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Moving day arrives for first tenant at Durham's American Tobacco District

The American Tobacco Historic District in downtown Durham celebrated several firsts Thursday.

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DURHAM, N.C. — The American Tobacco Historic District in downtown Durham celebrated several firsts Thursday.

GlaxoSmithKline became the first tenant to move into its newly renovated office space and American Tobacco hosted its first Alive After Five concert on Thursday.

About 20 Glaxo employees moved into their new office space in the Fowler and Crowe Buildings. With 88,000 square feet, Glaxo is second only to Duke University in the amount of space leased in the American Tobacco Historic District.

"I'm excited to see it all come together and it's more than we could've imagined," Glaxo employee Paula Manning said.

Built in 1954, the Crowe Building housed tobacco, bulks, offices, a stock room and a dust room. The pharmaceutical company will occupy the top three floors. Adjacent to the Crowe Building, the Fowler Building's top two floors will house Glaxo's offices. Built in 1939, the Fowler Building sits on the southern end of the American Tobacco Historic District.

"This is the largest rehabilitation project in the history of the state," said Mike Hill, of Capitol Broadcasting Co.

Once completed, the campus will be filled with offices, shops, and restaurants. A man-made river will flow through the center of it all. In the next 45 days, McKinney & Silver, Duke University, and Compuware employees will arrive -- a move intended to bring Durham's past right into the present.

Officials believe in the near future, some people may not recognize that part of Durham.

"In the next five, six years, we expect to see another $100 million to $150 million of development in this six to eight acres," said Bill Kalkoff, of Downtown Durham Inc.

The Alive After Five event kicks off a series of six bi-weekly outdoor concerts to be held under the Lucky Strike water tower. Sponsored by MIX 101.5/WRAL-FM, Crabtree Valley Mall and the ATHD, Alive After Five will feature several different bands.

The American Tobacco campus is being developed by WRAL's parent company, Capitol Broadcasting.

"I'm really looking forward to this partnership and we what we all believe we can do for downtown Durham," said Jim Goodmon, Capitol Broadcasting president and CEO.

Construction on the first phase of the project should be completed in the next few months. Work on the residential phase could get under way by the end of the year. When complete, the project will include 1 million square feet for restaurants, homes and businesses.

American Tobacco has a long history and a big business in its past.

A small tobacco factory opened in Durham in 1858 that would later grow into the American Tobacco complex. The Lucky Strike smokestack and tower went up in 1874. By 1884, Washington Duke was selling his own brand of tobacco and rolling out 120,000 cigarettes a day in Durham.

The company was named the American Tobacco Company and his son, James, became president in 1890. It was one of the most successful cigarette makers for more than a century until American Tobacco closed in 1987.

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