Raleigh's 'Midtown' to get bigger

RALEIGH North Hills developer John Kane today laid out his plans for the 50-acre tract that many call North Hills East, which is, appropriately, just east of the current shopping center. It's bordered by Six Forks Road, the I-440 Beltline and St. Alban's Drive.

At a meeting Thursday morning inside a theater at the North Hills cinema, Kane made what amounted to a sales pitch in front of dozens of people who are either at or nearing retirement age.

Specifically, Kane was discussing The Cardinal, a 202-unit upscale retirement community that is one of the prime components of North Hills East.

Also part of the project is a 17-story office tower, a 2-story Harris Teeter (the first double-level grocery store in the area) and several other residential, retail, office and restaurant options, though most specific tenants have yet to be determined.

Kane's goal for the $500 million expansion is similar to that which he achieved in renovating North Hills on the west side of Six Forks Road: "To create a place where it's pedestrian friendly and it does integrate and work together nicely," Kane said. "We're really again trying to create a district here that really all of North Hills is a place that offers live, work, play."

Kane believes his development is superior to others that have similar features in the Triangle for one primary reason -- it's more walkable.

"Crabtree (Valley Mall) or Triangle (Town Center) or any of the other ones that are out there, Cary Towne Center, all the other ones, they have retail, they have office, they residential, they have hotels," Kane said. "But they're not integrated in a way that is friendly to walk, and I think that's a differentiator for what we're trying to do in this district."

Kane hopes that -- walkability -- will be a particularly appealing feature as he tries to market The Cardinal. He needs to pre-sell half of the 202 units before he can build the facility. So far, he's sold 54 of them. One couple who attended Kane's pitch Thursday said they remain interested in The Cardinal. But they're not reserving a spot today.

"I think they're making an attempt here to make it as attractive as possible. It's not going to be drab, it's not going to be institutional," said Deborah Resnick as she left North Hills with her husband, Paul. "It's something that says, 'an integral part of an upscale community.'"

Kane's Midtown expansion may not stop with North Hills East. He confirmed today that he has secured the first "right of refusal" on 65 additional acres located east of North Hills East.

Development in that area would give Kane a stranglehold on nearly all development along the Outer Beltline from west of Six Forks Road nearly all the way to Wake Forest Road.

Kane is hoping to complete work on North Hills East by 2010. And oh, by the way, he'd rather it not be called North Hills East. Problem is, it's confusing to call it anything else at this point.

"I think you need to look at North Hills as North Hills and not really North Hills East versus North Hills West," he said.

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