DURHAM – American Tobacco Campus (ATC) is getting supersized.
Capitol Broadcasting Co. (CBC), which owns the campus and WRAL TV as well as WRAL TechWire, has closed on a joint venture with Hines, an international real estate firm, and USAA Real Estate to develop a 700,000-square-foot mixed-use project on 11 acres in downtown Durham as an extension to the current campus.
Previously occupied by University Ford, the property is adjacent to the American Tobacco Historic District and is set to increase the size of the district by “60 percent.” The current campus along with another offices known as Diamond View covers some 1 million square feet of Class A office space.
“We’re talking about 700,000 square feet in one swoop,” said Michael Goodmon, CBC’s senior vice president of real estate, in an interview. “By the numbers, it’s the biggest single project executed in downtown Durham. It beats the first phase of American Tobacco, which at the time was huge.
“We’ve been working really hard for a very long time to pull us together,” he added, “we kind of have the dream team.”
No price tag was disclosed for the development.
The project is divided into two phases. The first includes developing 313,000 square feet of leasable space in two Hines T3 creative office buildings, and building 350 multifamily units into a 14-story high-rise. The Hines T3 buildings will stand 6 stories and 7 stories with the first floor of each set aside for retail, according to Mark Stanford of CBC.
The new construction will carefully fit with the historic look of the original American Tobacco campus, said Hines Senior Managing Director Kurt Hartman.
In comparion, the nearby Durham Innovation District covers 15 acres with two major buildings providing 350,000 square feet of space.
Rare timber construction
It will also be a work of innovation.
The Hines T3 creative office buildings, which stands for Timber, Transit and Technology, utilize all-timber construction to create a “vintage aesthetic and warehouse environment” with the amenities of new construction.
Capitol said it will be the first of their kind in the market and join only a handful of markets in the country using this innovation.
Construction is expected to begin in late 2021 or early 2022.
Alongside a central plaza and pedestrian alleyways, there’s also 90,000 square feet of retail space reserved for a possible movie theater/draft house, grocery, other amenity shops and restaurants.
A long-time vision
For the Goodmon family, CBC’s long-time owners, it’s been a long-time dream to convert this once-abandoned, century-old factory into a live-work-play complex that it is today.
Back in 1998, CBC bought the initial 14 acres of land for the initial campus, which is credited with helping to kickstart downtown Durham’s renaissance. In recent years, other projects included the Durham Performing Arts Center and neighboring Durham Bulls Athletic Park, which CBC also owns.
Then in 2016, the Goodmon family bought the adjacent 11 acres for the expansion. That was always the long-term vision for the site, Goodmon said.
“We signed on from day one. When we started working in downtown Durham, this was always about developing a community and the revitalization of a downtown,” he said. “This is taking it to another level.”
“It’s at the gateway to downtown Durham,” added Hines director Paul Zarian. “We have the opportunity to create something special and learn from this COVID-19 experience.”
Praise for project
“The folks at ATC are transforming an under-used corner of Durham’s urban core into a vibrant new downtown destination,” said Mayor Steve Schewel.
Geoff Durham, CEO of the Durham Chamber of Commerce, also welcomed the news. “The timing for such an ambitious project comes at an essential time for the Durham market,” he said. “Without adequate space for our businesses to grow, we risk losing these innovations to other markets.”
Hines, a privately owned global real estate investment firm, has a presence in 205 cities in 24 countries with some $133.3 billion of assets under management.
USAA Real Estate acquires, develops, finances and manages real estate investments.
Hines and USAA are partners in the Fenton development in Cary.