Mixed-Use Redevelopment Project Planned for Durham, N.C.

Pre-leasing of office and retail space in West Village's second phase is moving ahead, with groundbreaking for the mixed-use redevelopment now projected for next spring in the sprawling former Liggett & Myers tobacco factory downtown. A critical element of the project -- the National Park Service's approval of state and federal historic preservation tax credits -- should come through by the end of the year, according to Tom Niemann, managing partner for developer Blue Devil Ventures.

Blue Devil Ventures hopes to close on the tract in the first quarter of 2005, and contractor bidding will take place in January and February, Niemann said.

After the American Tobacco project a short distance away, West Village is the biggest redevelopment project in downtown Durham, transforming Liggett's former factory into apartments, shops and offices.

The seven buildings and parking garage for which Blue Devil Ventures has submitted site plans for West Village II are at the heart of the former L&M operation, totaling more than 800,000 square feet. The plans call for 340 apartments, plus 53,000 square feet designated for retail space and 110,000 square feet for larger offices. In addition, about 52,000 square feet still used by Liggett for research will be leased back to Liggett Group, Niemann said.

The site plans submitted in March and October called for demolishing 117,500 square feet of the existing structures and adding 116,640 square feet in new construction in addition to the parking garage. Niemann said Tuesday that plans for some of the buildings, however, have since been revised.

Besides the large-office space in the six-story New Cigarette Factory building at the southeast corner of Main and Duke streets and the smaller Main Street Office building across the street, the developers are seeking small-business tenants for loft-style spaces in the lower level of the Cobb and O'Brien buildings on the northeast part of the site, Niemann said. In 900- to 2,600-square-foot offices featuring porches and mezzanines, the spaces are ideal for "creative class companies," he said.

The oldest building on the site, the 1899 Old Cigarette Factory, will not have its two top stories put back as originally planned, reducing the planned number of apartments and the size of the project by 60,000 square feet, Niemann said. The building was truncated during its use by L&M in the 20th century.

But the scale of the project still remains massive, connecting the Brightleaf district with American Tobacco and the rest of the central downtown area, said Tom White, president of the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce.

"The potential in redeveloping these buildings is phenomenal," White said.

West Village's first phase, which opened in 2000, consists of five former L&M buildings on the north end of the site. It includes more than 240 apartments and 31,500 square feet of commercial space.

A seven-level, 463-space parking deck off Morgan Street is planned. Unlike American Tobacco, the deck will be built by the developers rather than the city or county, said Alan DeLisle, city director of economic and employment development. The city does expect to receive an incentives request from Blue Devil Ventures, he added, probably tied to investment or job creation benchmarks.