Midtown Raleigh News

City again ready to sell 301 Hillsborough for high-density development

The city is again preparing to sell a long-undeveloped lot at 301 Hillsborough St., previously planned as the site of a towering office and hotel.

Raleigh staff have received at least two “substantial and serious offers for the property,” 1.2 acres of parking located two blocks west of the Capitol, according to a staff report.

Worth an estimated $3 million, the southwest corner of Hillsborough and Dawson streets soon could attract another sizable project.

“Whoever builds there, it’s going to be a fairly good-sized building,” said city attorney Tom McCormick.

“The zoning’s going to require that, and most likely (the price) the city would sell it for would require something pretty big.”

Previous plans for a combination condominium, office and retail building on the site were doomed by financial troubles, and ultimately crushed by the recession. Reynolds Co. bought part of the land from the city in 1998 and held it until 2009, when the council essentially declared the project dead and exercised the city’s legal power to buy the land back.

City staff won’t say who’s interested in the land now, or what type of building could go there. That information might emerge later this year, following the City Council’s unanimous vote Tuesday to set the sale process in motion.

First, the city will move to rezone the land, preparing it for development. Then, according to McCormick, Raleigh will put out a “very general” advertisement, with little limitation on the type of development it seeks.

“It’s basically, ‘What’ll you give us for it?’” McCormick said.

The interest to date has been “all over the board,” said Assistant City Manager Jim Greene.

The city could start the rezoning by February, according to staff, and accept bids soon after. The land would be sold to the highest qualified bidder.

However, sales of the city’s other downtown property – such as the old Salvation Army building and two lots near the performing arts center – could follow a different model.

Under a plan approved by the council in a 5-1 vote Tuesday, the city will ask the legislature for the power to sell to lower bidders and pick specific developers, through a policy called “private sale for economic development purposes.”

Councilman Russ Stephenson dissented. Councilwoman Kay Crowder was absent.