High-rise apartments pitched for downtown Raleigh

mgarfield@newsobserver.comMarch 28, 2012 

RALEIGH

— A Triangle developer has added a high-rise apartment building to plans for the Edison, an ambitious downtown project showing signs of life after a recession-induced slumber.

The glass-and-steel tower will make a bold addition to Raleigh’s skyline, Gregg Sandreuter told City Council members Tuesday at a budget and economic development committee meeting.

At 20 to 22 stories high with ground-level retail, the 320-unit building will anchor the northeastern corner of the Edison development, situated on a downtown block bordered by Blount, Davis, Wilmington and Martin streets.

By comparison, the nearby PNC Plaza tower is 33 stories.

“It’s a pretty exciting project if he can pull it off,” City Manager Russell Allen told council members.

Sandreuter said he’s working with a corporate partner on financing and hopes to submit a site plan in the next two to three months.

“We’re working our best to fast-track the project,” Sandreuter said.

Plans for the Edison have gained momentum in recent months. But the project, which once imagined four towers, has been scaled back since its inception in the mid-2000s.

Sandreuter now proposes a six-story mix of apartments and shops on the southern portion, where a 24-story office tower was part of the original plan.

Construction on the initial phase would begin by October 2013 and be complete by March 2015, according to an agreement with the city.

Urban market a possibility

A grocery store would be a welcome addition, said City Councilman Randy Stagner. Downtown advocates have long pleaded for a grocery within walking distance, calling it a key step in the revival of downtown.

Sandreuter said he would be willing to offer rent-free space to a grocery. But conversations with Harris Teeter and other grocers suggest the market is not ready.

“All grocers that I know of, who have looked at downtown, say we just don’t have enough people yet,” he said. “We just don’t have the demographics to support it.”

About 5,000 people live in downtown, according to the Downtown Raleigh Alliance. A small urban market would be more realistic in the short-term, Sandreuter said.

Parking deck is key

A parking deal with Raleigh is key to getting the Edison project off the ground.

Sandreuter worked out a rent-to-own deal with Raleigh officials for part of the 1,224-space Blount Street parking deck that divides the block on which Edison would be built. Highwoods Properties built the deck in 2008 to support the RBC Plaza.

Sandreuter previously agreed to lease 300 spaces and give the city $8.3 million over 20 years, after which the developer would own the spaces.

To accommodate the proposed high-rise, Sandreuter now proposes a similar rent-to-own deal for the remaining 396 spaces. The City Council will vote Tuesday on the agreement.

The city would be able to collect parking fees from the spaces in the Blount Street deck during hours when many residents are at work, which would help Raleigh generate income to deal with its parking-revenue deficit.

Garfield: 919-836-4952

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