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Raleigh to condemn site for downtown plaza

Posted July 1, 2008

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— The City Council voted Tuesday to begin condemnation proceedings to gain control of a piece of downtown property for the proposed City Plaza.

Months of negotiations between the city and The Simpson Organization, which owns the property at the south end of Fayetteville Street where the plaza would be located, have broken down.

City officials don't want further delays, which could mean higher construction costs, so they're moving to acquire the land by eminent domain. A two-week window remains for the city and The Simpson Organization to reach an agreement before the condemnation suit is filed.

Raleigh sold the plaza site about 20 years ago to encourage downtown development. The Simpson Organization, a group of investors in Atlanta, also owns the adjacent Bank of America office tower and a parking garage beneath the plaza site.

Boyd Simpson, president of The Simpson Organization, said his company was “very disappointed” by the council’s decision. Simpson said moving forward with the condemnation effort will be “negative for the city and public.”

“The authorization of a condemnation is inappropriate and will not give the city the ability the right to start construction any earlier than they otherwise can,” Boyd said in a letter to the council following the decision.

Simpson on Tuesday submitted a formal request to address the council at that night's meeting. The request form states anyone wishing to speak must return the form one week prior to the scheduled meeting.

"We realize this form is late, however, we were not informed by city personnel of the intended action until after the relevant true period. Given the high importance of the matter we send this request now," Simpson wrote.

In a letter sent to the council earlier, Simpson urged them not to condemn the property. He said The Simpson Organization has offered the city an irrevocable license allowing it to proceed with construction. The company had not received any response from the city manager or attorney, the letter stated.

“We have no incentive to delay the project and any claim to the contrary is without merit and untrue,” Boyd stated.

The city was trying to negotiate an easement to access the plaza. Officials envision the City Plaza project, which would include glass retail pavilions, light towers and water fountains, as Raleigh's "public living room," offering a gathering place for local residents and a space for public concerts and other events.

The plaza was supposed to open in September, along with the neighboring convention center and Marriott hotel, but the lengthy easement negotiations have pushed the opening date back a year to September 2009.

The delays have added more than $2.5 million to the total project – originally estimated around $21 million.

Council members received a list from The Simpson Organization claiming city staff caused delays in the project by taking long periods of time to review documents and respond to the company.

71 Comments

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  • foetine Jul 2, 2008

    it's not land they're grabbing - it's the roof of a parking deck. How many parking decks in this state have collapsed over the years in NC? I'd be fearful shopping on shaky acre.

  • curiousgeorgia Jul 2, 2008

    In a bass ackwards way I suppose we could blame the republicans for not trying to find a strong person to have opposed meeker in the last municipal elections.

  • giffman Jul 2, 2008

    This is easy to break down. If this was your property how would you feel?

    End of discussion!
    _______________________

    I'd feel great because I'd be a millionaire.

  • Cleopatra Jul 2, 2008

    Wahoo MindCrime!!!!

    Go Phil Rhodes :)

  • oversleeper Jul 2, 2008

    is a downtown plaza for downtown residents only really in the ENTIRE public's interest? i think not!

  • mindcrime Jul 2, 2008

    Did they violate their contract with the city? If so, that should simply negate the original deal, and control would revert to the city without the need for "eminent domain." The fact that the city is even considering ED shows that they do consider the original deal to be valid. Do you evidence to the contrary?

    http://www.philrhodes2008.com

  • ncwebguy Jul 2, 2008

    This is a *road* project, reconnecting F Street from in front of the Sheraton to the new segment through what was the old Civic Center. The government has every right to use ED to construct projects for the public good. The city has tried to be rational, the owner has been anything but helpful. The deck roof wasn't built for vehicle traffic (though handled AA5), but the city took that into consideration.
    If the city wanted to extend a road through my property and wanted to spend $17 M+ to make the surrounding area look better *and* had no impact on my property (parking deck or building) I would sign in a heartbeat.

    The owner obtained the property under false pretenses. When the city sold the parking deck below the old Convention Center, they didn't think it would turn into a "worthless, useless, haven-for-the-homeless 'plaza'". Yet thanks to the Simpson Company's neglect, that is *exactly* what that area has become. The city's downtown efforts are to correct the neglect.

  • mindcrime Jul 2, 2008

    Under NO circumstances should a government body consider itself authorized to seize private property. The only legitimate route for governments to acquire property is the same as for anyone else: buy it on the free market at a price agreed to between the prospective buy and the current owner. If no agreement can be reached, they can do without.

    Practices like this are *exactly* why I'm running for Lieutenant Governor this year. AS Lieutenant Governor I pledge to fight tooth and nail to stop the practice of exercising "eminent domain" in North Carolina. If you're opposed to this practice, I'd appreciate your support.

    Phil Rhodes for NC Lieutenant Governor

    http://www.philrhodes2008.com

  • CrewMax Jul 2, 2008

    Vote out anybody who is for Eminant domain.

  • Scubagirl Jul 2, 2008

    WRONG!!!!

    Can think of nothing to post except this is just plain wrong. Whatever happened to rights.....rhetorical question really-they are dying off!

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