DURHAM — Capitol Broadcasting Company, which owns WRAL-TV5, presented its plans Thursday to convert the old American Tobacco warehouse into an office and retail development in downtown Durham.
The development, which would sit next to the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, would be the largest redevelopment initiative in the city's history.
The $200 million plan includes remodeling approximately a whole block in Durham and renaming it the American Tobacco Historic District, after the former plant that employed so many people for so many years.
The proposal includes hundreds of thousands of square feet of space for office, retail and entertainment uses.
CBC told the Durham City Council the plan would create up to 4,500 jobs in one of the city's most depressed areas.
The plan would also require a commitment of almost $40 million of public money.
CBC's attorney says the project is well worth the investment.
"Ultimately, this comes down to 'What does Durham want?'" says CBC attorney Mike Hill. "The city of Durham, the county of Durham and Capitol Broadcasting Company working together can make this project happen."
City Council members appear to agree.
"We are positive because this is an opportunity that cities don't get very often. What we have is an eyesore that can be recreated as the centerpiece of our city," says Durham Mayor Nick Tennyson.
City staffers say it is a wise investment, as long as Capitol has companies lined up to move in.
"We're not going to build a parking deck or write incentives if there are not tenants in mind," says economic development director Ted Abernathy.
Target companies would be ones that would otherwise consider Research Triangle Park.
"We just have to figure out what is the formula we have to present to these companies that now are located four, five, only six miles away from downtown Durham, so that they start coming to downtown Durham," Hill says.
Durham leaders who heard the proposal think it could unlock the city's vast potential.
"We don't have concerns, and we have questions we are going to ask," Tennyson says. "We're going to protect the public interest, but this is just a huge possibility."
One of the challenges the project faces is creating parking in the area -- about 4,200 spaces according to the estimates presented.
The City Council could give this project its initial support Monday. The project would also require county approval.
Construction could begin as soon as September.
Capitol Broadcasting says hotel and residential space are also a possibility.