Local News

Ka-Boom! Convention Center Loses Height

Posted February 20, 2006

— A 28-year-old Raleigh landmark came down early Sunday morning.

At about 7:05 a.m., demolition crews imploded the roof of what remained of the Raleigh Convention and Conference Center as part of the city's downtown revitalization efforts, which include plans to build a new state-of-the-art 550,000-square-foot convention center, a 1,500-space parking garage, a four-star Marriott Hotel and a revamped Fayetteville Street.

With a series of small explosions over the course of less than five seconds, the convention center's roof fell about 25 feet and remained about 98 percent intact.

About 50 pounds of explosives were used in each of the facility's four stairwells to cause the roof to flatten, according to crews, "like a pancake."

No problems were reported during the event, which crews said went according to plans.

"It really is a landmark day for our city to move ahead with all of the renovation downtown and get the rest of the convention center down," Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker said Sunday morning.

Shortly after the implosion, crews began the process of disassembling the building and clearing what's left of the facility. About 60 percent of it had been removed before Sunday's implosion.

Most of the debris from the convention center will be recycled.

Crews began making preparations on Saturday, putting up scaffolding and protective netting around taller buildings in case of flying debris.

Local business owners were nervous, yet optimistic about the implosion and what it means for downtown.

"I wasn't (nervous) until (Saturday), and I saw the netting and I've got windows behind me," said John Sonnhalter, who owns a convenience store on the bottom floor of a building near the convention center.

But Sonnhalter believes the new downtown will eventually be good for business.

"Oh, I've been in favor of it since day one," he said.

In place of the old convention center, a new parking garage and four-star Marriott hotel will be built and are set to open in 2008, at about the same time as the new convention center.

There are concerns, however, that the hotel will not be ready in time for the convention center's opening, leaving some city leaders concerned about the center's $215 million investment.

"You won't get the convention business without a four-star hotel to stay in," said City Councilwoman Jessie Taliaferro earlier this week.

There are also concerns about the cost of the new convention center, now about $35 million over budget -- mostly as a result of rising construction costs.

Despite concerns, the Downtown Raleigh Alliance says the investments are paying off.

Private investors are now starting their own projects. For example, they are renovating old warehouses, such as Seaboard Station on Peace Street. There are also plans to soon open a grocery store, restaurants, clothing stores and a bar.


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