SmART Initiative: American Tobacco Campus
American Tobacco Historic District. Photo courtesy of American Tobacco, Durham.
A pioneering reimagining of the cultural potential of North Carolina’s many defunct tobacco facilities, the American Tobacco Campus has helped to revitalize downtown Durham. Once the biggest tobacco company in the world, helmed by the Duke family, American has been rehabilitated into a cultural and business complex that has transformed the city. Capitol Broadcasting’s Real Estate division, led by Jim and Michael Goodmon, were prescient in envisioning the possibilities of this vast space to attract business investment, catalyze local economic growth, and brand the industrial history of their city.
Taking full advantage of the N.C. State Historic Preservation Office’s Mill Rehabilitation and Historic Preservation Tax credits, as well as applicable federal preservation tax incentives, this award-winning redevelopment retains many of the design elements and details that tell the story of the buildings’ history, most notably the Lucky Strike smokestack and water tower, which have been restored to become downtown landmarks.
The American Tobacco Campus houses National Public Radio affiliate WUNC, the offices of Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, five restaurants, a YMCA, public green spaces and an innovative water feature. Included within the broader American Tobacco Historic District are the Durham Bulls baseball park and the Durham Performing Arts Center, which has quickly developed into a regionally significant arts venue presenting both national touring acts and locally based cultural organizations with the American Dance Festival as one notable example.
Outdoor concerts and art exhibitions, as well as plans for more public art on the campus, further distinguish the anchor attraction nature of this business and entertainment district. As the American Tobacco Historic District further develops, its position as one of Durham’s premiere spaces for commercial, community and creative activity seems poised to grow in strength and cultural significance.