A multi-building project spearheaded by Triangle developer Craig Davis would reshape the urban landscape at the intersection of Hillsborough and Oberlin streets in Raleigh if it comes to fruition.
Davis bills it as a project that has something for everyone.
“This project actually has office, retail, proposed condominiums, proposed multi-family and townhouses,” he said. Craig Davis Properties is co-developing the project with Riverpoint Partners led by his son, Reid Davis.
Two of the buildings would be seven stories high, exceeding the height limits under the current zoning.
But Davis stressed those buildings would actually be lower than the nearby Aloft Raleigh Hotel on Hillsborough Street – which is also seven stories – because the sites are at a lower elevation. One of the seven-story buildings would stand 90 feet tall and the second would be about 80 feet.
Two local landmarks, the Player’s Retreat sports bar and Sam and Bill’s Hair Salon, would remain under the plan, as would the historic Caveness House.
Neighborhood reaction to the plans has been mixed to date, said Bob Geary, chairman of the Hillsborough Citizens Advisory Council.
At the council’s invitation, Craig Davis and the architect for the project, Michael Stevenson of Perkins + Will, presented their plans for the project at the council’s Thursday night meeting.
Stevenson is a resident of the Cameron Park neighborhood where the project would be located. “I have a personal interest as well as a professional interest,” he said.
The project includes:
▪ A 140,000 square-foot office building, including 7,500 square feet of ground floor retail space, at the site currently occupied by David’s Dumpling & Noodle Bar and other tenants. Much of the existing building would be preserved.
▪ A 70,000 square-foot brick-and-glass building that would include about 60 condominiums and 8,000 square feet of ground floor retail. That site, currently occupied by a former, one-story BB&T branch, would include both a seven-story section and a triangular, three-story section “because that’s where we start abutting up to Cameron Park single-family houses,” Stevenson said.
▪ A five-story, 70,000-square-foot apartment building with about 75 units, at the site now occupied by a parking lot and a two-story duplex across the street from the Player’s Retreat.
▪ Fourteen individual town houses, also on the parking lot/duplex site.
▪ A three-level underground parking garage with 500 parking spaces. The garage would be under three of the four buildings and would serve all of them, plus the Player’s Retreat and Sam and Bill’s.
“We are under contract right now for all of the properties” from four different property owners, Davis said.
Neighbors see pluses, minuses
Geary, the head of the advisory council, wrote in an email that residents are concerned “about the scale of what they’re proposing and whether it’s compatible with the surrounding neighborhoods.”
Other issues, he said, include the traffic the project would generate in a neighborhood that is already becoming more congested and worries about “the intensity” of the construction itself, “especially if it requires blasting” for the underground parking.
“On the plus side,” Geary added, “a rezoning case like this one gives us the opportunity to transform a set of disconnected and underdeveloped properties into a desirable community ‘place’ at a location in Raleigh that is literally the crossroads of downtown, N.C. State and the historic neighborhoods of West Raleigh.”
Dealing with a single project that ties together multiple sites, rather than a series of individual projects, also provides “a chance for us to see the properties developed compatibly and at a scale and level of architectural quality that everybody can be proud of,” he said.
Davis said he doesn’t yet know whether blasting would be needed for the underground garage. When asked if the project could work with buildings that aren’t as high, he replied: “The value of the land is extremely expensive. The more you take away from the project, the less likelihood you can make the economics work. I’ll just leave it at that.”
Stevenson noted that “we are asking for a little more height than it is currently zoned for, but we do think we are offering some offsetting benefits.”
Among the benefits he cited: “a comprehensive, coordinated development”; transforming alleys in the vicinity to “very attractive pedestrian-oriented streets”; eliminating “unsightly surface parking”; and the preservation of the Caveness House, Player’s Retreat and Sam and Bill’s.
Davis hasn’t yet filed for the rezoning that is necessary to make the project happen.
“The fact that we are seeking a planned development rezoning means that everybody can see the design” ahead of a decision on rezoning, Stevenson said. “It’s a participatory process we are entering into, an open book process.”
Davis said the project was instigated by Gus Gusler, the owner of the Player’s Retreat, who reached out to his friend Stevenson about two years ago because he wanted to control the future of the sports bar.
The project “creates an area where Gus can operate and maintain his operation for a long time and not be under subject to a tear-down or some kind of non-cohesive development,” Davis said.
Gusler wasn’t available for comment.
Geary called the Player’s Retreat “a landmark and a unique gathering place: it’s like an unofficial community center that’s open to everybody – and everybody goes there. It’s old Raleigh and new Raleigh in a single spot, and the best sides of both.”