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The RBC Plaza parking deck that runs down the middle of the future Edison site is nearly complete. The two facades are similar, but are dressed differently. The Wilmington Street side has many gray tones, enabling it to blend with the tones in The Hudson and the RBC Plaza. The center of this facade has retail space which roughly appears to be 5,000 square feet. The colorful Blount street facade fits with the materials found in City Market. It also contains some retail space.

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RBCDeck_West RBCDeck_East


City Amends Empire Agreement

Today the Raleigh City Council decided to amend an agreement with Empire properties concerning the development of Site 4. In a detailed presentation, Empire’s Greg Hatem gave a progress report on the site’s planning stages, and proposed a slightly different agreement, which was accepted by the city council. Empire’s problems with the previous agreement were not over the amount of subsidy for the street improvement project near Site 4, but rather, the timing of the payment. Empire prefers to pay it’s promised $50,000 goodwill gesture to improve Site 3’s curbline at the time of purchase for Site 4. The previous agreement demanded payment when work is begum. Empire also proposed to uphold the November deadline for site plan submission, apply for no future extension requests, and to remove the minimum requirement of 20 condominiums for the project.

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Fountain Shows Artistic Potential

John C. Dvorak has posted a clip of a fantastic water feature in a Japanese mall. Water falling from the framework spells messages and spits out graphics. I immediately thought of the much wrangled City Plaza yet to be installed on Fayetteville Street, and how easy it is to find ourselves low-balling its design.

After removing two thirds of the water features through value engineering, the plaza is slated for one water feature, currently envisioned as a “miniature Bellagio”. Is the Mini-B what would really draw people from across the country? Probably not. A fountain much like the one shown, however, would. Let’s be imaginative and spend all of that money on a place that really makes an impact.


City Manager Recommends Immediately Terminating Lafayette

The chess match continues as City Manager Russell Allen has asked the city council to immediately terminate the city’s agreement with Empire Properties regarding “Site Four”. As reported earlier , the council denied Allen’s previous request to terminate the agreement, offering Empire an extension until November 1 to show earnest progress and to provide partial funding for street improvements. According to the agenda for tomorrow’s 1:00pm meeting:

On June 17, 2008, Council approved to an extension of the Development Agreement with Empire Properties for the development of the Lafayette (a mixed use facility) on the City-owned Site 4 at the intersection of Salisbury and Lenoir Streets. The Council granted an extension to November 1, 2008, with the requirement that Empire Properties share the cost of widening a portion of Salisbury Street between Lenior and South (approximately $50,000) at the completion of construction and further agree this would be the last request for extension. Empire Properties is unwilling to sign the extension agreement with these terms.

From the cheap seats, it appears that Empire is likely balking at spending $50,000 on street improvements for a project that is still uncertain. If Empire properties were to miss the November 1 deadline and lose the rights to develop Site 4, would Empire be reimbursed these funds by the city? How about by the eventual developer?

During the July 1 city council meeting, Allen noted that other developers have informally inquired about the site, but wouldn’t elaborate. Perhaps there is more to this, but the heart of this recommendation is most likely a legal squabble regarding a safety net for a developer who has his heart on getting his feet wet with new, inspiring development. Fifty grand is a lot of money to lend the city. On the other hand, without these street improvements and a progressing development, visitors to the new convention center are likely to be greeted by a weedy, surface lot for months to come.


Marriott Soft Opening Today

marriott2 While the official grand opening isn’t until August 27, the Convention Center Marriott is having its soft opening today.


Hyatt Place Planned for West Raleigh

Plans have been submitted for yet another Hyatt hotel in West Raleigh. As one may recall from April , plans for a 123-room Hyatt variant (.pdf file) near the RBC Center were submitted to the city. This week, however, plans for a 6-floor, 133-room Hyatt Place (.pdf file) two blocks away from the first were submitted. This hotel’s site is near the Chapel Hill Road/I-40 interchange on Corporate Center Drive.

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Soleil Stalls

One of the area’s highest-profile planned projects has stalled due to American’s current lending woes, according to the News & Observer . The 43-story Soleil Center is planned to be Raleigh’s second-tallest building, and would include 54 condos sitting atop a 290-room Westin hotel. The project site was prepared in 2006 by imploding the Sheraton hotel that previously sat on the site. Since that public event, though, the only work that has happened has been somewhat generic site development for whatever project follows.

According to the article the developers estimate that it will take at least 3 months to secure new financing. This is bad news for the area’s woefully substandard hotel market. Surely Starwood Hotels, the parent company for the Westin chain, is not happy about having to wait longer for a presence near Crabtree Valley Mall, one of the South’s top shopping centers.


Powerhouse Plaza Updates Renderings

powerhouse_logo The development team behind Powerhouse Plaza (previous article) has released new renderings for their highly anticipated project. The 11-story building will sit across the street from the 42nd Street Oyster Bar and house five stories of office space, and five stories of Hyatt Place hotel rooms. The ground floor, as shown in the the second image below, will contain the hotel lobby, a large restaurant, and a small retail corner store.

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Raleigh, Simpson Reach Plaza Agreement

WRAL is reporting that the City of Raleigh has reached a tentative agreement with The Simpson Organization, owners of the Bank of America building, which will allow construction to begin for the City Plaza project. The agreement prevents the need for the City of Raleigh to condemn the space needed for construction. A move for condemnation was approved by the Raleigh City Council on July 1 .


Boylan Bridge Brewpub Opens Soon

The wait is (finally) almost over. The much-anticipated Boylan Bridge Brewpub will open on August 25, 2008. Andrew Leager, owner of the Special Projects cabinet shop, decided a few years ago that he should take his beer-making hobby public. The brewing operation will be in-house, in the industrial setting of the brewpub.

