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American Tobacco Historic District


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If you haven't seen this site yet, it's worth a look at one of the state's greatest achievements in urban preservation. The more recent pictures show the transformation of an old tobacco complex into loft-style spaces for office, retail, living space, etc. I have followed this over time, and it really is quite impressive.

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  • 2 months later...

As promised in this thread, I bring more information from the seldom discussed other half of The Triangle. Like Winston-Salem, Durham was very much into the tobacco industry. The city is home to a couple very large but abandoned factories and warehouses situated within its tightly packed downtown core. A while back some very smart person decided to redevelop one of these facilities into a novel but functional urban retail and office campus.

There is a wealth of data available on the ATHD website, and more pictures than you can view in one sitting. I emailed the photographer, Ben Casey, and asked if I could post a sample. So here are some of the photos that stood out to me. Of course I recommend you browse through the gallery if you wish--the pictures and captions tell an interesting story.

Construction process






Check out this viaduct underground around the perimeter, designed to catch water from around the grounds and from the gutter system:


Very sturdy factory flooring, look at the layers of diagonal subflooring!


I found this sequence very interesting... removing one of the old boilers. Look at the network of pipes!




And finally this boiler is gone... Now the space can be prepared for use by a business.


Finished Exterior


Part of the skyline can be seen in the background


Business already moving in!


Random dude chilling in the central area, overlooking the greenspace and "water feature"


Elevated view of central area


Waterfalls and river


Creative use of concrete slabs removed during the redevelopment project!


Finished Interior

These are some photos showing a sample of the different interior configurations available. I am really quite impressed with all of it.








I wouldn't mind working in a cubicle if I could work in that space :)


Old industrial elevator shaft gutted with glass installed. Now it acts as a light tunnel--what a nifty idea!


And for comic relief...

This is a relic from years and years ago, picture was snapped during the construction process. Too bad, I am close personal friends with someone (ahem, wink, wink) who works for IBM and I know he would love to work in one of the spaces offered here :D


SUPERHOMO... It's Stellar!!!!111!!11 :lol:


I hope you all enjoyed!

Edited by NorffCarolina
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A few more items...

Here is an artist's rendering of the site at night. I forgot to add that this campus sits right next to the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.


And due to the concentration of workers at the new campus, there is a need for some kind of transit. This is a free rubber-tire trolley (a bus that looks like a trolley) that circulates during lunch hours. It connects with parts of downtown Durham that have already been redeveloped into popular and thriving areas.


One of the trolley's destinations is Brightleaf square



The tall building in the background is part of the large Liggett & Myers tobacco company campus, and it is presently being redeveloped much like ATHD. More on that at another time... Durham has a lot of good urban stuff going on, and it's all packed into this tight downtown core that I'm sure Raleigh wishes it had :) Everytime I look up information I am amazed!


Edited by NorffCarolina
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If something were to be done like this with the Dorothea Dix campus, look out!


Unfortunately the existing Dix buildings are neither so dense nor so distinct. I'm sure something could be done with a creative combination of old buildings and new construction, but it would end up being a very large-scale project.
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This redevelopment is something else! I can't wait to hit some Bulls games after work this summer, and check this area out. Any word yet on the Liggett & Myers redevelopment? I understand that when this is coupled w/ West Village, it will be a larger redevelopment than even ATHD. Very exciting to see this, and Durham just has more of these cool buildings available for this kind of thing than Raleigh.

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  • 2 months later...

Recently worked on a study for some folks who are looking at the Luck Strike plant. This is a very cool development. The river running through the American Tobacco site is one of the coolest land planning ideas I've seen in a LONG time. Very sharp. The only trouble I see with the project is how disconnected parking is from actual offices, restaurants and proposed apartments/condos. Somewhat of a long way to walk with groceries in the rain as a condo owner or apartment tenant. I think they should have integrated the garages into the project better. Sitting out by themselves, they detract from the architecture of the plants.


Overall, though, I think downtown Durham has a bright future. They're actually making things happen there, not just talking about it.

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  • 2 months later...

Durham is definitely poised for big things to come. I think the American Tobacco project is one of the coolest developments in the area. The Independent Weekly had an article about loft living in an issue 2 weeks ago. Downtown Durham should definitely capitalize on this market. Durham has no place to go but up.

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Durham is definitely poised for big things to come. I think the American Tobacco project is one of the coolest developments in the area.


I don't know a whole lot about Durham, because I've never lived there and I've not spent much time exploring the city. So, with the idea of going to a Bulls game and exploring the American Tobacco historic district, I biked up the Tobacco Trail with a friend from the trailhead just north of NC54. We got there perhaps three or four hours early. First thing: no good place to lock up a bicycle. Major oversight, folks. We chained our bikes to a fence near the water tower, and tired from the bike ride, we quickly found Tyler's - excellent food and good beer. Try their fish tacos. Unbelievable.

After we got out of Tyler's, we had a bit more than an hour to kill, so we spent some time walking around. To tell the truth, there really wasn't anything else to do. Sure, there's several great restaurants (not that many, mind you) but once you've gone into one restaurant, there's no need to go into another one - and, boom. You're out of things to do. No stores, no other entertainment venues - just a few stores and a lot of offices. Sure, Tyler's and Mellow Mushroom were bustling by an hour before the first pitch, but that was it - no depth.

We wandered around for a while, and while it looked neat, the whole area didn't feel nearly as alive as it should have - particularly on a sell-out night at the stadium with such beautiful weather. Hopefully, as other phases of the American Tobacco complex come online, and more people and more stores move in, it'll become a 7-day a week destination that really takes off.

The complex also feels cut off from the rest of downtown. Hopefully that will change once the northern half is done and the fences are removed. The tobacco complex doesn't put a very inviting face towards the stadium, either. It's basically an unadorned brick wall broken by the occasional window and an entrance that looks more like an emergency exit than anything. That could be fixed easily enough, though, and I hope they do.

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You have to realize that this is the first phase-primarily developing strong businesses in this area which has pretty much been abandoned. The second phase will consist of housing as well as Motricity building their new headquarters. More restaurants are to follow as well. There will also be a performing arts center seating more than 2000 people. I believe another company will announce their move to this facility in the next month or so.


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It's true that Am. Tob'o is young yet. Last time we were there it was mobbed with people on the lawn listening to music. I agree that when the other phases are developed it should be more linked to downtown, and hopefully the redevelopment of the car lot with brownstones and shops will speed this along. It ain't perfect, but it's a damn site better than it used to be, when barbed wire rung empty warehouses.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Square 1 Bank, a venture capital firm, has moved its headquarters from California to the American Tobacco Complex in Durham. Durham is becoming a major player in VC with this addition as well as Intersouth Partners. I think Durham is on a good path with these additions.


Edited by DanRNC
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  • 1 month later...

Construction on the new performing arts center (2800 seats) to be located north of the DBAP should start next summer. The council just approved the $31 million. Construction on Diamond View II (behind the left field wall) should start pretty soon as well. Phase II of the project consisting of residential and restaurants/shops has already begun.

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