North Hills developer John Kane is taking over a controversial student apartment and retail project on a blighted stretch of Hillsborough Street.
Kane told a neighborhood group Thursday that he’ll take the reins from the original developer, Val Valentine. Kane’s already overhauling designs for the block west of N.C. State University, and the changes will require rezoning approval from the Raleigh City Council this fall.
“We’ve made some changes in the plan that are pretty significant,” he said, adding that he envisions a complex similar to the Alexan at North Hills – the mixed-use area north of Lassiter Mill Road. It’s Kane’s first development on Hillsborough Street and his first foray into student housing.
The Stanhope Center building will wrap around the entire block between Friendly Drive and Concord Street, now home to a cluster of rundown, vacant storefronts. About 250 apartments housing 800 N.C. State students will wrap around a parking deck and courtyard. Shops and restaurants will line Hillsborough Street on the first floor.
The changes allow for a pool and recreation area for residents. “One of the reasons that (Valentine’s) plan wasn’t exactly working was getting the amenities in for the housing,” Kane said.
The City Council approved Valentine’s plans for the Stanhope Center in February, following months of debate about the apartment building’s height. Valentine initially proposed a nine-story building, but agreed to drop the height to five floors after neighbors worried about a “Grand Canyon” effect on Hillsborough Street.
Kane promised neighbors Thursday that he’ll keep the height at five stories.
“A lot of the things I’ve heard as concerns, I think I’ve addressed,” he said.
Sallie Ricks was among the neighbors opposed to the nine-story idea.
“So far I am supporting it,” she said. “I have great faith in John Kane and the quality of his projects.”
Valentine had planned to break ground this year on a separate mixed-use building anchored by Kerr Drug at Hillsborough and Friendly. Kane plans to build the entire block as a single building, and Kerr Drug’s need for a drive-thru might not fit.
“We would love to have a drugstore, but we’re not going to let them dictate the design,” he said.
Construction on that site stalled after The Brewery, a popular music club, was razed in 2011. Other older storefronts – once home to student bars such as Katmandu and Pantana Bob’s – remain standing on the block, the businesses long gone.
Valentine said more details about the plan will be released in a few weeks, but with another public hearing process looming, the block likely won’t see construction until sometime next year.