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Players' Retreat redo to encompass block near NCSU

Posted March 28

— A plan to re-energize one of Raleigh's oldest bars is sparking concern among some neighbors who say the proposal is simply too much for the area.

Players' Retreat has been an iconic gathering spot on Hillsborough Street for more than 60 years, and owner Gus Gusler wanted to breathe new life into "The PR." But his plan has morphed into a redevelopment of the intersection of Hillsborough Street and Oberlin Road to include a seven-story condominium complex, a five-story apartment building, 14 townhouses, a six-story office building and a three-level underground parking garage.

"It was shocking, really, how big it was," said Donna Bailey, co-chairwoman of the Wade Citizens Advisory Council, which addresses resident concerns in the area just north of where the project will go and which hosted a public meeting Tuesday night to gather input.

"I think the scale of it is a big question mark," said Bob Geary, co-chairman of the Hillsborough Citizens Advisory Council, which covers the Hillsborough-Oberlin intersection.

The redevelopment project has been in the works for more than a year, but Gusler hasn't yet submitted rezoning request to Raleigh officials.

Geary said he envisioned four-story buildings on the site, and he has concerns over the congestion the project could cause.

"Digging down three levels for a 500-space parking deck is going to be a lot of cars coming in off this roundabout," he said of the traffic circle on Oberlin Road a block north of Hillsborough Street.

Developers stress they are listening to community concerns but say many nearby residents, business owners and tenants are eager for the project, noting the 60 condos would replace a vacant BB&T and the 75 apartments and townhouses would replace a parking lot and existing duplex on Oberlin Road.

"We would be excited for some new energy and even some new aesthetics over here," said Greg Brown, the owner of Sam and Bill's Hair Salon. "The size of that sounds a little busy and a lot to absorb all at the same time."

The hair salon, an Asian restaurant and a cafe, along with Players' Retreat, will sit in the shadow of the 140,000-square-foot office building, which will extend along Hillsborough Street to the traffic circle at North Carolina State University's Bell Tower.

"It's very important we build a city for the future that's going to support public transportation and to make that economically, and projects like this will do that," said Michael Stevenson, an architect for the project.

"We know the city's growing – no one is arguing that – and we know we need more density and this is a very walkable area," Bailey said. "But no one can say that our area is not doing our fair share in terms of density."

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