Developer reignites plan for project around Raleigh parking garage

Posted December 2, 2013

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— After years of being covered by banners, the gray cement walls of a downtown Raleigh parking garage will soon be surrounded by the mix of offices and shops that a developer envisioned years ago.

The so-called L Building was supposed to wrap around a nine-story parking deck at 216 W. Cabarrus St. owned by Wake County. The parking deck opened almost five years ago, but the recession put plans for the building on hold, as developer Empire Properties had trouble getting financing in a tight credit market.

"By the time we worked everything out, we got caught up in the financial crisis," Empire founder Greg Hatem said Monday of the project he initially proposed to Wake County officials in 2006.

To avoid penalties the county could assess for the delay, Empire negotiated a three-year extension to its deal in late 2010, promising to cover the parking garage's cement exterior with banners forming a mural.

Those banners have now been removed, and Hatem and local officials broke ground Monday on the $26 million L Building, which now will include 83 apartments in addition to street-level retail and several floors of office space fronting McDowell and Davie streets.

Balfour-Beatty Construction plans to move its headquarters to the L Building, Hatem said, and he is in talks with other potential tenants, including a medical office, a coffee shop and a restaurant.

Sign for L Building in downtown Raleigh Developers returning to downtown Raleigh

The project, which is expected to be completed in February 2015, will save local taxpayers about $1.2 million because the county won't have to construct an exterior wall on the parking garage, officials said.

The Downtown Raleigh Alliance said the L Building is among almost $780 million in development underway or planned for the downtown area in the next three years.

"We are starting to see the projects that were held up because of the recession really come back to fruition," said David Diaz, president and chief executive of the booster organization. "In other cities, those projects are not coming back ever. What that points to is that Raleigh's growth and population is really fueling the growth."

On Wednesday, for example, Raleigh officials will help break ground on SkyHouse Raleigh, a $60 million luxury apartment tower at Martin and Blount streets.

Other projects under construction or on the drawing board include the following:

  • A $25 million headquarters in the warehouse district for data-sharing firm Citrix Systems.
  • The $73 million Union Station transit hub in the warehouse district.
  • The Edison, a $160 million four-tower complex planned for a downtown block bounded by Wilmington, Martin, Blount and Davie streets. Two 38-story towers and two 29-story towers would include offices, retail space and high-rise condominiums.
  • The $50 million Blount Street Commons project, which mixes new and renovated homes in the historic Blount Street neighborhood.

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  • superman Dec 4, 2013

    Cant believe anyone would want to live in a homeless area downtown. It isnt safe to walk at night and not very safe during the daytime.

  • SubwayScoundrel Dec 3, 2013

    This will be nice and add nicely to the people who want to live Downtown. Apartment DT mean young people which means more companies wanting to stay and move here. It is all good

  • ILoveDowntownRaleigh Dec 3, 2013

    "They still need more real shops for all this housing...there is a lack of sensibility in adding all these places to live, and not have anything to live there for but bars and fancy restaurants." - smapaea

    Yes there are a lot of bars and restaurants for those who are choosing to live near and in downtown. But also jobs, churches, shows, concerts, etc.

    Have faith in capitalism! Believe me, groceries and other service businesses will be coming very soon, as the number of residents grows. :-) I don't expect entrepreneurs to leave those options on the table for little old me, but if they do, I'll grab the opportunity myself.

    In the meantime, we're not starving. The big grocery store at Cameron is an easy bike or walk, or a quick car or bus ride.

    Glad to see the L Building going up. I'll never understand why it took 5 years, but I guess it was related to the economic downturn.

  • SMAPAEA Dec 3, 2013

    They still need more real shops for all this housing. Grocery Stores and other places to buy food...there is a lack of sensibility in adding all these places to live, and not have anything to live there for but bars and fancy restaurants.

  • Typical WRAL Commenter Dec 2, 2013

    Glad to see this project starting up again. Will be a nice addition to the neighborhood.

  • A person Dec 2, 2013

    This was a "major announcement" Wow, could it be any more trivial?

  • dwntwnboy2 Dec 2, 2013

    Good to see them finally get this underway. It's been advertised and promoted on that street corner for over 4 years now. Was starting to think they would never actually build it and just leave the banners up there forever. Will be interesting to see what businesses get put in there.