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Fayetteville Street Art Project Still In The Air

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The fate of a proposed multimillion-dollar art project on Fayetteville Street is still undecided after the Raleigh City Council Tuesday sent the proposal on to the city's Art Commission for review.

In a unanimous decision, city leaders tasked the Art Commission to work with artist Jaume Plensa to modify the plans based on several concerns, including the view from the state Capitol to Memorial Auditorium. Plensa's design calls for water and 30-foot-high lights stretching across a 10,000-square-foot area.

Some council members, however, made clear they are not interested in a plan that inhibits the view from the Capitol to the auditorium. WRAL learned on Monday that four of the seven City Council members were not inclined to vote for the project, primarily because of the concern that it would block the view.

Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker has asked the Arts Commission to expedite its review and have a recommendation within 45 days. The City Council will consider whether to move forward with the art project at its second meeting in September.

"(The time frame) is definitely a challenge," said interim director Diane Smith. "But I think they're up to it."

The city paid about $10,000 for a scaled-back version of the project so city leaders could see just how the canopy of lights affected the view. Meeker said that after seeing the mockup, he was no longer concerned about that, but did have another concern about how it might impede traffic.

"The proposal of the artwork would require traffic to make four turns to go around the square, which would slow traffic down," Meeker said. "I guess the question the council needs to decide: Is that a disadvantage or an advantage to create that kind of public space and really slow traffic?"

There are other concerns with Plensa's vision.

"The black granite holding that much heat during the summer, that's going to be tough," said Charlene Harless with the Raleigh Arts Council. "Can a parade navigate around those corners? There are some tweaks we've got to make here to make everybody happy."

Other city leaders, including Raleigh City Manager Russell Allen, have recommended shelving the proposed project because it is already $2 million over budget and because of engineering concerns related to the size of the columns to hold up the lights and having water running over an underground parking garage.

Supporters said Plensa, whose work is showcased all over the world, can make the adjustments.

"He's used to adapting his work to a place," said Larry Wheeler, director of the North Carolina Museum of Art. "I think with the new parameters and knowing the expectations, he would be willing to take a new look at it.

If the proposed project can be modified, the council decided, the rest of the funding for the artwork would have to be raised privately. The city estimates it will have to spend about $10 million to prepare the site for the artwork. That would bring the total cost of the project to about $13 million.

The initial gift of $2.5 million has been pledged by WRAL's parent company, Capitol Broadcasting Co.


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