be sometime in early February. After the cleanup is complete, most likely within 4 to 5 months, the first phase of construction will begin.

So far, two major tenants have publicly confirmed their commitment to lease space in the 400,000 square feet of the first phase of construction. Duke University plans to lease at least 100,000 square feet, and possibly 50,000 more. And last week Peter Karmanos, owner of the Carolina Hurricanes, announced his Detroit-based software manufacturing company, Compuware, will lease substantial office space on the campus. Karmanos plans to bring about 350 jobs to Durham, and later could bring that total up to 1,000, making Compuware one of the ten largest employers in Durham County.

The American Tobacco Campus sits adjacent to the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. This rendering shows a possible plan for the renovated area.

Another facet of the American Tobacco project is in the hands of the Durham City Council. Last year the Council voted to support building parking decks and a transit station near the property, pledging over $20 million to this project. Now the Council has another request to spend taxpayer dollars on parking. Liggett & Myers is moving ahead on a plan to renovate their property in the Bull City, between Brightleaf Square and downtown. The Council is now debating whether they have the funds to do both.

Durham Mayor Bill Bell called CBC’s purchase of the American Tobacco Campus a “significant step forward.” Many have said the project will change the landscape of downtown Durham and continue to revitalize the area already positively impacted by the Durham Bulls Athletic Park and the Diamond View office complex.

Once renovated, the American Tobacco Campus will contain offices, restaurants, retail, a fitness center, and possibly residential units.

“It’s certainly a huge step forward,” said CBC Vice President & General Counsel Mike Hill, who is serving as developer of the project. “We already had a very large investment in the pre-construction and feasibility work, but this is obviously an investment at another level. This is an indication of how serious and how confident we are in the project.”

Last week CCS, a Durham company hired by CBC, cleared historical items from the property to preserve them for use in artwork or history displays on the completed complex. The Lucky Strike smokestack is another piece of history CBC hopes to refurbish, pending permission from the city.

“I think it’s more valuable because it’s a piece of history that used to be here,” said Keith Corporation project manager and development consultant for CBC Tom Tingle. “We want to preserve as much as we can.”

The American Tobacco Co. made cigarettes in the factory, located across Blackwell Street from the current Durham Bulls Athletic Park, for 100 years before relocating in 1987. The 16-acre property includes nine buildings. The $200 million project has become CBC’s mission to help revive the Bull City.

CBC President & CEO Jim Goodmon said, “I think downtown Durham will be the No. 1 office park in the Triangle.”

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