Successful Downtown Revitalization: Durham, NC

December 13, 2013 8 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Much of Downtown Jacksonville's historic buildings have been demolished in previous decades. Preserving what's left may be vital to downtown's rebirth. To see the importance of historic preservation and adaptive reuse in a downtown setting, Metro Jacksonville takes a trip to Durham, North Carolina.

Brightleaf District

The Brightleaf District is anchored by Brightleaf Square. Dating back to the 1870s, Brightleaf Square occupies the former Watts and Yuille tobacco warehouses, named for George W. Watts and Thomas B. Yuille, members of the Duke family. Built by the American Tobacco Company (ATC), their original use was the storing, aging, and fermenting of tobacco for cigarett manufacturing.

After ATC was divided into three smaller companies because of its violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act in 1911, the warehouses were bought by Liggett & Myers Tobacco Company and used which used until 1970.

In 1980, the SEHED Development Corporation acquired the buildings and reopened them as an office, dining and retail complex called Brightleaf Square. In addition, Brightleaf Square's manages many restaurants along nearby Main Street, forming a distinct vibrant urban setting on the west edge of downtown Durham.

Warehouse District

The Warehouse District is what remains of 835,000 square foot Liggett & Myers tobacco complex. In 1872, the Washington Duke Sons & Company opened a factory here, accelerating Durham's rise as a tobacco manufacturing center.

Duke become the American Tobacco Company in 1890 but was forced to split into smaller companies in 1911. These companies were the new American Tobacco Company, Liggett & Myers Tobacco Company, P. Lorillard Company, and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. The factory originally established in the warehouse district became the operations of the Liggett & Myers Tobacco Company.

Liggett & Myers would prosper, becoming one of the nation's "Big Three" tobacco manufacturers for several decades. When their six-story Chesterfield plant opened in 1948, it was the world's most modern cigarette factory.

In 1976, Liggett & Myers changed its name to the Liggett Group, Inc. After cigarette sales declined in the 1990s, Liggett cut production back, ceasing their Durham operation in 1999.

In 2001, the Liggett Group (formerly known as Liggett & Myers Tobacco Company) announced plans to retrofit the vacant complex into a mixed use neighborhood. A few years later, the development was acquired by Blue Devil Ventures and conversion of the industrial site into a mixed use neighborhood gets underway in 2006.

Since 2006, the majority of the old Liggett & Myers complex has been repurposed as West Village. West Village features hundreds of apartments, offices, shops, and restuarants.

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