In the 1800s, tobacco was king in many southern cities, including Durham, N.C., where 1 million square feet of warehouse space housed some of the leading tobacco brands, including Pall Mall and Lucky Strike. But in the 1980s, as the U.S. Surgeon General underscored the negative effects of tobacco use, king tobacco lost some of its luster and moved out of Durham, leaving the warehouses behind. For years the space was used only as a training site for the police department’s SWAT team.
After the city built a new ballpark for the Durham Bulls next to the American Tobacco warehouses in the early 2000s, the new team owner Jim Goodmon, president and chief executive officer of Raleigh, N.C.-based Capitol Broadcasting Co., realized his baseball team needed a better neighbor. Goodmon has transformed American Tobacco into Class A office, event and restaurant space. Its urban chic vibe has lured not only tenants to the space, but also has helped revitalize downtown Durham as a whole. Today, American Tobacco hosts about 1.3 million visitors per year, proving tobacco can still be king but in a 21st century manner that everyone can appreciate.
Photos: BARRETT HAHN