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Durham Council Hears Liggett Development Plans

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DURHAM, N.C. — The order of business for the Durham City Council Thursday was the Bull City's future.

Plans to convert Liggett's tobacco buildings into a multi-use complex were on the agenda Thursday. The project would bring 1,200 jobs to the community and recreate an entire city block on Main Street.

The city sees the project as a way to link the Brightleaf Square area and downtown inside the loop.

The complex includes more than 800,000 square feet of potential. Right now, plans call for as many as 150 condos, 100,000 square feet of retail and 200,000 square feet of office space.

In November, Liggett pulled its rezoning application because of disagreements with the city concerning the proposed parking deck that would go along with the project. The disagreement with the city is over how the $12 million cost will be covered.

The current plans call for the city to pay for the costs, but once the garage is built and the first building is renovated, if Liggett feels as if there is no longer a market for the residential units, they will not develop the other buildings. However, they will still have to reimburse the city for any lost revenue in garage parking.

The city council vote on the plan Jan. 22. If the city decides to enter an agreement with Liggett, the construction of the project will start September 2003.

WRAL's parent company, Capitol Broadcasting, also has plans to turn the old American Tobacco building into a corporate office park. The historic campus would include condos, restaurants and retail shops.

Compuware, a computer software company, has signed a letter of intent to lease space in the American Tobacco complex. Compuware is run by chief executive officer Peter Karmanos, who is also co-owner of the Carolina Hurricanes.

There is also word that the 14-story Durham Centre may get a new sister tower.

"It is very exciting for us. It doesn't surprise us because these are all projects we've been working on for some time," said Bill Kalkhof of Downtown Durham Inc.

A major focus of the tower would be at least 180 luxury condos. Four-hundred other units are also on the drawing board for downtown, but that could lead to a housing glut.

"We just need to be careful, and hopefully, the developers will work and spread the construction development out over several years," Kalkhof said.

Mary Ellen Woods, who lives in the 243-unit West Village, said she would love to see more demand for downtown Durham dwellings.

"The apartments are great. It's warm, it's friendly and I feel right at home," she said.

Woods does not go far to get almost everything she needs, barring an occasional drive.

"I can't do everything right within walking distance, so I get in my car when I have to. It's no big deal," she said.

Woods believes the sky is the limit for downtown Durham's residential development.

"The more people that move into the downtown area, the more it's going to expand the whole business opportunities and everything else," she said.

Downtown Durham Incorporated said the new tower would have quite an economic impact, more than a half-million dollars in annual tax revenues alone.


Edward Wilson, Photographer
Kamal Wallace, Web Editor

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