State Politics

McCrory wants development on state properties in Raleigh

Gov. Pat McCrory and Secretary of Administration Bill Daughtridge discussed Project Phoenix outside a state office building last year.
Gov. Pat McCrory and Secretary of Administration Bill Daughtridge discussed Project Phoenix outside a state office building last year.

Gov. Pat McCrory wants to see private development on at least six state-owned properties in Raleigh, he told leaders of a downtown group Thursday.

McCrory updated the Downtown Raleigh Alliance on his “Project Phoenix” plans to revitalize state government buildings in and around downtown by adding retail and residential uses. His goal is to extend downtown Raleigh’s success and round-the-clock activity to the north, where state offices currently create a dead zone.

“There’s no commerce, there’s no social interaction except for some Monday afternoons with protesters, and we can do better than that,” McCrory said. “We feel like the state buildings need to be a part of the fabric of the community.”

The governor had sharp words for some state buildings: The windowless State Records Building across from the governor’s mansion is “crap” and “looks like a prison.” He wants the highrise Archdale Building to be demolished. And other buildings “look like they’re on the beaches of Normandy.”

McCrory first announced Project Phoenix last year and launched a detailed review of each state-owned building in the city. On Thursday, he and his staff listed the properties they want to see redeveloped first:

The former Rex Hospital on Wade Avenue: The 16-acre site will be marketed to developers for a long-term lease. The old hospital building currently houses the state Division of Employment Security; the property has an assessed tax value of $29.6 million.

“The Employment Security Division does not need to be in such valuable space,” said John LaPenta, who’s overseeing Project Phoenix for McCrory. “They can do their jobs anywhere. This property is so valuable, it’s going to have nationwide appeal.”

The big parking lot next to the N.C. Museum of History: The McCrory administration is launching a review of what could be built on the lot, which occupies an entire city block between Wilmington and Blount streets.

LaPenta said the state could seek a public-private partnership, and a hotel is one of the possibilities. “It’s an unbelievable piece of property in an ideal location,” he said.

The Department of Revenue building: Hundreds of revenue employees will eventually move out of the massive building on North Wilmington Street to make way for other possible uses. The McCrory administration is studying possibilities for the site, which could mix offices with retail or other uses.

“Ninety to 99 percent of the employees at the Department of Revenue can do their jobs somewhere else,” LaPenta said.

Other state-owned sites slated for redevelopment have already been announced, including the lease of 43 acres along Blue Ridge Road, the lease of a smaller site at the corner of Peace and North Salisbury streets, and the sale of a cluster of historic homes along Blount and Person streets.

Raleigh City Manager Ruffin Hall praised the governor’s plans. “Stuff’s happening, it’s moving,” he said. “It’s not just a conversation.”

McCrory said the city should do its part to spruce up downtown, too. “The infrastructure needs to be vastly improved – your curb and gutter and sidewalks, and your lighting,” he said, showing photos of a cracked sidewalk.

Colin Campbell: 919-829-4698, @RaleighReporter