Radisson Hotel in RTP slated for demolition after sale

dbracken@newsobserver.comOctober 21, 2013 

The private not-for-profit that manages the Research Triangle Park has reached an agreement to acquire the Radisson Hotel in the park.

“The hotel will be closed by the time we take ownership and we plan on tearing it down,” Bob Geolas, president and CEO of the Research Triangle Foundation, said Monday.

The 198-unit hotel was put up for sale earlier this year. Geolas said the foundation was worried that if it didn’t buy the property it might be sold to a lesser hotel brand that wouldn’t be a good fit with the new vision the park has for itself.

Geolas declined to disclose the purchase price, citing the deal hasn’t closed yet.

The Radisson, previously known as the Governor’s Inn, was the main meeting place for RTP executives and visitors in the 1970s and 1980s. But the hotel, originally constructed in 1972, had been performing poorly of late and was in need of upgrades. The hotel’s average daily room rates had fallen 10 percent over the 12-month period ending in March, according to the flier marketing the property.

“It’s sort of representative of the past,” Geolas said. He said the foundation doesn’t know yet what will replace the hotel off Davis Drive.

The Radisson is adjacent to another poorly performing RTP asset: Park Center, a largely empty 70-acre office park that was put up for auction earlier this year by its owner, GE Asset Management. The auction didn’t result in a sale, a sign that bids may have been both sparse and underwhelming.

Both Park Center and the Radisson operate on ground leases with the Research Triangle Foundation, a factor that complicates any attempt to sell the properties.

That area of the 7,000-acre park is one of three targeted for redevelopment in the revised RTP master plan. The first area that is expected to be redeveloped is land around the intersection of Cornwallis Road and Davis Drive.

The acquisition of the Radisson is one of the first tangible indications of the park’s new direction. Last fall, foundation officials unveiled the first update to RTP’s master plan since its creation 53 years ago. The plan calls for a more densely developed park with a wider range of amenities, and it seeks to make more efficient use of the land by reducing setback requirements and loosening other land-use restrictions.

The Research Triangle Foundation has hired Hines, a Houston-based developer, to spearhead the redevelopment efforts.

The hotel purchase also marks a departure from the park’s traditional real estate model, which has involved selling large chunks of land to large corporations.

“This is a different way in which the foundation has operated,” Geolas said. “Normally in the past we sell things, we don’t buy things.”

“We, as a foundation, have to do things differently,” he added. “There are some things – like purchasing a hotel and closing it and tearing it down – that we need to do in order for people to see change in the park and to feel that change is upcoming and ultimately that it will lead to new business models in the park.”

Bracken: 919-829-4548; Twitter: @brackendavid

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