As reported earlier , the pub was to be named “Sidetrack Brewpub” until Leager received notices from a similarly named operation in Chicago. Because the pub will sit adjacent to Boylan Avenue’s railroad bridge, in April Leager opted to change the name to one honoring one of Raleigh’s historic bridge sites (scroll to the bottom).


The Hayes Barton Story

At 1330 St. Marys an outdated office building is being gutted and reinvented. The office building was originally designed for doctors offices supporting the former Rex Hospital across the street. The hospital moved to its current location in 1980, and the building has seen better days. The Lewis Group has high hopes for their project, and has a website for the project that includes much information, including an nice summary about the Hayes Barton neighborhood:

The finest representation of Raleigh’s upper class domestic architecture is found in Hayes-Barton, a ca. 1920 suburb named for Sir Walter Raleigh’s birthplace in Devon, England.  Hayes-Barton is bordered by Glenwood Avenue, Fairview Road, Williamson Drive and St. Mary’s Street and is abundant with Pecan and Willow Oaks as well as faithful reproductions of Georgian and Colonial Revival homes that date back to the mid 1920s. Hayes-Barton remains an area of impeccably manicured landscapes and well-maintained facades, and still houses many of the capital city’s most politically and socially influential citizens.

Before the Raleigh city limits extension of 1920, the Five Points intersection consisted of dirt crossroads between adjacent farmlands owned by B. Grimes Cowper and Mrs. B.P. Williamson. In 1912 electricity provided by Carolina Power and Light Company powered a trolley line from Peace Street northward up the center of Glenwood Avenue to the newly created Bloomsbury Amusement Park, behind what is now the Carolina Country Club. Brilliantly lit on weekend evenings, Bloomsbury Park housed a roller coaster, a boathouse overlooking the lake, and a carousel. Within several years the picnic and amusement facility dissolved and later the carousel was moved to Pullen Park.

As is usually the case, development followed the transportation system, bringing scattered homes and a store or two to the Hayes Barton area between 1912 and WW I. With much foresight, The Allen Brothers realty firm struck an agreement with the two farmland owners to develop their combined 175-acre property. The former’s land was situated on the west side of Glenwood while the latter’s holdings were located to the east of Glenwood. Landscape architect Earle Sumner Draper was commissioned to create a design based upon principles seen earlier in Charlotte’s Myers Park. All lots have 40 feet of frontage and the natural contours of the land were preserved. Hayes-Barton appealed to the well-to-do with its promise of private large wooded lots and close proximity to downtown Raleigh. The Fairview Company, which sold the lots, saw a slow start in the post World War I economy. By the end of 1921, however, nearly two-thirds of the lots were purchased.

Hayes-Barton continues to grow, still offering the convenience of downtown Raleigh and the beauty of Draper’s well-preserved plan.  The area remains known as one of Raleigh’s most historical, cultural and influential addresses.


Empire Gets Extension

The Raleigh City Council voted unanimously to grant a 4-month extension to Empire Properties for their proposal to develop a piece of city land known as Site 4 . The City Manager’s suggestion was to reopen the bidding process to interested developers, as Empire has missed deadlines for submitting site plans and cannot prove any serious financial support for the project. The City Council approved a Memorandum of Understanding with Empire Properties to develop the property 24 months ago.

One of the issues at hand is the agreement for the widening of Salisbury Street in front of the property. The widening is needed according to preliminary site plans, and Empire agreed to split the costs of construction, about $100,000 total, with the city. Contract work is done and the city is almost ready to begin the work, but has received no funds for the project from Empire.

The city voted to grant an extension until November 1 on three conditions:

  • The funds for widening Salisbury St. be presented
  • A site plan be submitted for approval
  • No more extensions

While the first two items are clear success criteria, the issue of “no more extensions” is vague. If Empire presents with only an updated site plan and $50,000 funding for the street widening, but no proof of funding, is the project still theirs? If so, then when should they prove funding, and would this be, in fact, an “extension”?

Clearly Empire received preferential treatment in the extension of this agreement based on the merits of their previous work. Their attention to detail in renovating some of downtown’s oldest buildings is obviously appreciated. Hopefully they can excel in creating tomorrow’s historical building at Site 4 as well.

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City Votes for Plaza Land Condemnation

The Raleigh City Council voted 6-1 today (Mayor Meeker abstaining, Councilor Isley dissenting) to grant City Manager Russell Allen condemnation rights for the remaining piece of private land needed to proceed with the public City Plaza . The $24M project, which includes improvements for the extension of Fayetteville Street to Lenoir St., has been on hold due to easement negotiations with The Simpson Company, owners of the Bank of America building. The City Manager will continue negotiations with Simpson in the coming weeks, but can now push forward to sue for condemnation proceedings.

The project’s preliminary schedule calls for completion on September 2, 2009. More specifically:

  • 8/1/08: Complete permitting
  • 9/9/08: Begin Construction
  • 8/7/09: Open Street to Traffic
  • 9/2/09: Project Complete

The plan for the project has been scaled down in the last year to manage costs. Originally there were to be 4 water features, however the current plan calls for only one. It will be an active, interactive water fountain in front of the Bank of America Building that will supposedly sense pedestrians’ movements and react in certain ways. There will also be four separate pavilions in the plaza which will handle small retail outlets, art displays, etc.

Fayetteville Street will run straight through the project with no elevated curb. Instead, bollards will demarcate pedestrian and vehicular zones during normal programming. However when the street is closed for special events the plaza will appear as one big space. Paver patterns for the plaza have been changed to reduce costs as well.

The plaza’s marquis feature is the set of four City of Oaks Light Towers. Designed by local artist Jim Gallucci , the towers appear to be planned for 40-50 feet in height. The actual details of the designs were not presented, though it was mentioned that their fabrication will take 9 months.

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