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Durham Leaders Debate American Tobacco Parking Arrangement

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DURHAM, NC — Durham leaders are meeting at City Hall Tuesday to remove a stumbling block that is getting in the way of the Bull City's largest redevelopment project.

The American Tobacco project has been three years in the making. The issue now is who pays what for parking.

The campus contains 1 million square feet of space. Capitol Broadcasting (WRAL's parent company) plans to turn the 14-acre site into offices, shops and restaurants. The project has plans for a 3,000-space parking deck, as well.

The original deal -- brokered in 2000 -- called for Durham city and county to build the garage with public money, while Capitol would receive nearly $19 million over 15 years to manage it.

Now, the city wants to reduce the management fees and give the developers cash incentives to make up the difference.

County commissioners do not like that idea at all.

"When we adopted our resolution of support in 2000, we specifically said that the county would not consider cash incentives," said Ellen Reckhow, a Durham County commissioner. "We're probably going to hold to our 2000 position on that and avoid cash incentives."

Since the county does not deal with incentives, they want to look at the possiblity of historic tax credits, an option city leaders do not seem to buy.

"It limits the potential revenue the city and the county can get from the value of the property because it keeps it flat," Durham Mayor Bill Bell said.

The developers and city and county have invested a lot of money in the project. Two years ago, they enacted a 1-cent property tax increase to help pay for the parking decks.

The complex is expected to bring more than 3,000 jobs to Durham.

The developers are working on a very tight schedule and if an agreement cannot be made by mid-August, a spokesperson for Capitol Broadcasting says the whole deal could be off.

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