Gov. Roy Cooper’s office is denying a claim by former state government leaders that Cooper’s administration plans to “kill” the sale of two prime pieces of state-owned real estate in Raleigh.
Former Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration tried to sell the properties: the 16-acre former Rex Hospital site at the corner of St. Mary’s and Wade Avenue, which is now used by the Employment Security Commission, and 26 acres at the intersection of Blue Ridge and Reedy Creek roads.
Last week, two members of McCrory’s administration – former state budget director Lee Roberts and John LaPenta, the former Deputy Secretary of Administration – wrote an op-ed for The News & Observer saying Cooper had taken the properties off the market, and criticized him for doing so.
But Cooper spokeswoman Noelle Talley said the decision to sell the properties has merely been put on hold, not reversed.
“These projects have been paused while the Department of Administration does a larger review of state property to make sure decisions are made in the best interest of taxpayers and the state,” Talley wrote in an email.
It’s unclear how many properties have been on the market, or why Cooper wants to review them. Talley and Tim Walton, director of the state property office in the Department of Administration, haven’t provided much information on the properties.
As of Wednesday, seven sites appeared on the “State Property for Sale” webpage, including a 23-acre former state prison, Blanch Correctional, in Caswell County and the Andrews-Duncan House, the last of a dozen old homes the state is selling in the Blount Street Historic District in downtown Raleigh. The old Rex Hospital site appears on the webpage, but the property at Blue Ridge and Reedy Creek roads does not.
The state posts asking prices for only some of the properties, including $875,000 for the Andrews-Duncan House. Wake County appraisers recently valued the old Rex hospital site at $29.5 million. Roberts and LaPenta say the Blue Ridge Road property is worth $20 million.
LaPenta worries that Cooper’s decision to delay any sales could scare away potential buyers.
“When the state puts those properties on pause, that’s going to hurt their sale value because it generates uncertainty,” LaPenta said. “From a development standpoint, this is not a prudent move. It’s not being a good steward of the real estate.”
The sooner the state sells the Rex and Blue Ridge properties, LaPenta and Roberts wrote, the sooner it can spur more economic development.
“The sale of these two Raleigh sites could earn taxpayers about $50 million – for comparison, that’s how much the public schools have requested for textbooks and digital learning, or what it costs to send another 10,000 4-year-olds to pre-K for a year,” they wrote.
“The sites have already been listed for sale and generated significant interest, given buoyant market conditions,” they continued. “Responsible stewardship of state-owned assets is not a partisan issue. We can think of no good reason to stop an effort that has so many beneficial effects.”