Wake County

Raleigh moves forward with plans for a 20-story City Hall downtown

Raleigh’s City Hall on West Hargett Street in downtown Raleigh.
Raleigh’s City Hall on West Hargett Street in downtown Raleigh. 2014 News & Observer file photo

Plans for a multimillion-dollar 20-story government building in downtown Raleigh are moving forward.

The Raleigh City Council agreed Tuesday to pursue the project at the corner of West Hargett and South McDowell streets, the site of the former police headquarters.

“We make a lot of hard decisions up here,” said council member Dickie Thompson. “This isn’t a hard decision. This, to me, is a no-brainer.”

By late fall, the city hopes to request design proposals and create a time line to receive public feedback.

Raleigh leaders on Tuesday were asked to choose from a variety of options, including a 14-, 17- and 20-story building. The price range was about $140 million for a 14-story tower and about $190 million for a 20-story tower.

A 20-story building would have 420,000 square feet of space, enough to consolidate city employees who currently work in multiple locations, including the Raleigh Municipal Building, One Exchange Plaza and One City Plaza.

Raleigh could sell some property, including 301 Hillsborough St., the Residence Inn Marriott site and Charter Square, according to city staff. And it could end leases at some sites, saving more than $38 million that would go toward the new tower.

The city could also borrow $127 million to help pay for construction. That level of borrowing wouldn’t require a property-tax increase, staff said.

It would cost about $80 million to maintain the city’s current downtown facilities, including the Municipal Building on Hargett Street, plus $120 million to $160 million in leasing costs for new staff.

City leaders already say the tower would be the first of two phases that could be included in coming years.

Once offices are moved from the Raleigh Municipal Building to the new tower, the current city hall could be renovated or torn down, and a new tower could go up in its place.

The city’s municipal parking deck could also be renovated or torn down to allow for public-private development.

Criticism for the project

The council voted 6-to-2, with members David Cox and Stef Mendell opting against the project.

Both said they wondered about maintenance costs for a 20-story building to compared to current costs. They also wanted to know how much it would cost to have several government buildings throughout the city.

“I understand that we need to do something about city building space but would like to be a little more open to exploring unconventional solutions,” Mendell said.

As Raleigh continues to grow in terms of population and in acreage, she said she’d like to “better serve area residents by distributing our services more widely throughout the city.”

That would allow people to avoid the parking and traffic hassles downtown and make it more convenient for staff who live outside the city, Mendell said.

A civic campus has been debated for months and was a point of contention during the last municipal election with Raleigh mayoral challenger Charles Francis condemning Mayor Nancy McFarlane’s support for a “Taj Mahal City Hall.