The partnership that has offered to buy three vacant state-owned buildings on one of the squares laid out in the original plan for Raleigh says it wants to restore two of the buildings for use as medical offices.
Caswell Square Medical LLC has offered the state $1.75 million for the buildings on about a third of an acre on the northwest corner of Caswell Square, along Dawson Street near Lane Street. The Council of State will consider approving the sale at its meeting Tuesday morning.
Two of the buildings – a 19th century warehouse that was later converted into a steam plant and the former home of the state’s oral hygiene program – would be restored, said Milan DiGiulio, an orthopedic surgeon with an office in Cary who is a partner in the project.
“These buildings have tremendous character and history, and we intend to preserve and repurpose them to provide services that our growing downtown community needs,” DiGiulio wrote in an email Sunday. “We have already started working with local architects and contractors who are experienced in similar rehabilitation projects.”
Some preservationists have raised objections to the sale, not out of concern for the buildings but for what they consider the potential loss of a piece of the state’s heritage.
Caswell Square was one of five squares that surveyor William Christmas included in his plan for Raleigh in 1792. Up to now all five have remained in public ownership and use. Caswell became home to the state school for the deaf and blind in the late 19th century and is now largely covered in state office buildings and parking lots.
A small group of preservationists has asked the Council of State – the 10 top statewide-elected officials led by the governor – to turn down the sale and consider ways to restore at least part of the square as a public park.
But DiGiulio notes that Caswell Square hasn’t been a truly public space for 100 years and that it will likely remain largely covered with state office buildings for the next 100. Besides, he says, with Capitol Boulevard beginning and ending at the square, it’s no longer the inviting gathering place Christmas might have envisioned.
“If you’ve ever stood on the corner of Dawson and Lane at rush hour, it’s not a very pleasant place to be,” he wrote.
The Council of State meeting will begin at 9 a.m. in Commission Room 5034 on the 5th floor of the Administration Building, 116 West Jones St. a block east of Caswell Square in downtown Raleigh.