RALEIGH — The city acquired the former Salvation Army headquarters downtown Tuesday for $2.1 million, a move meant to help attract development to the eastern edge of downtown.
Economic development boosters think the block along South Person Street is ripe for revitalization. Its a short walk from downtowns thriving entertainment and dining scene and just a few steps from Moore Square, a park slated for a $14.8 million makeover that will add an outdoor cafe, granite plaza and tiered lawns.
Mitchell Silver, Raleighs planning director, has said the Salvation Army lot would be a good place for a residential building with retail on the ground floor or perhaps a hotel.
That kind of redevelopment on the east side of the square would complement the Marbles Kids Museum, City Market and the restaurants that border the other three sides, city officials say.
This was just too good an opportunity to pass up, said Councilwoman Mary-Ann Baldwin. If we didnt purchase the site, it couldve been another 20 years before we have the opportunity to redevelop it.
Last month, the city paid $372,000 for a .04-acre lot around the corner on Martin Street that will also be used for future development.
The latest purchase reflects the citys desire to attract redevelopment in a part of downtown that sorely needs it, said David Diaz, CEO of the Downtown Raleigh Alliance, which manages and promotes downtown.
The Moore Square district in general has not attracted the level of investment weve seen in other districts of downtown, Diaz said. I am glad the city is being proactive.
Salvation Army expanding
The Salvation Army will triple its space when it moves north of downtown into the former Edwards & Broughton Printing Co. building on Capital Boulevard, across from Bobby Murray Chevrolet. The downtown building, completed in 1980, was too small to meet demand, commanding officer Pete Costas said, and expansion isnt economically practical.
The Salvation Army asked $2.49 million when it put the 0.88-acre property on the market last year.
The site abuts 1.7 acres of parking lots and vacant land owned by philanthropist Gordon Smith III that is also on the market.
Ive not had any conversations about selling to the city, Smith said Tuesday afternoon, declining to comment further.
Raleigh brought in a New York urban designer to lead an ambitious makeover of Moore Square, which was conceived in 1792 as one of five public squares in the city, including Union Square, site of the state Capitol.
With the addition of modern amenities, park planners say they can transform the park into a lively urban oasis similar to Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta or New Yorks Bryant Park.
The park, one of the few green spaces downtown, can become a catalyst for the surrounding blocks, said City Manager Russell Allen.
Getting Moore Square redone into a major amenity would make a huge difference, he said. Anything that has frontage on it will have a great view and a great neighbor.
But the project has suffered delays and setbacks, including liability concerns raised by the state and a challenge to the qualifications of Chris Counts, the designer who drew up plans for the renovation.
The city is now conducting a study to help gauge how any redevelopment would affect the towering trees that grace the square.
Currently, there is no money in the budget for a refurbishment. The parks department has requested $1.4 million in 2014 for the next phase of design and $14.8 million for construction the following year.