Raleigh, N.C. — Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches will be the first tenant for Raleigh's City Plaza, now under construction at the south end of Fayetteville Street.
City officials made the announcement Thursday morning in downtown with the restaurant handing out more than 1,800 sandwiches to those in the area.
"This is the kind of environment we like to see on the City Plaza – lots of people, nice weather, people out and about," Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker said. "It really is about being the center focus for downtown."
Officials envision City Plaza, 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.
Dan Mall, a Jimmy John's representative said the company intends to help bring people to the area after business hours. It will be one of six businesses inside the plaza.
"Downtown Raleigh is a fantastic opportunity. It's only getting better," Mall said. "There's so much business and so much opportunity for nighttime events."
Construction began on the $14.8 million City Plaza in October, nearly three years after city officials first floated the idea.
Controversies dogged and delayed the project –a disagreement over public art and, then, a land dispute.
The city commissioned renowned artist Jaume Plensa to design art elements for the plaza, but critics said the display of flashing lights over Fayetteville Street would detract from the view from the state Capitol to the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts.
After Plensa withdrew from the project and new art elements were drawn up, negotiations on an easement bogged down between city officials and the Atlanta investors that own the plaza site.
Officials threatened to condemn and seize the land, but hammered out an agreement at the last minute.
The disputes kept the plaza from opening in October 2008 when the new downtown convention center and Marriott hotel debuted.
Construction on the plaza should be completed in time to allow it to open in October of this year.