Some former members of Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration may not like it, but Gov. Roy Cooper’s office is right to take a “pause” in the sale of two prime pieces of state-owned real estate. The decision to hold off for a bit on the sale of a 16-acre former Rex Hospital site at St. Mary’s Street and Wade Avenue in Raleigh and 26 acres at the intersection of Blue Ridge and Reedy Creek is just smart for taxpayers.
The old Rex site, it could be argued, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the state. It’s hard to imagine there is a more coveted piece of property in the Capital City. This is a location close to downtown, on major roads, convenient to I-40 and presumably workable for commercial and residential development. With an appraisal of $29.5 million, the site’s still likely to have a long line of suitors.
But John LaPenta, who wrote an Op-ed piece for The News & Observer with former state budget director Lee Roberts criticizing Cooper for taking the properties off the market, says waiting to sell could hurt the “sale value” of the properties. He says a delay “generates uncertainty.”
Uncertainty about what? Developers are going to pass on 16 acres at the corner of St. Mary’s and Wade because of a little delay? That doesn’t make sense. If anything, the line’s going to get longer and the price is going to go up.
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Cooper’s staffer Noelle Talley said the administration is reviewing all state property to make sure of values and to get the most return for taxpayers. Claims that the two parcels are off the market are just wrong, she said.
In one of the country’s fastest-growing regions, with real estate in these kinds of locations at a premium, there’s absolutely no rush to close the deals on this type of property.
A pause will be of value as well to the city of Raleigh. Construction cranes are up in virtually every corner of the city, with more to come. Given the locations of these properties, one very close in and the other still convenient, the impact of development needs to be thoroughly assessed, and Cooper’s administration is likely to be more interested in cooperating with and consulting Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane than was McCrory’s. And the city needs input here.
Developers are eager, of course, to spur development and make money, and that’s their business. But it’s wise for the state to counter the push from business to charge ahead with some due dillgence and patience. There is nothing wrong with some “wait and see” here. Nothing wrong at all.