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111 Seaboard Project Canceled

111_Seaboard Apparently the York Properties condo venture near the Seaboard area, 111 Seaboard , has been canceled due to “changing circumstances and uncertain timing.” Reservations are being released and refunds are being made.


City Plaza Battles Continue

city_plaza_night Tomorrow’s City Council meeting (1pm – TWC channel 11) contains an agenda item that is critically important to the continued Fayetteville St. renaissance. Plans for the City Plaza , situated between the two former Hannover towers, aim to offer a living room for the city. However city leaders and one of the plaza’s owners, The Simpson Organization (an Atlanta-based real estate firm), have not been able to agree about certain undisclosed terms.

It has been speculated that the controversy centers around issues with the underground parking garage. The plaza’s opening was supposed to coincide with that of the new convention center Marriott hotel, but tomorrow City Manager Russell Allen will formally present a plan for the City of Raleigh to condemn Simpson’s land and move forward with plaza construction.

Simpson had earlier agreed to design, construct, and fund the four pavilions, as well as furnish other improvements to the space. It is unclear what Simpson’s involvement in the plaza’s construction will be should the condemnation proceed. Boyd Simpson, though, is clearly unhappy about the situation:

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City Manager Urges Reopening Bids for Site 4

lafayette One of the main pieces to the Convention District redevelopment plan, Site 4 (.pdf file), has returned to the city’s microscope. The City currently has an agreement with Empire Properties for development of “Site 4”. The current plan calls for a 21-story, Stephen B. Jacobs -designed boutique hotel/condo project that would feature a rooftop restaurant and pool and an external glass elevator. The Lafayette was originally expected to open in 2009, however work still hasn’t begun due to financing troubles.

Empire Properties recently missed an April deadline extension to submit revised plans to the City of Raleigh. Now City Manager Russell Allen is calling for the removal of Empire as site developer and the opening of the site to a new bidding process. Allen claims that other companies have both expressed interest in developing the property, and requested reopening the parcel for public bids. Allen’s recommendations state:

That the City Council declare the Purchase, Sale and Development Agreement between the City of Raleigh and Empire Properties for the development of City Site #4, ratified March 7, 2007, and amended March 27, 2008 to be in default by the Developer, and direct the City Attorney to collect the Good Faith Deposit ($14,450) from the Escrow Agent as a reasonable liquidation, and upon receipt of the Good Faith Deposit that the City Council release the Developer of any further liability under the Agreement.

Authorize the City Manager to prepare and issue a Request for Proposals for the development of City Site #4, in general accordance with the mix of land uses and intensities included in the first RFP.

The topic is on the agenda for the Raleigh City Council’s meeting tomorrow at 1 pm. This should be interesting, folks. Empire’s president, Greg Hatem, is a close, personal friend of many on the City Council. Will the council grant Hatem, a proven renovation specialist, an additional extension on his project as they have to the Reynolds family (for their proposed tower on Hillsborough Street )? Will the city vote to stop losing money on a site going undeveloped for so many additional months (with no apparent end in site)?

No matter who ends up developing the property, the end result needs to be the addition of an architecturally significant, nice hotel in the Convention Center area.


Solas Set To Open Mid-July

solas Solas (Gaelic for “light”), the new 3-story entertainment complex on Glenwood Ave (next to Helios ) is set to open on July 17. The new building replaces the old brake shop, and will feature a first-floor restaurant, second floor nightclub, and a third floor rooftop patio. The project is backed by Hibernia Entertainment, and was designed by New City Design Group .

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NOTE: We are apparently in the Twilight Zone. The above information was based on the countdown clock on Solas’ website. However, as of 10:35pm on 6/1/08, the site now reports that Solas will be open in 17 days, 49 hours, 24 mins, 21 secs. Apparently the clock is not actually functional. Oh well. We’ll keep waiting.

7/14/08 Note: Solas is shooting for an 8/10/08 opening, though this is contingent on  permits going through.


Blount Street Commons Breaks Ground

The exciting redevelopment of four major downtown Raleigh blocks officially began today. Though site preparation has been ongoing for months, city officials were on hand this morning to break ground. The overhaul involves a 19-acre tract bounded by Peace, Person, Lane, and Wilmington Streets in Raleigh.

