Raleigh facility to meet its end

Crews are preparing to begin demolishing the downtown convention center

Staff WriterSeptember 29, 2005 

After 28 years, Raleigh's convention center will start crumbling to the ground next week, making way for a taller, shinier, $192 million replacement.

Crews will throw up fencing as soon as Monday, then close more sidewalks and traffic lanes at the south edge of downtown.

About December, once workers have started removing the asbestos inside, giant earth movers will tear the center down piece by piece.

"You can't implode with the asbestos," said Jenks Fowles, senior project manager for Holder Construction, adding, "I haven't seen a wrecking ball in a while."

The center's demolition adds concrete and dirt to a downtown already ripped apart by major construction projects.

Just next door along Salisbury Street, workers are digging deep to make space for the new center -- about three times bigger at 500,000 square feet.

Outside the old center's back door, Fayetteville Street Mall has been torn out in a $10 million project aimed at bringing life back to its empty sidewalks.

Walking is already precarious around downtown's barricades, and when Wilmington and Lenoir streets' sidewalks are closed alongside the old center, there will be even less space for pedestrians.

But when the old center is flattened and the cranes are packed up, there will be a clear view down Fayetteville Street between the Capitol dome and the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts.

A four-star Marriott hotel will stand in the old center's place, next to an underground parking deck with space for 1,500.

By 2008, when the hotel and new convention center are finished, city leaders expect what they call North Carolina's Main Street to emerge from the construction dust.

Asbestos found in July, though, cost the city about $1.3 million from a shrinking contingency fund.

Bids are still coming in for the demolition work, said Bill Headley, project director for Holder. That work will cost $1.5 to $2 million.

There will be some overlap, Headley said, between the asbestos removal and the demolition.

Asbestos from the center will be bagged and taken to a certified landfill, said Chris Zananiri, project manager for Holder. During demolition, water will be used to keep down dust. About 27,000 truckloads of dirt and debris will be taken from the site, some of it bound for the Dorothea Dix Hospital campus.

Representatives held a meeting Wednesday morning to discuss their plans with the old center's neighbors.

Only a few attended, though, and they came from the office towers nearby.

"In case we need to evacuate, we need to know what sidewalks to use," said Crystal Hall, a real estate specialist who represents One Bank of America Plaza.

Staff writer Josh Shaffer can be reached at 829-4818 or jshaffer@newsobserver.com.

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