'One opportunity to get this right:' Raleigh leaders move ahead with downtown headquarters hotel

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- As Raleigh continues to experience rapid growth, city leaders have unanimously approved the first phase of a convention center headquarters hotel and separate office/mixed-use tower in downtown.

The city manager and commercial real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle will issue a Request for Interest on Jan. 27 to identify a pool of potential developers for the project that would include a 500-plus room full-service hotel with meeting space and a second site for an office tower and mixed-use space.

Right now, visitors to the convention center have only the 401-room Marriott, 165-room Residence Inn, and 353-room Sheraton as hotel options within walking distance.

The proposed towers, zoned for 40 stories, would be located on two one-acre surface parking lots on Fayetteville Street in front of the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, placing the headquarters hotel within walking distance of the convention center.

"This property has been described as our waterfront," said Mary-Ann Baldwin, Raleigh Mayor, in a statement sent to ABC11. "It's imperative that the development team we work with understands we have high expectations for design and aesthetics, in addition to the amenities offered at a convention hotel. We only have one opportunity to get this right."

In its Fourth Quarter 2019 Economic Development Report for Downtown Raleigh released Wednesday, the Downtown Raleigh Alliance reported another record-breaking year in food and beverage sales with $539 million in construction projects underway and more than $538 million in projects announced.

Bill King, Pres. and CEO of the DRA said the convention center needs more hotel space to accommodate a higher scale of convention.

"We see that as an opportunity to fundamentally bring more people to downtown Raleigh which is a good thing," said King. "The street would be complete and it would bring additional life to that southern end of Fayetteville as well."

Density, King said, is critical to helping downtown, especially retail, thrive.

While there are no specific design plans in the works, the idea of adding two, 40-story towers at the south end of Fayetteville Street seems as though it would dramatically change the downtown views, but King said he thinks the city and developer will work to avoid blocking the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, currently visible from the Capitol building at the northernmost end of downtown's most prominent street.

"I think there's a lot of value in that -- I think that's part of the street's charm is that it has two historic buildings anchoring it and they kind of almost talk to each other architecturally," said King. "I think that would be preserved and I think that would be important to preserve."

The RFI will be released Jan. 27 and will be open to developers for submission until March 27.
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