'Civic room' unlikely to reach final drawings

'Civic room' unlikely to reach final drawings

Staff WriterSeptember 14, 2004 

An elegant $3 million meeting room pitched to go at the front step of Raleigh's new convention center has been all but scrapped.

Reception was lukewarm to the idea of adding a top-end "civic room" at the center to host sessions of the city, county and school elected leaders -- plus serve as a ceremonial spot for the entire county.

It was first proposed in July.

Architects said the special space would have been a way for local residents to get more use out of the center, which is scheduled to open in late 2007.

The $3 million price tag was not a part of the convention center's $192 million budget. It would have come from the three governments involved. But none has been pushing for it.

"It's not something the city really needs," Mayor Charles Meeker said Monday.

Assistant County Manager Joe Durham said the county isn't pursuing it, either, because the county is working on a broader study of space needs.

And schools officials have not jumped on the idea.

Architects are set to reveal their latest drawings of the planned convention center today in a series of meetings.

The first is for elected leaders and begins at 8 a.m. A session designed for the public is at 5 p.m. All meetings are at the existing civic center on the south end of downtown.

Some of the latest drawings will show the special room still as part of the project, according to City Manager Russell Allen.

But he said the room probably isn't going to make the final cut.

"It's obvious that it's not gotten a favorable reaction," he said. "I don't know that I would consider it completely off the table. ... But we're not really emphasizing it."

The space was proposed for a prominent location on the front side of the center, with large windows and views toward the BTI Center for the Performing Arts.

As planned, the civic room and a smaller boardroom would have added 7,500 square feet to the center.

Two months ago, Allen told elected leaders the request for the extra room was urgent. On Monday, he said there's still time. However, he said, "we're coming up on that decision point pretty soon."

Architects and planners have been working on the convention center design for months. In updates, they've talked about how best to plop the center into the downtown grid.

Today's sessions should see more refined designs and ideas, touching on roof lines, water features, construction materials and how the center will connect with the Fayetteville Street Mall.

After today, architects will begin to make their final changes. The finished version is to be presented to elected leaders Oct. 14, and administrators want a quick approval at that time.

Staff writer J. Andrew Curliss can be reached at 829-4840 or acurliss@newsobserver.com.

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