Capitol Broadcasting, the company that ownsWRAL-TV5, is looking at a huge undertaking next to theDurham Bulls Athletic Park. It has signed an option to purchase the old American Tobacco plant.
Capitol Broadcasting may create office, retail, and residential space there. It would be as much space as the total square footage inside theRaleigh Entertainment and Sports Arena.
Capitol Broadcasting is going for a triple play in downtown Durham. First, it put a team in the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Then, it built the Diamond View Office Park right next door.
Now it is looking across the street, signing an option to buy the massive property that used to house the American Tobacco plant.
"We believe that the ballpark has been successful. Diamond View has been successful, and there's great opportunity around the ballpark and in all downtown Durham," says Mike Hill, an attorney for Capitol Broadcasting.
The former plant takes up a whole city block.
"This project is so large that it offers the opportunity to do a multiple of uses from restaurants to retail and then predominantly an office park. There's also an opportunity to do some residential in there," Hill said.
Back in World War II the plant made the famous Lucky Strike cigarettes for U.S. soldiers, earning it landmark status. The site has been vacant since 1987.
Restoring it will require a tremendous amount of work. But Ted Abernathy, Durham's economic development director, has seen projects of this size before.
"I spent some time in Baltimore, so I've seen a few that size, but it could be one of the biggest in the state of North Carolina," Abernathy said.
Capitol Broadcasting estimates this project could generate as many as 2,000 jobs for downtown Durham. The option on the American Tobacco plant expires next September.