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Durham Revitalization Project Comes Alive

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Durham Project
DURHAM, N.C. — Tobacco built downtown Durham, then left major parts of the skyline empty when cigarette makers pulled out of the city.

Now, the American Tobacco project is renovating many of the warehouses, rebuilding Durham's reputation along the way.

Saturday night, the city celebrated the new attraction with a jazz concert -- the first big event at the newly renovated American Tobacco complex.

The Durham Bulls Athletic Park was the starting point of the area's revitalization. The beautiful facility is a big attraction for Durham. But there will be a lot more coming just across the street from the stadium.

Underneath the Lucky Strike tower is the center court of the largest historic preservation project in the state's history.

The water was flowing in the new riverwalk Saturday as people flooded the American Tobacco historic district to listen to jazz and get a look at one million square feet of residential and commercial space that will house condos, offices, restaurants, bars, and even a YMCA.

According to city planners, the public-private development is a key to Durham's success.

"It's very critical," said Ted Conner, of the Durham Chamber of Commerce. "Just think; for two decades, this whole complex sat vacant. Re-energizing it . . . adds so much excitement to Durham, and it attracts people."

Conner said the city and the county invested $44 million to build three parking decks for the project. The rest of the $200 million project was paid for by Capitol Broadcasting, the parent company of WRAL-TV.

Conner said Durham will see the dividends of its investment in the long term with more development.

Durham Mayor Bill Bell called the project a "catalyst" that can help boost Durham's image.

Saturday's "Jazz Under the Stars" concert started after the Durham Bulls game on a stage set up under the Lucky Strike tower. The highlight was the Ellis Marsalis Quartet, including Branford Marsalis.

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