RALEIGH, N.C. — City council members have been talking about plans to open Fayetteville Street Mall. One of the street's biggest landmarks is the old Belk building. All the demolition is over and the actual construction phase is expected to begin within days.
Broker Ron Mikesh said the old Belk Building will soon be a crown jewel. After years in limbo, plans for the Belk building are moving ahead.
"We've received building permits on Dec. 31. We've ordered steel that will show up in the next six weeks, and we've obtained 20 pre-sale contracts for future residents here," he said.
Mikesh said the inside of the Belk building will look like a place in Miami Beach. Two restaurants and a retail store are already on board.
"I think we are going to have a vibrant reality across from the courthouse," he said.
The Belk building is part of the momentum downtown. A new Progress Energy building is under construction as well, but the city is spending money too. There is talk of a new convention center and the Fayetteville Street Mall will soon open to traffic.
Critics question why it is so important for Raleigh and other cities to spend money to bring back their rundown downtowns. Fernando Magallanes, a professor at North Carolina State professor and urban designer, said it all has to do with urban sprawl.
"There is no identity to cities when you get beyond a certain limit," he said.
Magallanes said a city's identity is its core. He said he has taken his students to Atlanta to prove his point.
"There are neighborhoods there where you would swear you were back in Raleigh, so the difference lies in the downtown centers," he said.
Developers with the Belk building said parking is a big issue to lure more tenants. They are negotiating with the city right now to use the Moore Square parking lot at night. If the parking pans out, a broker said two more tenants are willing to sign on that will bring nightlife to the building.