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Building permit approved for Ben Benson's at American Tobacco



The long-rumored arrival of a high-end steakhouse in Durham's American Tobacco Campus appears to be a step closer to materializing. On July 30, the Durham City-County planning office issued a building permit (PDF, 35 KB) to contractor Bovis Lend Lease to commence a $2 million renovation of the campus' three-story "Powerhouse," located at the center of the complex, just north of the water tower.

The job description on the permit is for "Ben Bensons Steakhouse—Upfit at the Powerhouse building." The cost of the job is given at $1,968,507. Construction activity has been under way at the site for months, and currently the building appears to be gutted. There is no visible signage at the site.

Despite the clear language on the building permit, it's not clear that Ben Benson's will open any time soon. Heather Gray, project manager for American Tobacco Power House, the owner of the building, would say only that the building was intended for "office and retail" and that there were no confirmed tenants.

A spokesman for Ben Benson's—which has only one store, located in the heart of New York's midtown theater district—also said that plans to expand to Durham were not finalized. Contrary to recent reports, he said, the opening has been "put off."

Observers of the developing American Tobacco district and the adjacent Durham Performing Arts Center have long known of plans to lure an upscale steakhouse to the district. During a June tour of DPAC given to Indy writers and editors, a spokesman spoke of plans to create a "Broadway experience" for visitors to the facility's touring musicals, which will be booked by Nederlander.

Ben Benson's Steakhouse is located at 123 W. 52nd St. in Manhattan. A longtime favorite of athletes—Yankees pitcher David Wells celebrated there after pitching his perfect game in 1998—the restaurant's menu is heavy on beef and lobster. On the upper end of the dinner prices, the double porterhouse that Wells is said to have consumed costs $97.

Bovis Lend Lease is the huge British construction firm that has previously worked on many Triangle projects, including the North Hills Mall and part of the Diamond View complex adjacent to the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.

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