Newcomer Magazine


Posted August 22, 2007 9:15 p.m. EDT

A good ole fashioned small town with a big future

When you look skyward in Raleigh, your eyes meet the openness of a Carolina blue sky, the sturdy branches of mighty oaks...and lots and lots of scaffolding, cranes and girders. There’s no doubt about it: this is a city on the move in every direction. From new business to new buildings to new residents to a new attitude. And on the horizon? A new Raleigh Midtown—stretching from the home ice of the RBC Center to the breathtaking magnificence of the soonto- be-built 42-story Soleil Center.

“Our concept of a midtown in any city is an area—other than downtown— that has a high intensity of development and a concentration of all types of business and people,” said Sanjay Mundra, founder and principal of the Soleil Group, along with his partner, Dicky Walia. “Because we’re in the Top 10 list of practically everything, people are moving here—even without jobs. The new Raleigh Midtown is the natural result of such a growing community.”

While much of the focus regarding construction in the city has been placed on downtown, the new Midtown area is also booming. “Within half a mile of Crabtree Valley Mall, there’s over $1 billion of construction happening,” said Neil Rudolph, vice president of Plaza Associates—which manages the mall. “Because it’s not all the same project, people might not realize it. But, when you add $1 billion—which is all private funding—to the residences, shopping, office space, cultural assets, sports facilities and everything else that already exists here—it’s truly amazing.”

Among the projects either completed, currently underway or slated to begin are:

  • The Shops at Crabtree, which will feature 380 apartments, 150 condos, 150 hotel rooms, 105,000 sq. ft. of retail space and 15,000 sq. ft. of office space.
  • Crabtree Creek, which will house 450 apartment units 260,000 sq. ft. of retail space and 150,000 sq. ft. of office space.
  • The Soleil Center, consisting of 54 condo units, 290 hotel rooms, a spa, meeting facilities and 29,000 additional sq. ft. for other uses.
  • A Pulte Homes development consisting of 219 upscale town homes.
  • Glen Lake, which will feature 160 homes and town homes with an average selling price of $1 million and almost 300,000 sq. ft. of new office space.
  • Camden Apartments consisting of 550 apartment units.
  • Soleil Center 2, which will be an 18-story, mixed-use project with class “A” office space.
  • The eight-story Creedmoor Towers, featuring 100,000 sq. ft. of office space.
  • Paragon Commercial Bank Building that serves as the organization’s 38,000 sq. ft. headquarters.
  • 3700 Glenwood, which will be a five-story “A” office building and serve as Regions Bank’s regional headquarters.
  • Major renovations of Crabtree
  • Marriott and Embassy Suites. Premier Homes project, which consists of 160 lots. Thirty-five sales at an average of $1 million are expected annually.

Crabtree Mall, which is squarely in the center of the new Raleigh Midtown, is building and expanding to meet the demand of Raleigh’s growth. Plans currently on the table include the addition of a 200+ parking deck between Belk’s and Barnes & Noble, several upscale restaurants that will represent a combined capacity of 650 patrons and a 68,000 sq. ft. expansion of Belk’s—which will place it second only to the chain’s Charlotte store.

Rudolph also pointed to the availability of quality medical services within the Midtown vicinity. “Rex Hospital is continually adding to and improving its facility,” he said. “Additionally, there are many other excellent healthcare related resources in this area—which is yet another drawing card for Midtown.”

The RBC Center is also looking forward to the benefits its patrons will realize from the growth of the Raleigh Midtown area. “As a community partner, we support the overall growing popularity of our area,” said Dave Olsen, vice president and general manager of the RBC Center. “We look forward to the continued development around the RBC Center which will provide additional opportunities for our guests while enhancing their current experience when coming to and from a concert, family show, Carolina Hurricanes game, NC State basketball, or whatever the event may be.”

With all the new buzz about the new Raleigh Midtown, the question about whether this area will compete with the city’s much-publicized downtown naturally arises. “Most of the larger metropolitan areas—such as Atlanta and Charlotte—have a midtown area,” said Bob Hatley, CEO of Paragon Bank. “It offers an alternative to companies and residents who want to access restaurants and retail. But the downtown and midtown areas don’t hurt one another. Instead, they complement each other—which is what I believe will happen here in Raleigh.”

Gary Joyner, a partner with Kilpatrick Stockton, LLP, agrees. “Downtown and Midtown can both do very well,” he explained. “What’s occurring downtown involves more residential living. That’s the evolving process there. But, in the Midtown area, that already exists. Now, what you’re getting is more amenities in Midtown—you’re getting the live, work and play aspect that makes it more accessible. For many, this is what they’re looking for.”

Hatley stressed the importance of having both a healthy downtown and midtown in Raleigh. “I hope downtown becomes a homerun for us,” he said. “It’s crucial to the lifeblood of any community. At the same time, we’re getting to be a good-sized area and it’s a natural evolution that we would also have a very vibrant area that’s not quite downtown—but also isn’t the suburbs.”

It’s not just those in the retail and office sectors who are excited about the evolution of Midtown. The N.C. Museum of Art is also a staunch supporter of the growth in this area. “We’re very excited about the type of development that has occurred and is continuing to occur,” said Stan Williams, the museum’s director of public affairs and corporate development. “It’s all quality and there’s no doubt that it will have a profound economic, social and cultural impact on the entire city of Raleigh.We think a new standard of development has already been set— from the Soleil Center to the expansion of Crabtree to the new Museum of Art gallery. And it’s been approached in such a way that we’ll all nourish one another. The Midtown area will definitely bring a new synergy to Raleigh, which is something we definitely want to capitalize on. It’s just a great time to be living here.”