In hindsight, they're glad condo project died

Staff WriterMarch 19, 2009 

Bobby Lewis and Don Carter have killed controversial plans to build condominiums, offices and shops in Raleigh's Five Points neighborhood.

Now they have two words for the neighbors whose opposition led to the project's demise: Thank you.

"I'd hate to be coming out of the ground today and trying to sell high-end condominiums," Carter says.

City planners required the Raleigh Development partners to resolve some concerns of neighbors, who thought the project was too tall. The developers wanted to level three houses that sit on 1.1 acres they own next to the post office on Fairview Road to make way for a four-story project. The duo ultimately agreed to build three stories, per the neighbors' request.

The process delayed the project by months. By the time things were resolved last year, lending and demand for condos had all but vanished. Had there been no opposition, the partners would have begun building.

"We would have been in the throes of doing that thing, and wouldn't that be a mess?" Lewis says.

For now, Lewis and Carter are marketing the three-lot assemblage for sale. They say they're willing to sell all the land, or break it up into individual lots.

Lewis says there's been some interest from doctors and dentists, hoping to open up a neighborhood practice.

And there's always a chance that the project envisioned by Lewis and Carter will be built one day, Carter says, adding: "It's not going to happen by us."

Food Lion is stocking its shelves with land.

The Salisbury grocer exercised an option to buy 23 acres in Cary, a deal which tells of more stalled development plans. The company paid JDH Capital of Charlotte $5.47 million for the dirt at O'Kelly Chapel Road and Green Level to Durham Road. It's where JDH had hoped to build Stonewater Village, a 57,400-square-foot, grocery-anchored shopping center. Renderings on JDH's Web site show Food Lion as the anchor.

Food Lion, however, says it has no current plans for a store there.

"It's part of our land inventory," Food Lion spokeswoman Karen Peterson says. "... We see this as a possible location for a story in the future. What store, and when that might be, we have no idea at this time."

Executives at JDH, who bought the land in late 2007 with hopes of opening the center by June, gained just $75,000 in the deal. They did not return calls seeking comment.

Plans for a high-tech hotel in Morrisville may be delayed further now that the Florida company that planned to build it is seeking bankruptcy protection.

ESuites Hotels of Tampa announced plans in late 2007 to build a $35 million, 224-room hotel targeted at tech-savvy business travelers who fly in and out of the Research Triangle Park area.

The eight-story hotel was to employ about 60 people and was among the first of what company founder Jerry Ellenburg hoped would be a portfolio of 300 hotels within 10 years. Ellenburg, who had hoped to finish the hotel by late 2008, hasn't returned calls seeking updates on the yet-to-begin project.

But a company formed to own the local eSuites filed documents in U.S. Bankruptcy Court last week, saying it owes $19 million.

jack.hagel@newsobserver.com or919-829-8917

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