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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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 (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.
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.
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.
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.
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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