Centered around 25 historic houses dating to the mid 19th century, the Blount Street Commons project will add enough new construction to form a classic neighborhood including carriage houses, row houses, stacked townhomes, garden flats, and urban lofts. There will be almost 500 condominiums, and over 100K square feet of new retail space when the project is completed.

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Hue Retail Taking Shape

Hue_080625 Word is that some of the retail spaces in the upcoming Hue condominium project have been leased. Apparently a vegan restaurant, a day spa, and a pizza delivery service are the first to jump at these retail openings.

More good offerings are expected. The increase in walking traffic afforded by the relocation of Campbell Law School will create much street-level activity.

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ULI Triangle Infrastructure Forum Event Thursday Morning

Preparing for the infrastructure demands of tomorrow is a long involved task, but we all can get involved by attending the Infrastructure 2008: A Competitive Advantage (.pdf) conference tomorrow morning (8am at Brier Creek Country Club’s Ballroom).

The Keynote Address will be given by former Pittsburgh mayor Tom Murphy. He will be discussing issues and trends surrounding infrastructure and its role in economic development. The address will be followed by a panel discussion which includes Speaker of the NC House Joe Hackney, Representative Deborah Ross, Steve Stroud, Tom Lee, John Hodges-Copple, and Don Chandler.

Registrants will receive a complimentary copy of the  “Infrastructure 2008: A Competitive Advantage” document.


Cameron Village Corner to be Redeveloped

TBJ reported (with a rendering ) on Friday that Crescent Resources , a real estate corporation out of Charlotte, has plans to redevelop the largely-vacant Cameron Village corner at Oberlin and Clark/Peace with a residential and retail complex. It will be one of Crescent’s first true mixed use projects.

The project must first pass muster with neighbors who have a reputation for fearing change. While the structure is reported to be up to 120 feet tall, the height is likely determined to be from the project’s true base, the parking area for the old Balentine’s lower level, which is roughly 30 feet below the Oberlin Rd. elevation.

We’ll learn much more about this project on July 15 when there will be a public hearing at City Hall.

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Edison Redesign Hits City Today

Edison_AERIAL The News & Observer’s Business section featured a story on the latest design for The Edison. The previous design (Site plan .PDF), which wrapped retail, condos, and hotel space around the RBC Plaza deck on Wilmington Street, has been through several renditions. Every one, to this point, stepped aside for Wilmington Street corner retail sites like Coopers Barbecue and Reliable Loan to remain.

Today’s Jack Hagel story reveals that Gregg Sandreuter, the Edison’s developer, made deals with the owners of those corner retail spots. Now the entire block is in play, and it allows for far more aggressive design possibilities.

Edison_ELEV The newest incarnation , designed by Raleigh’s J Davis Architects , features four towers: two twins at 39 stories and two at 29 stories. The towers would include high-rise pools, condominium units, hotel space, and 250,000 square feet of office space. The plan is to finish one tower by 2012 and complete the final tower by 2018. ( New Site Plan – .pdf)

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Photos courtesy J Davis Architects

Here are some thoughts about the attached two renderings: The first image is an aerial view from the Southeast (The NW corner of Progress II can be seen in the lower right). It appears that the west towers (the taller ones) have 18 or so floors of condos or hotel space. This is revealed by the shorter floor heights above the level where the 20th floor pools are.

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Powerhouse Plaza Rendering Available

powerhouseplaza Jeffery Brubaker, of The Raleigh Downtowner , has a nice article in the current edition (.PDF) about downtown development. One feature in the article is the previously mentioned Powerhouse Plaza (across from 42nd Street Oyster Bar).

There is also a current rendering of the 10-story complex in the story. According to the rendering, the hotel portion will carry the Hyatt Place brand. The overall design is modern and uses much glass. Its decidedly modern look evokes visions of both the International styled 333 Fayetteville in its lower floors, and the Progress II building in its upper floors. The inconsistency of materials in the vertical elements and the setback for the hotel’s pool offer relief and give the impression that the building is more massive than it really is. On the street level, the building offers minimal setback, however restaurant facades could easily be inset to offer a cozy outdoor seating area.

