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Downtown Durham Ready to Hit a Home Run

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DURHAM — Durhamis home to great baseball, dance festivals, and documentary premieres. But when the events end, everyone leaves. Developers believe that is about to change.

TheDurham BullsAthletic Park draws in a lot of fans, with theACC baseball tournamentand Bulls games. After the games, the fans complain, there is nothing to do.

"Usually you have to go 10 or 15 minutes outside of Durham, basically towards Chapel Hill and that area," says baseball fan Jason Partin. "There's not really a lot to do around here."

But Durham leaders say developers are getting ready to pump new life into the heart of downtown.

With a beautiful ballpark sitting right next to the Durham Freeway, the city's director of economic development says this part of downtown is ready to hit a home run.

"I think this area has as high potential as anywhere in the city because of its visibility, because of the success of the ballpark, and because you have a lot of vacant buildings and some vacant land out here," Ted Abernathy says. "You've got potential."

Developers are already transforming into places to live and work onthe west side of downtown.

"What that is doing is filling up all of the buildings that were formerly vacant so now the interests of the private investment community is shifting down towards our new ball park," says Bill Kalkhof.

Kalkhof says developers have been calling Downtown Durham Inc. with an interest in building more residential and commercial developments on the Durham Transit Authority site to the north of the stadium.

They are also expressing interest in the one-million square foot American Tobacco warehouse to the west of the stadium.

"We have frankly had more interest in the last four months than we've had in the last four years," Kalkhof says.

Kalkhof says the soonest visitors will start seeing the changes is within a year. In fact, consultants came to town Thursday to begin work ona planto revitalize the entire downtown area.