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Construction to being later this year on Aloft Hotel in Durham's American Tobacco

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide and Raleigh developer Davidson & Jones announced Monday that they will break ground later this year on a new boutique hotel in downtown Durham’s American Tobacco Historic District.

The 134-room hotel is to be built between the Durham Performing Arts Center and the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. The hotel, which is scheduled to open in May 2015, will be part of Starwood’s Aloft brand of hotels, known for their modern look.

The Triangle’s first Aloft Hotel opened in Chapel Hill in 2010. Davidson & Jones will own the Durham hotel, which will include a 24-hour gym and more than 2,000 square feet of meeting space.

The Aloft project will provide downtown Durham with much-needed hotel rooms. It is one of several hotel projects in various stages of development in the downtown area.

Durham's American Tobacco getting another tech incubator

Durham's American Tobacco campus is getting another laboratory for incubating startups.

N.C. Idea, a nonprofit that supports entrepreneurs, and Capitol Broadcasting, the owner of American Tobacco, announced today that they are forming Groundwork Labs.

The incubator will select technology startups for a three-month program, providing up to $20,000 in funding, mentoring, office space, legal expertise and other support. 

The first group of startups is set to start in the spring of 2012.

Software company will bring 60 jobs to Durham

Durham's American Tobacco campus — and the state's literacy efforts — has attracted an educational software company.

Wireless Generation, a Brooklyn, N.Y., company that provides software and digital tools for teachers, plans to hire 60 employees locally and take over a 12,600 square foot space on the campus.

Today in the The Durham News

Here's a look at our top headlines:

CROWDED FIELDS: There is more than Becky Heron's county board seat up for grabs. Jim Wise reports 12 candidates are vying for mayor and three at-large City Council seats.

BETTER TESTS THROUGH TEXTS: Remember that story we did on the pilot program that was going to send DPS junior vocabulary words on their phones. The pilot is over and the results are in. Virginia Bridges has the story.

THE PIANO MAN: (Which Billy Joel album was better, by the way, Piano Man or Turnstiles? And no, it wasn't The Stranger.) Durham musucian Tom Merrigan is taking it to the streets (to mix a musical metaphor). Katelyn Ferral has the coolest story in the paper today.

Carl Kenney says Durham's festivals are in trouble, crime rates are up (violent) and down (overall), and Joseph Jackson says American Tobacco is a public space that really works.

Lots of letters today. Please send more to, and thanks for reading,


Cell phone maker HTC taking more space at American Tobacco

Taiwanese cell phone maker HTC, which has been adding employees at a brisk pace since opening an office in Durham earlier this year, will soon be taking more office space in American Tobacco Campus.

The company is expanding by 31,266 square feet in ATC's Crowe and Foweler buildings.

With the expansion, HTC's total square footage will reach 47,000.

Heath Chapman and Don Shupe of CB Richard Ellis' Raleigh office represented HTC in the deal. The two also represented Health IT Services Group, which recently signed a lease for 43,500 square feet of space in ATC.

HTC now employes about 60 people in Durham and has job openings for a dozen more on its website.

The office focuses on long-term research projects.

HTC initially took 15,000 square feet of space in ATC with an option to occupy more as it grew.

Greenfire Part 2: When it rained, it poured

The first time I read correspondent Virginia’s Bridges’ sentence about Liberty Warehouse’s 2.4 acre roof, I thought it might be a mistake.

It wasn’t. Greenfire Development partner Michael Lemanski drives the point home as he leans over a cardboard model of downtown Durham and puts his right index finger on top of the warehouse building.

“Ten thousand roof penetrations,” he says.

What he means is nails, or technically maybe screws. The historic building between Rigsbee Avenue and Foster Street is dotted with skylights from the days the sun illuminated the tobacco warehouse floor. In just the space represented by his finger, there are probably 10,000 holes.

And over time, they leaked. Until May 14 when Greenfire says a poor drainage system led to the collapse of part of that 2.4 acre roof and a flood of bad PR the company is still trying to mop up.

Digitalsmiths acquires Boston start-up for undisclosed amount

Digitalsmiths announced today that it has acquired Gotuit Media Corp., a Massachusetts start-up that provides metadata tagging services for the makers of news and sports content.

Digitalsmiths plans to keep open Gotuit's office in Woburn, just outside Boston.

The merged company will have about 60 employees, with 35 based in the Triangle. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

Digitalsmiths video search system is primarily used by film studios and websites.

Gotuit offers Digitalsmiths an entrance into a new market and valuable intellectual property, said Matthew Berry, one of Digitalsmiths co-founders and its chief technology officer.

Gotuit's customers include ESPN, Fox, Sports Illustrated, Turner and Sprint. Those companies use the company's products to insert metatags into video scenes for use by consumers or advertisers.

The company owns 21 patents, and will bring the total number of patents owned by Digitalsmiths to 35.

Ben Weinberger, Digitalsmiths CEO, will be CEO of the two companies, which will operate under the Digitalsmiths name.

Gotuit CEO Mark Pascarella will sit on Digitalsmiths' advisory board.


American Tobacco to make "big announcement" next week

The owner of the American Tobacco Campus in downtown Durham has scheduled a "big announcement" for Tuesday morning.

A representative of ATC declined to disclose what the announcement is about, but it's likely to be real estate related.

ATC has titled the announcement "The Big Bang for Small Business" and says it involves the future of entrepreneurship in the Triangle and North Carolina.

ATC recently lost tenant GlaxoSmithKline, which has decided to depart from its 88,000 square feet of space in May.

Despite that news, the project remains a phenomenal success and one of the catalysts for downtown Durham's ongoing revitalization.

Read more for a run down of a few other companies that are reportedly looking in downtown Durham.

Beauty Has a Name -- and two versions

The last time I saw sometime Triangle resident Thad Cockrell play in Raleigh, he prefaced one song by saying it had been written as "a song every girl wishes someone would write about her." That was "Beauty Has a Name," which I still think could be a gigantic hit if it wound up playing over the end credits of the right movie. If you've never heard it, take a listen at Cockrell's Myspace.

Cockrell co-write "Beauty Has a Name" with singer/songwriter Matthew Ryan, who has recorded a markedly different version of the song. Where Cockrell's full-band take is lush pop that soars on waves of exuberance, Ryan's version is quiet and subdued. Guess you could say that Cockrell's "Beauty Has a Name"  evokes sunny mornings full of promise, while Ryan's version is steeped in late-night pensiveness. Check it out.

Ryan will be at Raleigh's Pour House on June 27. Cockrell's next show around these parts is Aug. 20 at American Tobacco in Durham.

Durham law firm to move downtown

DURHAM — The Law Offices of James Scott Farrin are filling a high-profile office in downtown Durham.

The personal injury firm announced today that it has agreed to lease about 50,000 square feet at Diamond View II, beyond the outfield of the Durham Bulls Athletic Park in the city's American Tobacco district.

The space is at least 25 percent more than what it leases at Imperial Center, off Interstate 40. The firm is expected to move out of most of its Imperial offices by the end of the year.

It's the latest in a string of companies moving from the outskirts of Durham to the city center. Last month, Burt's Bees, a maker of natural beauty products, moved from Keystone Park in Durham County to another American Tobacco building.

As part of the Farrin deal, the firm gets its name on Diamond View II, facing the hundreds of thousands of fans who visit the ballpark each year.

The 14-year lease fills the last big office vacancy at American Tobacco.

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