Editorial: Keep Caswell Square public - our heritage isn't for sale
Posted December 6, 2016
A CBC Editorial: Tuesday, Dec.6, 2016; Editorial# 8091
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company
Two hundred twenty-four years ago surveyor William Christmas designated five publically-owned squares in his plan for downtown Raleigh. Since 1792 those squares have remained in the public’s hands. That should not change.
Today the Council of State should reject a proposal to sell three vacant state buildings on Caswell Square in downtown Raleigh to a private developer for $1.75 million. Selling this unique public property is not in the public interest.
While Gov. Pat McCrory now promotes sale of this public property as part of his “Project Phoenix,” an effort to improve state-owned and occupied real estate and facilities, it is not mentioned in any of the online information about the initiative. Nor is it mentioned on a Project Phoenix “factsheet.”
Another site that is up for consideration at today’s meeting, is the sale of – the Personnel Training Center – a 1.7-acre site off of West Peace Street in downtown for $4.85 million. It is listed as a part of the project.
McCrory administration officials say the three Caswell Square buildings are vacant and deteriorating. Sale to private developers will allow for repair and renovation of the “blighted” buildings to further revitalize the downtown Capitol area.
Preservation North Carolina says all of the square should remain publically-owned as a part of the state’s heritage. “The buildings maybe dispensable; the land that the square occupies is not,” the group said in a statement opposing the sale. “ … It’s a part of the state’s brand – that no sensible business person would chip away and destroy for short-term profit.”
With the McCrory administration leaving office, it would be wise to give the new governor and his administration the opportunity to look into the status of the vacant buildings on Caswell Square and develop a proposal for the best public use of the site.
We urge the Council of State, particularly those members ending their terms in office, to display their concern for North Carolina, its people and heritage, by voting against the sale of this historic site.