Jun
02

Site Four Goes Back to Square One

lafayette

The protracted saga for Empire Properties’ current Site Four plan is over as the Raleigh City Council adopted the city manager’s recommendation to terminate the contract regarding the property. The meeting’s agenda, released last week, shows:

On August 5, 2008, the City Council agreed to amend the Development Agreement with Empire Properties regarding the development of a boutique hotel and residential project on
the property known as Site #4 at the corner of Lenoir and Salisbury Streets. The amendment adjusted the allowable uses on the site and re-set the development milestone calendar to allow a four-month extension of the previously agreed-upon development milestones. This amendment also included an agreement to share costs for the widening of Salisbury Street and an agreement not to seek any further extensions to the milestone calendar. The developer has missed milestones in April (Building Permit Approval and Real Estate Closing), and clearly will miss the construction start date in May. No
substantial action has taken place on the preliminary approval of the project since late last
year. The developer indicates his desire to continue to work toward developing the
project, but in the current lending environment cannot commit to a specific time frame.
Recommendation:
a. That the City cancels the Development Agreement with Empire Properties at this time;
b. That the City considers re-issuing an RFP for development of the property in the
future in a better development environment;
c. That Empire Properties be encouraged to resubmit the current plan or a revised plan
upon issuance of the future RFP.

So an RFP ratified by Raleigh on March 7, 2007 goes back to the drawing board. The Stephen B. Jacobs-designed boutique hotel/condo project (that was to feature a rooftop restaurant and pool and an external glass elevator) was an excellent dream. To be fair, Empire Properties may find financing in the future and revive the plan. However it is sad to see the City of Raleigh lose at least 3 years on developing a key piece to the puzzle for reviving the Civic Center area.

When the city gets around to creating a new RFP process, hopefully something viable and charming will be built. We had a good plan in our hands, and unfortunately, the misgivings of some in the USA, that had absolutely nothing to do with the talent and opportunity in Raleigh, doomed a nice opportunity (and stuck us with only the Marriott to look at).

2 Comments

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  • Ernest Said:

    I think you said it well in the last two paragraphs, but I will share my reaction to the latest update, regardless.

    1) The original (22-story) design of Lafayette was, in many ways, an ideal proposition. Tall enough to hide the Marriott Hotel monstrosity, while make good use of the available parcel.

    2) The latest incarnation left many of us – I am sure the developer, too – with a bitter feeling. Scaling down never does good for the psychology of the people involved.

    3) Empire Properties had a great vision, and I am unhappy for them. If they return after the new RFP is released, I hope that they think even bigger and taller than 22 floors. For now, they will do better if they focus on the L Building, which needs to be completed, ASAP.

    4) Having to cancel Lafayette will certainly hurt our efforts to revitalize Fayetteville Street and create a vibrant South End. While this will merely delay us, I think that the city leaders need to take a good look at what they want to accomplish and put things in place before they take the next big step. We needed hotel space before the new convention center was built, not after.

    5) On a positive note, the cancellation of Lafayette may help other projects, like The Edison and Powerhouse Plaza, both of which contain hotel components. Even Winston Tower may benefit, unless this chain decides to participate on the new RFP, this time not as late-comers, like they did with the new convention hotel.

    Let’s see if developers recognize the massive potential of Sites 2, 3 and 4, and bring forth some impressive ideas. We have three great opportunities for some inspiring towers, the way I look at it 😉

  • Thomas Said:

    Good, let’s get a real developer for that site (what a waste of time, do not want to hear about financing)

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