The owner of the Players Retreat sports bar is seeking another developer to help him reshape the intersection of Hillsborough Street and Oberlin Road where his Raleigh establishment is located now that a project with developer Craig Davis failed to pan out.
“Basically, we were under a contract and were working towards developing a project that would save the PR and also would provide a community benefit and would be nice for the area I live in,” Gus Gusler said. “That did not work out.”
Gusler declined to disclose details of the collapse of the project with Davis, except to say that he had contracts to acquire several adjacent properties that made up the project that he in turn had optioned to Davis. Those options expired several weeks ago.
Davis, a Triangle developer, couldn’t be reached for comment.
“I’m going to find somebody else and we’ll move forward and get this done,” Gusler said.
The ambitious project with Davis included two seven-story buildings, a five-story apartment building, 14 town houses and a three-level underground parking garage. It would have contained both office and retail space as well as residences, and would have preserved two local landmarks, the PR and Sam and Bill’s Hair Salon, as well as the historic Caveness House.
Some residents had expressed concerns about the scale of the project, especially its height, which exceeded current zoning limits.
Gusler said that the driving force for him is keeping the PR as-is. The problem is that “to make the numbers work, to keep the PR, requires (the project) to be a little bigger to offset the cost of building around the place.”
Gusler said it’s unclear whether Plan B will resemble the original project.
“Whether it will look like the drawings, or close to the drawings, I can’t say,” he said.
But he praised the work of architect Michael Stevenson of Perkins + Will, who designed the original project.
“I live in the neighborhood. Michael lives in the neighborhood,” Gusler said. “We want to do something the neighborhood can be proud of.”
Gusler doesn’t own the PR building, although he does have a contract on the property. But he said the owner, Tom Carter – “a dear friend of mine” – only wants to sell the building as a package deal with the adjacent properties he also owns.
“He would be a fool to piecemeal it,” Gusler said. “It’s worth way more as one big entity. To put together that big a piece of property by the university (N.C. State) and Cameron Village is a huge deal.”
Gusler said moving the PR is unthinkable because “it’s such an important part of the fabric of the City of Raleigh. It’s been there for 66 years.”
Gusler said when he’s sitting in the PR people will come up to him and say, “I asked my wife to marry me in that booth, or that’s my father’s picture on the wall when he played on the PR softball team.”
“I don’t think you can move history,” Gusler said. “It would never be the same. It would be like moving Mount Vernon somewhere else.”