The only flaw apparent at this point is the neighboring parking garage. According to the site plan (.PDF), the deck will extend fully to the sidewalks of Harrington and West streets, forever locking the Plaza as a pedestrian island. Had the parking been arranged to be totally internal, the possibility of future development continuing the pedestrian experience all the way to the railroad tracks could exist.

Functionally this project is a no-brainer. Downtown’s need for decent hotels is absurd, and the demand for office space in the Glenwood South area is not being met. While this is certainly not the final rendering, the building shows promise and hopes to finally give downtown some architectural variety.


RBC Plaza from Floor 33

Champ Claris , a realtor with YSU, had the opportunity to go up in the frighteningly “hanging off the side of the building” construction elevator of the RBC Plaza yesterday.  Thanks for the photos, Champ!

(Click on the first photo to see the slideshow).


Summerfield Suites Coming To North Hills

An article on page 3D in today’s News & Observer reveals that a six-story, 140-room Summerfield Suites has been added to the North Hills East plans. It will sit atop 40,000 square feet of street level retail. By comparison, the nearby Renaissance hotel , currently under construction at North Hills, will have 229 rooms.

Summerfield Suites is a 30-unit extended-stay concept by Hyatt Hotels. Construction is expected to begin later this year.


Sports Cafe Coming to 222 Glenwood

Much speculation has swirled about the street-level tenants in the new 222 Glenwood complex. During earlier stages of development word was that Gianni & Gaitano’s, the fine & family dining combo from Wakefield was coming. Word also was that a Duncan Donuts was coming. It seems that some of that information is correct. No word on the Duncan Donuts, but Gianni & Gaitano’s states on their website that they are opening in Summer 2008 in “Glenwood South Shopping Center”. The N&O also recently reported that Bruegger’s Bagel Bakery is coming to the new space.

Now it appears that the Amra brothers are on board to add another establishment to their fine collection. Tobacco Road Sports Cafe will open late in the Summer in 222 Glenwood. They claim to not be a sports bar, but rather, a place to watch the game with great food and great service. I wonder if Gianni & Gaitano’s have decided against doing a pair of Siamese restaurants out of one kitchen in favor of a combined menu with one smaller dining room. This would certainly allow enough space for the Amra concept.

While I truly wish the Amras the best of luck on this venture, I cannot get past the name. If you frequent this site you know where I’m headed. Certainly the Amras mean the best, and are presumably trying to tie into our region’s cherished history of college basketball. However the name “Tobacco Road” flies against all the improvements this area has made in my lifetime. Tobacco Road is Erskine Caldwell’s 1932 novel about poor ignorant cotton farmers in Georgia during the depression. The perception that North Carolina is a bunch of uneducated Mayberry-land hicks is still very much out there in this country, and we need to do everything we can to not tie ourselves to the Tobacco Road image.

The State of North Carolina has a long history of tobacco production. It is still, by a long shot, the top-producing state in the country; top-producing of a crop with which all levels of government have been waging war for the past two decades. In the past few months both Wake County and the State of North Carolina banned smoking in government buildings. While NC is the country’s top-producer, seven states have a higher Adult Smoking Rate than North Carolina’s 22.9% ( via – .pdf). The rank is falling, though, especially among youths.

Is this completely unhealthy addiction what we want to tie ourselves to when promoting our area? The City of Durham, steeped in cigarette production history, terms itself the “City of Medicine”. In fact, Durham County had the smallest percentage of prenatal smoking mothers in the state from 2002-2006. Wake County had the second-smallest ( via ).

As we grow healthier and our region improves, our culture should reflect that improvement to our citizens and to those who don’t live here. Instead of promoting us as dumb and unhealthy region, mayors, athletic directors, and coaches should direct network TV personalities to stop referring to our area as “Tobacco Road”. Restaurateurs should follow suit and avoid associating our improving area with one of our culture’s most carcinogenic products. It’s time for us to keep our sights forward and avoid being mired in bogs of the past.

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