Editor’s note: “New Bull City” is the title of a multi-part series beginning today about the remarkable transition of Durham from a town of tobacco, textiles and manufacturing to a “City of Medicine” and now a rapidly growing technology hub. From its historic past to what appears to be a promising future, the remarkable saga of Durham will unfold daily for WRALTechWire Insiders. We begin with an overview from Jason Parker, WRALTechWire’s newest Insider writer.

By JASON PARKER, special to WRALTechWire.

DURHAM, N.C. – “I spend a lot of time thinking about the next thing – the next big thing – the ballparks, the theaters, we’ve done that – but what’s the next big thing that is going to be another game-changer in downtown Durham? I don’t know the answer to that, but that’s the challenge.”

I’m sitting across the table from Michael Goodmon, vice president of real estate for Capitol Broadcasting Company, on one of the Triangle’s characteristically gorgeous Friday afternoons. We’re outside of the Crowe Building at the American Tobacco Campus, which sits adjacent to the Durham Bulls Athletic Park and the Durham Performing Arts Center, the two building projects he’s just referenced.

American Tobacco Campus is a mixed-use complex, merging office space, restaurants, entertainment venues and a gym managed by the Durham YMCA. It is just one of many revitalization projects completed in downtown Durham in the past 15 years.

We could have just of easily been sitting at an outdoor table at Toast, enjoying tapas at Mateo, or drinking a locally-brewed beer at Fullsteam. We could have been in the courtyard of West Village, sitting on the rooftop deck of the building that houses ReverbNation, or on the deck of the new tech co-working space at 106 Parrish Street.

There’s no denying that Durham, a city built around tobacco and textiles, has experienced a radical shift in industry and economy. Find a Durham native, and they’ll tell you that downtown has changed drastically in the last 15 years.

“It is a different world than a decade ago,” says Jeff Clark, managing of Aurora Funds, who has lived in Durham for more than 20 years. “A decade ago, you may venture to Brightleaf Square, but you wouldn’t go any further east.” You’d never have traveled down Main Street, said Clark. “People didn’t feel fully safe,” said Clark, “but now, that’s all changed.”

And global recognition is coming, from a growing amount of press coverage at national outlets to Durham’s “Smoffice” – the idea to turn the front of downtown Beyu Cafe into a mini-office for an entrepreneurial startup – winning an international award for the Most Unconventional Economic Development Project award at the World Chambers Congress just a few weeks ago.

“I feel like we’re at this point in Durham where we’ve moved on from being an unrecognized player in the startup scene,” says Adam Klein, chief strategist for the American Underground, who has joined Goodmon and I at our table to discuss his work in building the entrepreneurial economy of downtown Durham. Klein also was part of the “Smoffice” project along with two of the city’s most dynamic boosters - Casey Steinbacher, head of the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce, and Matthew Coppedge  of Downtown Durham.

According to TriangulateNC, the “Digital Doorway” launched by entrepreneur support organization CED last week, 153 technology startups and 133 life science startups call Durham home.

Goodmon, Klein and I all know these numbers, and we all agree that snapshots of downtown 15, 10, five, and even two years ago depict a radically different urban landscape than the downtown we live and work in now.

This is a central theme in the conversations I’ve had in the last several weeks to write this series. As a Durham native who moved away in 2005 and returned in 2011, I’ve watched from afar as Durham changed. The Durham I remember from my childhood is a distant memory of Durham now. Those that have lived through the changing landscape all agree with Goodmon, Klein and I on this point.

So, what has changed?

How has Durham changed?

And who are the individuals and groups responsible for driving this change?

At WRALTechWire, we’re particularly interested in the changing nature of our urban centers. Over the next several days, we’ll be chronicling the economic shift from tobacco to technology, sharing success stories and lessons learned from failed business ventures, and studying the infrastructure and developments required to fuel this new creative economy.

(Note: Capitol Broadcasting is the parent company of WRALTechWire.)